Review: Steve Kirby’s Oceanic Jazz Orchestra Album Release “All Over The Map” @ West End Cultural Centre
I think this concert should have been part of Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra’s “New Music Festival”. I believe the band played before or after one of the shows, but I think Steve should have had his own show within the New Music Festival.
I always feel grossly inadequate reviewing music like this. I grew up on Rock, Folk and Pop music and I’m extremely new to the world of Jazz. As an audience member, I’m constantly learning and picking up on things. “This song needs no introduction, you’ll know it” used to irritate me to no end, but sometimes I actually do know the song; so there’s some progress.
But Steve Kirby wrote a whole CD full of songs that I don’t know. When it’s song after song of sounds that appear to be all over the place, my brain activity lights up and I realize I still have so much to learn. I usually sit there thinking, “So wait…you thought of these sounds, you wrote them on sheets of paper using little black circles and lines and now these people are reading those papers and breathing life into the sounds in your head?”
I find this type of music so interesting. This is not stuff that I’d play as background music while I’m doing dishes. This is stuff I need to play while lying in my sunroom at night with headphones on. This is transport music. Sounds that take you places because of how they’re arranged and how they’re played.
The audience applauded as the musicians took the stage. Steve introduced a cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Bird On A Wire” featuring his wife, Anna-Lisa Kirby (in her very flattering black dress). It was an interesting rendition with a Middle Eastern vibe to it. I was at the edge of my seat throughout wondering what was making this sound and that sound.
Steve told us a bit about his inspiration for the album and how he musically blended cultures from Argentina, all the way up to Nunavut.
“Assiniboine”, written for Steve’s friend Paul Wright and inspired by the shape of the Assiniboine River from above, was both exciting and interesting. I loved how drummer, Curtis Nowosad started a passage and then vibraphonist, Warren Wolf came in and they both played together.
I have to admit, I was never a huge fan of Curtis Nowosad. I know he’s a drummer from Winnipeg, but a looooong time ago I saw him perform at a drum clinic and his playing just didn’t appeal to me. Either New York is agreeing with Curtis, or I’m now ready for what he’s offering, because I REALLY enjoyed Curtis tonight.
He seemed more…soulful (?) than when I last heard him play. Everything he played tonight and all his solos were so appropriate for the songs. It’s like he knew what the song needed and how to deliver without overdoing or taking away from the cohesiveness of the tune. I thought he was great and I’m now a fan of Curtis Nowosad.
An electrified bassoon solo, played by Peter Lutek felt a bit weird. Maybe it’s because the only real experience I have with bassoons is when Fred Flintstone walks across my TV screen. But Fred’s bassoon never sounded like this. I don’t think I was ready for this solo as I never got past the “you can add electronics to bassoons?” part.
That solo went into a happy tune with a delightful solo by Derrick Gardner. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, if there’s a formula for soloing, Derrick has perfected it. He plays just the right amount of noodling so you don’t get bored, and then takes you up to the point where your brain explodes with dopamine. My God, he’s great at it.
Derrick also conducted the electronic and very interesting “Qallupilluit”.
Jeremy Buzash made his violin sing so sweetly on “Telluride” and again, Curtis played a super appropriate solo.
After intermission, the melodic “Health Sciences Hypertension Clinic” made way for the mishmash of “Duende’s Dance” .
“Two Rivers” was pretty and dreamy, but my favourite tune of the night was the emotionally charged “They Just Slip Away/Tulsa”, which featured an impassioned performance by Ismaila Alfa and Heitha Forsyth. We were all cheering quite loudly after that one.
“A Speck Of Dust” and “Boissevain” rounded out the show. “Boissevain” was inspired by Charlene Diehl’s poem about her Father’s death. She recited the poem as the band played. Given my recent experience with the sudden death of my own Father, I found that performance very moving. The song ended with a beautiful piano solo by Will Bonness.
And that was it; a standing ovation and no encore.
I pre-ordered the CD and just before I started writing this review I opened it to make sure I was spelling everyone’s name right. It was then that I noticed other musicians who contributed to this project, but weren’t at the show tonight, such as drummer, Larnell Lewis. LARNELL. LEWIS. From Snarky Puppy. Larnell freakin’ Lewis played on this CD! I guess I know what I’m listening to tomorrow morning…
TicketMOMster is a Rock and Jazz-loving Mom; single-handedly keeping Ticketmaster alive in Winnipeg. Follow her musical journey here: www.facebook.com/TicketMOMs