TD Toronto JazzFest 2013: Alan Jones Canadian all Star Sextet

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Alan who? I was informed by sources in the know, that I must try to catch the performance of Alan Jones – “Jones has assembled an incredible band and this is a not to be missed opportunity.”

2013 TD Toronto Jazz Festival: Alan Jones Canadian all Star Sextet – June 29, 2013 at Jazz Bistro – Report by Paul J. Youngman – July 25, 2013

Who is Alan Jones? Canadian by way of his mother, American born and raised, a Portland, Oregon native, Alan Jones is a most creative and powerful jazz drummer, a composer, and an educator. He has performed and toured with jazz legends, he has played on over 40 recordings, including writing for his own ensembles. As I tried to place this Jones drummer who was not of the famous Jones family of Thad, Hank and Elvin the name Rodney Whittaker came up in discussion. I recalled a CD release party at the Top O’ the Senator for Let Me Tell You About My Day (Alma Records 2005) Phil Dwyer, Rodney Whittaker and Alan Jones an American/Canadian drummer. The album garnered a Juno nod for best traditional jazz recording. The gig received a review in the Globe & Mail citing it as “Top 10 moments in Canadian jazz”. Ah – that Alan Jones!

Alan Jones was returning to Toronto as part of the TD Toronto Jazz Festival to perform at the reincarnated Top O’ the Senator – a club he would not recognize in its new design and new name – Jazz Bistro. His Canadian contingent included his partner from that 2005 release date, saxophonist Phil Dwyer as well as saxophonist Seamus Blake, pianist Jon Ballantyne and trumpeters Ingrid Jensen and Brad Turner along with bassist Tom Wakeling. Jones introduced the group as the Alan Jones Septet he was quickly corrected by his band mates that at any given time they were actually a sextet. I think he added Brad Turner to the list but Turner only filled in for the third set. Ingrid Jensen had to catch a flight and departed after the first set. So for the second set the audience enjoyed the Alan Jones Quintet and a priceless bit of improvising on some jazz standards.

A fun show with a super group of Canadian jazz greats who were being led by a daredevil of a composer/drummer. The Alan Jones compositions are seat of your pants, scary tunes that twist and turn, go up and down while moving sideways, all seemingly happening at the same time. The piano of Ballantyne and the bass of Wakeling keep the line taut and the rhythm stable while Jones fills in the pockets, dashes around in counterpoint and drops bombs at the slightest notion. The horns – for the first set, Ingrid Jensen blew hard, high and sonically brilliant. In introducing Jensen, Jones explained to the audience, “Ingrid is one of the finest trumpeters not only in Canada, not only in the United States but most likely in the whole world. I don’t know anyone who can do what she does.”   He continued to explain he would be putting her to task as the next song had her playing an extended unaccompanied solo with car alarm. And so “Blackberry Jam” began, a rock climbing song about a difficult maneuver that was captured quite clearly in the complexity of the song. Saxophonists Blake on tenor and Dwyer on alto produced a free mountain range of tones that blended and carried through to create a saxophone summit.

Brad Turner’s arrival for the third set brought the music of Mr. Jones back to the club, the songs from Jones album, Alan Jones Sextet, Climbing (Rough) (Independent 2010) were back on the table or the music stand as a quick rehearsal prepared Turner for another complex tune that featured some high note trumpet playing. After a couple of false starts the group took off on track with a wickedly entertaining free spirited tune.

The audience, sparse as it may have been, sat in mesmerized awe of the mountain of sound that the band produced. Spectacular musicianship and a sound that captured my imagination. Led by a drummer with an immense talent not only on his instrument but as well as in composition and as a leader. The Alan Jones Canadian All Star Sextet, one of the best jazz concerts of the 2013 TD Toronto Jazz Festival.

Alan Jones Canadian all Star Sextet 2
Photos of Alan Jones Canadian all Star Sextet by Paul J. Youngman