June 2007

Don Byron Plays the Music of Junior Walker
at the Toronto Jazz Festival
June 25, 2007Live @ CourthouseToronto
Get on the Floor
by Joyce Corbett with photo by Roger Humbert
Get down, get on the floor, and dance! That’s the spirit of Don Byron’s latest project, or should I say incarnation? It’s Junior Walker and James Brown material played by a band with a whole lot of musical chops and it’s a whole lot of fun. The one constant in Don Byron’s musical career is that he is always exploring something new but Byron’s new Do The Boomerang CD threw a few people for a loop. The immensely popular funk/soul/R&B/Motown genres don’t generally command much respect in the jazz world.

One unsuspecting jazz fan heading off to the club was told, “You are not going to hear any jazz tonight”. An American visitor, a musician and huge fan of Junior Walker, who had found out about the show earlier the same day couldn’t believe his luck at securing a stage-side table. Like many people (including myself) he was surprised that Don Byron was doing this material. Luckily some musicians just do what they want.

Big round bass notes from vocalist Dean Bowman alternating with full fat saxophone notes, sustained B-3 chords and vocal trills like bird calls introduced the dreamily seductive groove of “Cleo’s Mood”. Dean Bowman is easily one of the best vocalists in any genre today. This tune really gave him a chance to astound. “Do the Boomerang” had heads bobbing and feet tapping but I only saw one person dancing. Still, most of the audience complied immediately with Byron’s request for some back-up vocals on the third tune, “What Does it Take (to win your love)”. On “Roadrunner” the Cry Baby pedal was pumping as Dean Bowman ran with the words and became a traveling man, running on, off and across the stage.

The second set was all blues, mainly instrumental, starting with “Every Day I Got the Blues” and ending with a low-down dirty “Satan’s Blues”. David Gilmore’s guitar solo in “Mark Anthony Speaks” was riveting even though he broke a string. The encore, “Shotgun”, got people up doing what they had wanted to do all night — dance. It was our last chance.

There it is. What a treat to hear musicians of this caliber doing this music. We all got soul. Let’s give it some respect — and don’t be afraid to get down, get on the floor and do the jerk baby!

Don Byron
The musicians
Don Byron – clarinet, tenor saxophone
David Gilmore – guitar
George Colligan – Hammond B-3 organ
Brad Jones – bass
Rodney Holmes – drums
Dean Bowman – vocals
We welcome your comments and feedback
Joyce Corbett
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Roger Humbert
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The Live Music Report

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