Review: Christian Sands Quartet @ Berney Theatre (Izzy Asper Jazz Series)
The only prep-work I do before shows is listening to music in my car on the way to the venue. However, I don’t listen to music from the artist I’m going to see. Instead, I listen to similar musical styles.
I wouldn’t say a New York jazz piano prodigy (Christian Sands) is in any way similar to Queens of the Stone Age, but fortunately/unfortunately I’m completely addicted to their new single “The Way You Used To Do”, and blasted it in my car all the way to the Berney Theatre.
By the time I got to the theatre, I was full of attitude and I waltzed in snapping my fingers to the beat of my own strut.
The band took the stage and the bad a$$ part of my brain went: “HEY?! What the hell is this? Where’s that song we were dancing to in the car?!”
Thankfully the intellectual part of my brain doesn’t put up with crap like that, and replied: “HEY! COOL IT. You like this stuff…listen…”
The first tune started with Christian. He played it with a lot of space and air and the song’s tempo increased. Then drummer, Jerome Jennings, came in with some cymbal work and my mind went from bumping and grinding, to Central Park and the sun and the breeze, love and hand holding. Then I zipped into a jazz club in the middle of the night with dress shirts and flowing skirts, and the music swirled around me at whirl wind speed. Guitarist, Caio Carvalho Afiune, came in and everything slowed down and melted.
On stage there were closed eyes, shaking heads, knowing glances and right on cues. And then more speed and suddenly I was on the Autobahn and I was the out of control passenger on the verge of a scream. Then the song morphed into a drum solo that made me miss the great Quincy Davis and the realization that he was on to bigger and better things. But boy, do I miss him up on that stage.
And that was just the first song.
Bassist, Yasushi Nakamura, started “Bolivia” with a solo that turned into a toe-tapping groove. The tune was lively and I watched beads of sweat form on the musician’s brows. The song felt like there was a lot of room for each musician to move, express and create. Then there was another fantastic drum solo which gave me goose bumps on my legs and the back of my neck and at the end I resisted the urge to yell out “Have mercy!”
I’m pretty sure this was the best start to a jazz show I’ve seen in a long time. I was completely warmed up and couldn’t wait for more.
Christian intro’d the band and told us this was Caio’s first gig with the band and that his guitar blew up during sound check, so he was playing someone else’s guitar. That’s one of those “Ha ha! Remember when…” stories for later years.
There was another great bass solo during “Reaching For The Sun”, but Caio’s melodic guitar solo felt fantastic, which enhanced the atmosphere of an already beautiful song.
Then it was time for the blues. But this was no ordinary blues. This blues started off slow and turned grand, with twinkling keys, which is how I like my blues.
I was completely swept up in the hugeness of the tune and then the song suddenly came back down with Christian’s solo. It felt a bit long, but at the end of the song I wondered where the sleeper songs were? Every show has them…they’re the songs that you’re not really into, but you just have to get through them to get to the good stuff. Usually they’re slower, so the band can catch their breath and rest their hands.
There were no sleeper songs during the first set.
After intermission Christian insisted the next tune would be one we’d recognize, which I hate, because sometimes I don’t recognize them. He started his solo and nothing sounded familiar. The only thing I recognized was that this guy was amazing. Which, I suppose is good enough.
Then, it turned into “They Can’t Take That Away From Me”. YAAAY! I knew the song (phew!). It was a cheeky, playful version that went in many directions due to another bass and guitar solo. It also included a false ending. We all thought the song was over and once we finished clapping, the band went right back into the song.
The second last song was inspired by a trip to Cuba and it was filled with energy and life. With its funky bass lines, we easily could have danced to it. It quickly turned swift and during the meat of the song, all the musicians were into it and it was spectacular. Caio’s guitar brought the song down in tempo again, but the solo had such a nice feel, it didn’t matter.
Later in his solo he brought the song back up and made way for another drum solo that wasn’t my favourite. It felt stuck and unnecessarily long. Actually, most of the solos were really long. Sometimes that worked in their favour, but this time I didn’t think it did. By the time the solo was over, I had forgotten the gist of the song and it felt like I was hearing it again for the first time.
Christian brought newly appointed Artistic Advisor, Derrick Gardner, up on stage and asked him if he needed a mic. If you’ve ever heard Derrick play trumpet, you know he definitely doesn’t need a mic. He was wonderful as usual and then the song went crazy in tempo and Derrick was left standing at the side of the stage for eternity. But it was soooo good.
A standing ovation greeted the musicians as they joined arms and bowed.
Christian came back out by himself for a piano solo of “Somewhere Over The Rainbow”, which was a charming choice. It went all over though and at one point I thought I heard calypso. At the end, the man next to me whispered “incredible” to his wife and I thought that was the perfect word to describe that performance. What a talent.
I didn’t listen to any music on the way home, I flew home on Christian Sand’s vibe.
P.S. I really love this series. The next show is Afro-Cuban sensation, Pedrito Martinez Group at the West End Cultural Centre and I’m highly recommending it.
TicketMOMster is a Rock and Jazz-loving Mom; single-handedly keeping Ticketmaster alive in Winnipeg. Follow her musical journey here: www.facebook.com/TicketMOMs