Dave Young Quintet | Mainly Mingus
Justin Time Records Inc.

National Jazz Award winner Steve Wallace finished a hot set with pianist Eric Reed on a winter night, and I greeted him with “Hey Steve, how’s Canada’s finest Bass player”? He came right back with, “That would be Dave Young”. Can’t argue with that. I just think of 1983 and the album Lenny Breau with Dave Young Live at Bourbon St., and of the excitement Dave gathers when he performs at clubs and festivals around Toronto. So his new album, Mainly Mingus, is welcome as flowers in spring.

The first cut is “Oscar Pettiford”, Mingus’ homage to the late great bassist, known for his superb intonation and melodic phrasing. This bop tune, melodic and hip, recalls Horace Silver’s “Sister Sadie”. Perry White’s sax solo is penetrating, digging into the tune. I like it. Kevin Turcotte’s trumpet brings out the lyrical element, and Terry Clarke gives full percussive coverage to the soundstage. Dave Young’s commanding bass moves at a pretty good clip. His solo dances with Terry behind him on the high hat and snare, with Gary Williamson comping lightly on piano. With the two horns blowing in unison the overall feeling at the end is of a big band moving smoothly. Nice.

“Wham Bam” is not my fav tune but the boys in the band take the advantages it offers. Terry goes wild rolling while the horns open in unison. Kevin makes the first solo a declaration, his phrases drawn out at the end, singsong. Dave’s bass drives the whole thing. Gary, comping on piano, lays down a lot of scales fast, and makes a complex solo of short flat-tuned riffs, accented by Terry’s rim shots which build into a wild jungle drum message, highly ornamented and intricate as the number closes out to a pounding doodlia-doodlia-bop-bop.

Two horn voices and Dave boom-booming in back bring out Mingus’ mellow eulogy to Lester Young, “Goodbye Porkpie Hat”. Slow solo by Kevin, sensitive, lyrical, repeating phrases with a slightly upbeat hipster swing as if to say ‘Somebody is being missed’ but the swing shows he’s still present. Gary’s piano solo, mainly right hand is delicate riffing, which sounds kind of Jewish and mournful. Dave’s solo has a speaking voice with a resounding twang at end of notes—emotional.

“Nostalgia In Times Square” has a kind of boppy Monkish swing to it, with Gary’s piano adding a kind of bluenote. Perry’s solo swings with a whiney extended stretch at the end of a phrase, upward inflected, maybe referring to the Chinese in Mingus’ background. Gary comping percussive piano, trumpet is blue in a Louis sort of way; Kevin’s solo is lean and well constructed, beautiful tone with blues slurs alternating running up and down the scales, with short punchy riffs and lyrical phrases; Terry working on cymbals like nerves jangling. Dave’s long solo is of complex, subtle phrases, not much repetition, tremendous variety, constructed like the periodic sentences of the old time orators. Sound’s a bit like Monk’s ‘Well You Needn’t”.

Dave Young’s own 10 minute composition “Bass Clef” starts with the sound of traffic, piano leading off, complex melody carried by the horns, and develops along two alternating lines, one wild through sax and drums and one more exploratory through trumpet and piano with Dave building melody and structure flattening here, cooling there.

“Self- portrait in Three Colors” starts with the bass quiet and inquisitive, tentative and probing, asking questions. Horns come in with a pretty, reflective Mingus melody, kind of blue, drawn-out twangy, like “ Pork-pie”, a sad tune. One of the lovelier pieces of the album. Piano picks up the blue tone of sensitivity to the point of pain lightly and steadily explored. Complex. Here is the one instance where Terry’s drum seems a bit loud and intrusive.

“All the Things You’d Be Right Now, If Sigmund Freud’s Wife Was Your Mother”, starts out like a kind of Dizzy G. tune, kind of bop, tuneless, up and down the scale, with a good beat. Dave does duo with Kevin, Dave playing the same note but a bit behind the trumpet, literally shadowing it. Perry picks up fast tempo, and things fall apart in an interesting way.

“Cherokee Revisited”. The other Dave tune, one minute, and nice fade away.

Mainly Mingus is not easy listening. It is complex, intellectual, musicianly. The music is straight, not very allusive to other better-known melodies. But it’s Mingus, for the new millennium. Under Dave Young’s direction, these A-list Canadian Musicians do a consistent job of making it new. Originally recorded in 2002 at Top O’ The Senator in Toronto by the CBC, very well engineered, and remastered in 2004. Rewards repeated listening.

Stanley Fefferman for The Live Music Report

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