WATERLOO, Tuesday Dec. 9, 2014 — Mark Eisenman brings his trio to The Jazz Room Saturday night and a lifetime of respect for the music.
Eisenman, a veteran jazz pianist from the Toronto scene, plays with Steve Wallace on bass and Terry Clarke on drums. All played The Jazz Room in the past and are enormously popular with club regulars. This will be a night steeped in tradition and straight-ahead jazz.
“I have worked with these guys so many times it is so easy to play,” Eisenman says in an interview with New City Notes. “”If people want to hear a lot of standards, I like playing them because then you can just call tunes that everybody knows.”
Eisenman, Wallace and Clarke have played together so much they don’t need a set list for the gig.
“You are just diving in there with creative musicians,” Eisenman says. “The best music I ever heard are guys communicating on the level of songs, and being so good at it, they just don’t need to have anything planned.”
Eisenman records, and teaches in the jazz program at York University. He picks and chooses his gigs.
“Sometimes I turn down a lot of work because I want to play real pianos,” Eisenman says. “That’s why The Jazz Room is so important to me, because I can go play a good piano in front of nice people who are listening.”
The Jazz Room stage is dominated by the Yamaha C7 grand piano. No talking is allowed when musicians are performing.
“I figure if I am going to out now and I am going to play this music, justice has to be done to it. And having a good instrument to play is the first step. Now it is up to me after than, if it’s not good, it is my problem,” Eisenman says.
Eisenman was born in New York into a musical family. His mother was born in Toronto, and loved to sing. His dad played piano, saxophone, accordion and composed music.
Eisenman’s dad was a Holocaust survivor who came to Canada in 1948 after living through the horrors of Auschwitz. He arrived at Pier 21 in Halifax three years after the war ended. Eisenman’s grandfather on his dad’s side was the principal flutist in the Lodz symphony in Poland before the Second World War. Everyone in Eisenman’s father’s family perished in the Holocaust, except for Eisenman’s dad, and his dad’s youngest brother.
After arriving in Canada and meeting Eisenman’s mother, the family moved to New York, and back to Toronto more than once.
“He did a lot of different things, including some piano teaching and taught me a little bit,” Eisenman says. “He was always going around teaching kids. He used to be a substitute teacher. So music was always there. My mother did a little singing. There are some demo recordings I have of my mom and dad from 1954, just amazing.”
Eisenman started in jazz studies at York University in 1974. It was a ground-breaking program, one of the first at a Canadian university.
“I really learned a lot about it there with the guys who started the jazz program there, John Giddings and Bob Witmer,” Eisenman says. “They were both great players.”
He teaches at York now. The list of alumni from that program includes the leading players on the scene today.
Following his gig at The Jazz Room (www.kwjazzroom.com) on Saturday, Eisenman will be back on stage on the Jazz Bistro in Toronto with his quintet on Friday, Dec. 19 and Saturday, Dec. 20. The quintet includes Wallace on bass, John McLeod on trumpet/Fugel horn, Pat LaBarbera on saxes and John Sumner on drums.