National Jazz Award winner Steve Wallace finished a hot set with pianist Eric Reed on a winter night, and I greeted him with Hey Steve, hows Canadas finest Bass player? He came right back with, That would be Dave Young. Cant argue with that. I just think of 1983 and the album Lenny Breau with Dave Young Live at Bourbon St., and of the excitement Dave gathers when he performs at clubs and festivals around Toronto. So his new album, Mainly Mingus, is welcome as flowers in spring.
The first cut is Oscar Pettiford, Mingus homage to the late great bassist, known for his superb intonation and melodic phrasing. This bop tune, melodic and hip, recalls Horace Silvers Sister Sadie. Perry Whites sax solo is penetrating, digging into the tune. I like it. Kevin Turcottes trumpet brings out the lyrical element, and Terry Clarke gives full percussive coverage to the soundstage. Dave Youngs commanding bass moves at a pretty good clip. His solo dances with Terry behind him on the high hat and snare, with Gary Williamson comping lightly on piano. With the two horns blowing in unison the overall feeling at the end is of a big band moving smoothly. Nice.
Wham Bam is not my fav tune but the boys in the band take the advantages it offers. Terry goes wild rolling while the horns open in unison. Kevin makes the first solo a declaration, his phrases drawn out at the end, singsong. Daves bass drives the whole thing. Gary, comping on piano, lays down a lot of scales fast, and makes a complex solo of short flat-tuned riffs, accented by Terrys rim shots which build into a wild jungle drum message, highly ornamented and intricate as the number closes out to a pounding doodlia-doodlia-bop-bop.
Two horn voices and Dave boom-booming in back bring out Mingus mellow eulogy to Lester Young, Goodbye Porkpie Hat. Slow solo by Kevin, sensitive, lyrical, repeating phrases with a slightly upbeat hipster swing as if to say Somebody is being missed but the swing shows hes still present. Garys piano solo, mainly right hand is delicate riffing, which sounds kind of Jewish and mournful. Daves solo has a speaking voice with a resounding twang at end of notesemotional.
Nostalgia In Times Square has a kind of boppy Monkish swing to it, with Garys piano adding a kind of bluenote. Perrys solo swings with a whiney extended stretch at the end of a phrase, upward inflected, maybe referring to the Chinese in Mingus background. Gary comping percussive piano, trumpet is blue in a Louis sort of way; Kevins solo is lean and well constructed, beautiful tone with blues slurs alternating running up and down the scales, with short punchy riffs and lyrical phrases; Terry working on cymbals like nerves jangling. Daves long solo is of complex, subtle phrases, not much repetition, tremendous variety, constructed like the periodic sentences of the old time orators. Sounds a bit like Monks Well You Neednt.
Dave Youngs own 10 minute composition Bass Clef starts with the sound of traffic, piano leading off, complex melody carried by the horns, and develops along two alternating lines, one wild through sax and drums and one more exploratory through trumpet and piano with Dave building melody and structure flattening here, cooling there.
Self- portrait in Three Colors starts with the bass quiet and inquisitive, tentative and probing, asking questions. Horns come in with a pretty, reflective Mingus melody, kind of blue, drawn-out twangy, like Pork-pie, a sad tune. One of the lovelier pieces of the album. Piano picks up the blue tone of sensitivity to the point of pain lightly and steadily explored. Complex. Here is the one instance where Terrys drum seems a bit loud and intrusive.
All the Things Youd Be Right Now, If Sigmund Freuds Wife Was Your Mother, starts out like a kind of Dizzy G. tune, kind of bop, tuneless, up and down the scale, with a good beat. Dave does duo with Kevin, Dave playing the same note but a bit behind the trumpet, literally shadowing it. Perry picks up fast tempo, and things fall apart in an interesting way.
Cherokee Revisited. The other Dave tune, one minute, and nice fade away.
Mainly Mingus is not easy listening. It is complex, intellectual, musicianly. The music is straight, not very allusive to other better-known melodies. But its Mingus, for the new millennium. Under Dave Youngs direction, these A-list Canadian Musicians do a consistent job of making it new. Originally recorded in 2002 at Top O The Senator in Toronto by the CBC, very well engineered, and remastered in 2004. Rewards repeated listening.