"5 Shades of Geggie" Closes with Bill Carrothers and Nick Fraser
With a brief rehearsal, a Toronto gig two nights earlier and a Canadian Broadcast Corporation radio date the day before, some comfort level was to be expected. But the chemistry was so intense yet paradoxically subtle that it felt as though they'd been playing together for much longer. Leveraging on the connection between Geggie and Fraser that's developed over the past few years helped, but their ability to anticipate Carrothersand his ability to do the same in reversemade for an evening filled with deep communication, but often in the most understated of ways. And while there were few sharp edges to be found in the trio's performance, there were plenty of skewed perspectives, making it eminently listenable yet, at the same time, demanding of the audience.
Fraser can swing hard when necessary, but he's equally a colorist with all manner of unusual tricks up his sleeve. Placing cymbals on the drums and pushing on them while striking them created a sound akin to a water gongs. His brushwork was impeccable, asserting time while, at the same time, creating richer texture, And his solos were clearly focused on the musical rather than macho displays of dexteritythough in order to do what he does, it's clear that he possesses all kinds of technical facility.
As relaxed as he's ever been, Geggie focused largely on lyrical excursions that took full advantage of some unusual techniques of his own. He possesses a rich tone that doesn't quite resonate in the gut, but is more rarefied. In a context that juxtaposed melodicism with more abstract impressionism, Geggie managed to both keep things focused and participate as an equal member of the trio's three-way conversation.
And it was a conversation. Eye contact was strong between the three players. While the mood was sometimes dark, it was also clear that they were having a lot of fun. And there were those magical moments when the trio would connect on such a deep level that they appeared as surprised and inspired as the audience bearing witness.
What Carrothers has been proving throughout his career is that it's possible to be free without losing a sense of purpose, and that there's plenty of good source material out there that's outside the typical Great American Songbook repertoire. Teamed with Geggie and Fraser he demonstrated that it's possible to honour the essence of a song while, at the same time, taking it to new places. It was a terrific way to close off this season's 5 Shades of Geggie, and it's good news that the series will pick up again this fall, with Geggie hinting at other intriguing musical collaborations to come.
John Geggie & Mark Dresser at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa (Concert Review, 2005)
John Geggie, Donny McCaslin & Jim Doxas at The Fourth Stage, Ottawa, Canada (Concert Review, 2005)
John Geggie/Sunna Gunnlaugs/Justin Haynes Ottawa, Canada May 22, 2004 (Concert Review, 2004)
John Geggie, 'No Boundaries' Series with Mike Murley and Jim Doxas (Concert Review, 2004)
Bill Carrothers: Content in his Corner of the Jazz World (Interview, 2004)
Photo Credit: John Kelman