May 2007

Ernest Dawkins Trio
May 26, 2007 Trane Studio Toronto
Chicago : Toronto
by David Fujino with photos by Roger Humbert
Just last weekend, Chicago saxophonist Ernest Dawkins — along with Darius Savage on bass and Isiah Spencer on drums — brought his music and his sense of politics and culture to that mellow club on Bathurst Street, Trane Studio.

In "Tukulu", the names of exceptional people in Black history like "... Hallie Selassie ... Dudu Pukwana ... Bob Marley ... Miles Davis ..." were calmly recited by Dawkins, who then picked up his tenor and blew low rolling tones over Savage's staggered bass line. Surprising swing era riffs appeared then shifted suddenly into an all-out tenor overtone explosion. Isiah Spencer's drum poundout re-introduced the theme, and the soothing blues cadences on the tenor brought us all back home.

But this evening was a bit of a party, too, when Dawkins on alto led audience members in an impromptu conga line for Adele, a lady in the audience who was celebrating her birthday. Dawkins sang "Happy Birthday" in his informal, inimitable fashion. The bass player shook a rattle. Cake was served. We all had fun.

"Tribute to Malachi Favors" combined a descending bass line like in "Hit the Road Jack" by Ray Charles and a melody like the first 4 bars of "Alfie" by Sonny Rollins. The multiple voices of Rollins, Coltrane, and Dexter Gordon spoke out in the tenor. In an extended free blowing section, then a vigorous tenor/drums duet, Ernest Dawkins further demonstrated a sweeping mastery of instrument and improvisation. The enthusiastic Spencer — sticks all the way — capped it off with a stiff smash of hi-hat, snare, and ride cymbal.

"Baghdad Boogie" brought us back full circle. Politics. The hurt put upon African-American communities. And during a rap about Donald Rumsfeld's Haliburton Corporation, and how it was relocating to Dubai — "bye-bye" intoned Dawkins — two Toronto guests sat in, Harvey Cowan on violin and Jaruba on flute. Eventually surrounded by whistles and duck calls, they made way for pummelling drums, groaning bass, and a high flying, searing alto. And when everyone came back to earth, Dawkins soliloquized and played, "You Don't Know What Love Is".

Ernest Dawkins
"This music is political," Dawkins said, as he proceeded to rap about the War in Iraq and the dying soldiers who're only 18 to 26 years of age or so.

He also spoke about — "Freedom of expression. Freedom of speech" — and stressed that "The arts are so important, particularly today" — to the slow march of drums and the grainy pulse of the bass.

The Ernest Dawkins Trio
Ernest "Khabeer' Dawkins — tenor and alto sax, small instruments
Darius Savage — bass, percussion
Isiah Spencer — drums
We welcome your comments and feedback
David Fujino
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Roger Humbert
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The Live Music Report

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