|David Braid communicates with a musical spirit that seemingly knows no bounds. He is a pianist, composer, arranger, leader and sideman that has done it all. On this recording, made at the famed and now closed Toronto jazz club Top of the Senator in 2005, the Sextet plays inspired jazz with a fresh contemporary groove. The album Zhen features seven tracks, all David Braid compositions with the exception of one, a masterful rendition of John Coltranes Giant Steps. Zhen offers an hour of exceptional music from some world-class musicians, I highly recommend it.
David Braid is a relatively young musician, born in 1975. A fine pianist with a classical background, he won a Juno award in 2005 for Best Traditional Jazz Album with his Sextets second CD, Vivid. Mr. Braid is also the recipient of the 2007 National Jazz Award for composer of the year and a co-winner of the National Jazz Award for Best Acoustic Group with The Murley/Braid Quartet.
The first track of the CD is the hook that reels you in. Fishers Of Men is a blues based tune that starts with solo acoustic bass and an intriguing rhythm, then runs into a rapid upbeat tempo with smooth-flowing harmonic lines and open sustained notes. A pause of dramatic effect an exciting and dynamic entrance by the band, with horns blasting out a fine, full, rich tone, swinging drums and the pianist Braid setting down a great melody out of which a rich, full song develops allowing all members of the band to let loose.
A composer of exceptional talent, David Braid takes numerous twists and turns on this track, mixing in excellent arrangements for the horn section, driving the song with rhythmic excitement by adding a fantastic bass, drum and augmented piano section to the song, a trio that is playing with incredible intensity. The song is close to fourteen minutes in length; there is never a dull moment, from the previously mentioned solo bass, to the group playing with trombone, cornet and saxophone breaks of improvised majesty, this is a song that has it all.
The song Lydian Sky features the soprano saxophone playing of Mike Murley, an easygoing ballad with a beautiful melody. Mr. Murley plays with a sensitive and emotional style, his playing creates imagery that transports you to distant lands. As you listen with eyes closed you can picture multi-coloured skies. He paints with tones of peace and tranquility.
The song Temptress takes us to the Middle East for a sampling of world music, John Macleod brings us back home with some impressive flugelhorn playing. The song Dance of The Zinfadels features inspired trombone playing on a catchy rhythm. The song is performed at a moderate tempo to start and gently changes to feature Gene Smith on trombone, whose playing is superb. The song "Andalusia" takes us for a tour of Spain with tones reminiscent of what you might hear during a bullfight at the Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas in Madrid.
A live performance at a jazz club, The Top of The Senator, an intimate setting, an appreciative audience and the band featuring award-winning players. Saxophonist Mike Murley, cornetist John MacLeod and trombonist Gene Smith, as well as a rhythm section of incredible depth, Steve Wallace on acoustic bass and Terry Clarke on drums, all led by one of the brightest lights in contemporary composition, David Braid. Put all of these elements together and it adds up to a must have recording of classic proportions.
report by Paul J. Youngman KJA Jazz Advocate June 2007