Monday, November 2, 2009

Canadian Treasure

The great Sun Ra said that he respected "all sincere musicians, whatever kind of music they play." Recently I had a chance to play with someone who embodies that ideal: the great Canadian jazz trombonist/pianist/composer Hugh Fraser.

Hugh and his amazing quintet happened to be appearing at Hermann's Jazz Club in Victoria, B.C. last Saturday night. Hermann's is as fine a venue for jazz as you'll find almost anywhere; no need to bring an electronic keyboard because the club provides a fine grand piano. It was the perfect spot to see Hugh and his combo, playing for people who really appreciated the music.

I had met Hugh briefly at a recent benefit for the Victoria Jazz Society, at which we both performed as part of a blues revue. As soon as our party was seated, someone slipped Hugh a note telling him that I was in the audience, and before I knew it I was sitting down at the piano. I led the band in a Sun Ra number, because after all it was a jazz scene. But before I could leave the stage, Hugh was telling me, "No, no, no, stay where you are, you've got to sing the blues."

And play the blues we did. I've never been made to feel more welcome on somebody else's stage. I did one of my numbers ("Meet Me With Your Black Dress On"), and Hugh's band played it as well as it's ever been played. I've shared the stage with some pretty good bands, but none better than these guys (the combo included Campbell Ryga on alto and soprano saxes, Ross Taggart on piano and tenor, Ken Lister on bass, and Dave Robbins on drums -- all of them certifiable A-listers).

Afterwards, I went back into the audience and Hugh took over at the piano and played "Mode to McCoy," his fabulous tribute to McCoy Tyner. I was glad I played earlier, because (believe me) no one could have followed that!

If you've never heard this man's music, by all means check him out! He's got the kind of energy, talent, and heart that made me want to ever do this thing in the first place.

No comments: