By Terry Pender
WATERLOO, March 20, 2015 —- One of Canada’s leading jazz pianists and composers, David Braid, brings a new, international project to the stage tonight at The Jazz Room.
Braid teamed up with tenor-sax master Mike Murley for trips to Denmark, Sweden and Finland in recent years to teach master classes and gig. Braid formed strong-musical bonds with the bass player Johnny Aman of Finland, and the drummer Anders Morgensen of Denmark. They talked about collaborating, and earlier this week Aman and Morgensen flew into Toronto.
The Murley-Braid Nordic Project was born.
“So it’s exciting and rewarding, to share what we do across borders. And we all hope with them being here, and us being there, that we will become part of different scenes and meet new musicians,” Braid said.
The quartet played two nights at The Rex on Queen West, and tonight they play The Jazz Room. Two of the best jazz artists in Canada playing with two of the best jazz artists from Scandinavia. This promises to be an incredible show, the roots of which go back to 2008 and Braid’s first trip to Northern Europe.
“I had a concert in Sweden and following the concert someone took us to sit in at some other gig, I think it was at the Opera House in Malmo,” Braid said in an interview with New City Notes. “And there was a great bass player playing, and I sat in.”
It was the kind of night a musician never forgets.
“I ended up sitting in for the rest of the night, we were getting along very well musically, and he had mentioned something about playing some more in the future, bringing me to Finland, but nothing ever materialised until this year,” Braid said.
A Finnish bass player playing in the Malmo Opera House in Sweden with one of Canada’s very best jazz pianists. Hard to get more international than that. It was the beginning of Braid’s deep appreciation for the jazz artists of Northern Europe and the society that supports and nurtures great improvisers and their venues.
Braid also made several trips to Odese Conservatory of Music in Copenhagen, Denmark to teach master classes.
“I think I was there in 2012, with my sextet,” Braid said. “I was there I think in 2009 with a great trumpet player from Vancouver named Brad Turner. And I met Anders on that trip, and I liked his playing very
much. I guess he and Johnny, the bassist, play together quite frequently.”
The jazz-art scene is made up of small communities in a lot of cities around the world.
“And we are always looking for each other, and these two guys are examples of people in a lot of cities around the world,” Braid said.
After teaching master classes in the Odese Conservatory, Braid hit the jazz clubs to listen, chat with musicians and jam. He remains amazed at what he saw and heard. The jazz clubs are known as Cultural Houses that receive generous operating grants from the government. The musicians can join a collective. In return for small, monthly dues the collective will help cover rent and other bills if the artist did not have enough gigs that month. And post-secondary education is free up to a doctorate.
“It’s amazing, it’s amazing,” Braid said. “The government sort of realises that these things make a measurable contribution to the society and the culture, and they feel it’s important to keep them going. If you look at them with your eyes you would say; ‘Oh, it’s a jazz club,’ but then that’s not how they are perceived by the country and it’s wonderful.”
So the programming in the Cultural Houses can be adventurous or conservative because of the government support.
“So scene is healthy because the venues are protected, but also the musicians are protected,” Braid said.
With financial pressures eased because of this support, the jazz musicians in Scandinavia are not forced to work day jobs to make the rent. They can spend more time on their art. The professional scene in Denmark, Sweden and Finland is world class. It is the kind of milieu Braid thrives in – collaboration that takes the music to new levels.
“When you sort of meet people who are on the same musical wave length, we all want to expand and have as many possibilities to exchange ideas, and so we all sort of mutually felt that it would be interesting artistically to collaborate,” Braid said. “That is what brought us together.”
Murley is known across Canada as a leading tenor sax player, composer and recording artist. He’s played the Waterloo Jazz Festival, the Black Hole Bistro and The Jazz Room in the past. Murley has an international reputation. Jazz Cats in the West Village of New York City drop his name.
The next phase of the Murley-Braid Nordic Project will see the two Canadian jazz masters return to Scandinavia for a tour with Aman and Morgensen.
The show tonight will include some tunes by Kenny Wheeler. Wheeler was a Canadian composer, trumpet player and flugelhorn player who passed last year. He was influential, having written about 100 compositions. Wheeler was much loved by modern jazz cats as he embraced free improvisation. His last recording in In 1997 featured Bill Frisell on guitar, Dave Holland on bass and Lee Konitz on alto sax.
“Wheeler’s music, who was a big influence on Mike and I for sure, and I am sure on those guys,” Braid said. “His music is very beautiful and we thought, based on the stylistic influences of Johnny and Anders this sort of music would work particularly well for the four of us.”
Braid has high hopes for this musical visit by the two Scandinavian jazz artists. He talks about an international network of jazz art players sharing ideas and collaborating across borders.
“I am happy to introduce them to the Canadian scene, and I hope some other nice things will come out of them being here. It would be nice, in my sort of idealistic world I am hoping one day that all these small circles in all these cities around the world will start to cooperate more, and there will be more pipelines between musicians in these cities because we all want the same thing,” Braid said.
“But I don’t think there is enough cross pollination happening yet. So little projects like this I think are good because it sort of stimulates the type of thinking where there could be a lot more opportunities for musicians everywhere who are very serious about what they do, and want to do it as much as possible,” Braid said.