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Phil Nimmons and David Braid: Beginnings

Budd Kopman By

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David Braid has been making a lot of waves with releases like Set In Stone, which paid homage to the almost mythical Canadian jazz musician Fred Stone. For Beginnings, Braid teams up with Phil Nimmons, who actually played with Stone. Despite the fact that Nimmons is over fifty years older than Braid, he continues to look for new challenges, saying, "I still love it. It's like this duo I have with pianist David Braid. We never rehearse; it just happens. My old friend (trumpeter) Guido Basso saw us play and was amazed we didn't even discuss things beforehand. I said, 'Guido, you gotta try it.' It keeps you fresh and alive."

"Fresh" and "alive" are perfect descriptions of Beginnings. In reality, the duo is not totally balanced—Nimmons leads the vast majority of the time, which Braid has no qualms about. However, it takes very sharp ears to follow when nothing is discussed beforehand. While these two musicians listen quite closely to each other, they could very well have sketches in front of them. The music's cohesion, however, is not due to any props, but the ability of the players, who nevertheless seem to have at least visual cues to communicate such things as tempo changes or the desire to end a piece. It is very easy to forget that they are winging it and just enjoy some terrific in-the-moment music.

While this could be called free jazz, given that it lacks a predetermined structure, it is tonal—meaning either a key is defined by a chord progression or a root note is emphasized and develops as the musical center of gravity. Free blowing it is not, and each piece experiences its own development as Nimmons and Braid expound and comment. For example, "Bee" and "Cee" (the tune names are the letters of the alphabet) have melodic cells that are clearly defined by repetition and rhythm, with "Bee" evolving to a pseudo-blues and "Cee" evoking the ballad tradition. Especially when heard after "Ayy," which is more free-form, these two tracks demonstrate what makes a melody recognizable as such, and also how much our minds depend on such things as repetition, rhythmic clarity and melodic intervals that imply chords.

Live recordings bring the listener right into the process and the moment. In this well-recorded case, we experience an old master and a very mature young player working without a net. The very high-quality music they produce quickly engages the listener, pulling her forward as ideas are tossed back and forth and expanded upon. After a few minutes, one no longer wonders, "how do they do it?"—instead just allowing this organic, instantaneous creation to happen.

The audience ends up applauding not for the way this music was made, but for the music itself.

This recording is available from David Braid on the web.

Track Listing: Ayy; Bee; Cee; Dee; Eeh; Eff; Gee.

Personnel: Phil Nimmons: clarinet; David Braid: piano.

Title: Beginnings | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Nimmons'n'Music Ltd.

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