WATERLOO ON., Dec. 3, 2014 — When Brendan Davis plays jazz he wants toes tapping and people singing at least one of the tunes by the end of the night.
Boom for Rent comes to town Saturday night at The Jazz Room. This quartet is comprised of veterans from the Toronto scene. Davis on bass, Reg Schwagger on guitar, Chris Gale on tenor sax and Ted Warren on drums. Gale can not make the gig Saturday, so Perry White is playing in his stead. White is a sensational tenor player, and well known to regulars of The Jazz Room.
“We’ve been working on You Might Hear, a George Gershwin tune. You will probably hear a Wayne Shorter song called Tom Thumb, maybe Bolivia. And we’ve been working on this tune called Tombo in 7/4 by this great percussionist Airto Moeira,” Davis says.
“We are not looking to alienate anybody, but we like to play with a lot of energy, and a song can go anywhere basically,” Davis says. “We will probably play one or two Dave Holland compositions as well.”
This quartet grew out of a weekly jam at a little place on the Danforth called 10 Feet Tall back in the spring of 2012. That club is now closed, but Boom for Rent lives on. The jam session was great while it lasted.
“I did not know Reg all that much, and I asked him to come and play one night, and he did,” Davis says in an interview with New City Notes. “And he said: ‘You know, when this thing kind of cools down from there we should play together some time.’ So I set that up and we added Chris and that was it.”
Boom for Rent usually plays in and around Toronto — Chalkers on Marlee Avenue , The Rex on Queen West and a little place called The Local GEST in the heart of Cabbagetown on Parliament Street. In July it had a residence at The Rex and played every Monday night.
“The quartet was playing and it got better, so much better every week,:” Davis says. “By the end of it, it was unreal.”
Davis loves Boom for Rent, and he’s busy composing music for it. He wants the band to head into a recording studio in the second half of next year.
“There is quite a large palette to draw from with these musicians, so I am going to, so I am starting to work with that and come up with some ideas and compositions,” Davis says. “So I am looking at that right now. That is my personal goal with this band.”
Davis studied jazz at York University, and during his last year Oscar Peterson was appointed Chancellor. The giant of the jazz piano would play with the students in workshops. Davis still speaks about the experience in reverential tones.
“Just to be able to stand beside that machine, and play with him. His playing was so strong. I would just hear whatever I had to play,” Davis says. “It was fantastic.”
A couple of years after graduating from York, Davis headed for the New England Conservatory of Music to do a master’s in jazz. Davis studied under the legendary bassist Dave Holland at the New England Conservatory. Holland played with Miles Davis in the Sixties. He is still going strong, and was a headliner at the Detroit Jazz Festival this year.
The New England Conservatory jazz program was great, but not long after Davis finished he did not play for nearly 10 years. He had a bad back. But then, about 2004, he was well enough to start playing again. He was gigging in Vancouver, and had a trio with Amanda Tosoff on piano and Morgan Childs on drums.
In 2008 Davis and his wife drove back to Toronto.
“We were driving back and I checked my Facebook and somebody said: ‘I need a bass player in Toronto, I need a bass player for Friday night.’ And I was already working before I got back here, and I haven’t turned back since,” Davis says. “The city has been really good to me since I’ve come back.”
When Davis was trying to think of a name for his small ensemble he was looking at a book about his favourite artist Jean-Michel Basquiat.
“He had something spray painted on the wall of his studio that said: ‘Boom for Real.’ And I thought, okay, not quite. Boom for Rent, that’s it. It’s goofy and clever at the same time, kind of like me.”
Toronto born and raised, Davis remembers George’s Spaghetti House, a legendary jazz venue that booked bands to play for an entire week. He took his first date to that place to hear the Moe Kauffman with Bernie Senensky, Jerry Fuller and Neil Swainson.