The other night I stopped by Cory Weeds' Cellar Jazz Club and caught a very swinging set from Oliver Gannon and his band. Generally, it's a no-brainer to go and see Oliver and his band, but this was Vancouver Jazz Fest week and there was plenty of great stuff to choose from - even on a Wednesday evening. A choice between Gannon and superstar Kurt Rosenwinkel performing at Granville Island Performance Works? A tough call for any jazz lover.
I guess to many people it's probably an easy choice to make depending on your tastes. To others it's a tough decision. Contemporary superstar or old-school local legend?
I'd like to be able to explain how I made my choice and I'd like to offer an explanation slightly more sophisticated than simply stating I like one artist's music over the other. Let me share with you why it's great for a guy like me to be able to go see someone like Oliver Gannon play music.
O.G. is a musical elder statesman. He comes from an era that I almost can't imagine existed. Playing six nights a week for weeks at a time while spending the daytime recording jingles for the radio and doing television spots seems like a fantasy. For musicians of Oliver Gannon's generation, however, was a reality.
It sounds romantic in a way, but when I talked to Ollie on the phone today - mostly to make sure he was cool with being called an "elder statesman" - made it clear that they were just working for a living.
A part of our conversation went something like this:
"We didn't have these wimpy three hour gigs where you play two sets and go home," he told me. "You were there for five hours and played three or four sets."
"Didn't you tell me you saw Wes Montgomery?" I asked.
"Well, when I lived in Boston in the mid 1960s we'd go over to the Jazz Workshop. All the musicians would go in through the kitchen. I saw Wes maybe ten times. He had Wynton Kelly, Jimmy Cobb, and PC (Paul Chambers). He'd have to play 'Tequila' and things of that nature earlier in the night but we'd be there for the last set which is when they played the good shit!"
"Who else did you see there?"
"Well, I saw Miles Davis... and Eddie Gomez was playing bass. I guess he was subbing for Ron Carter. He did a good job."
These stories is priceless. Listening to Oliver feels like I've been given my own little window into this alternate music universe.
Maybe I'm living in the past? Maybe I need to get with it and embrace the sounds of today? Or perhaps I just want to enjoy a master musician who swings like crazy and was there when it was all happening?
Whatever the case may be we are fortunate to have an artist with such a rich musical past still making great music in our local clubs. For the most part that's why it's never a tough choice for me when Oliver Gannon is on the bill.
Enjoy the rest of this year's Jazz Festival!
Kurt Rosenwinkel is a major force in contemporary jazz. He has 12 recordings as a leader and is featured on the cover of the July edition of Downbeat Magazine.