Jane Fair: Jane Fair Quartet: Chances Are - Recorded Live in Vancouver

Raul d'Gama Rose By

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Fair is poetic, as if Dylan Thomas had come to life... she makes her tenor wake up and sing
Jane Fair Quartet
Chances Are - Recorded Live in Vancouver
Cellar Live


It is typically Canadian, ironic and inexplicable, that an artist so accomplished and so polished as saxophonist Jane Fair should have had the opportunity to record just three records that we know of: The Jane Fair Jazz Quintet (Radio Canada, 1975), Waltz Out (RGCD, 2002)—yes, that far apart—and 37 years after the first, at last, Chances Are (Cellar Live, 2007). Canada appears to put a high value on its sportsmen and women—which is not necessarily a bad thing—but when you discern how immeasurable is the depth of artistic talent, in music, dance and other areas of performing arts, you begin to wonder about a society that has turned, it appears, so cold as to patronize only for profit.

Fortunately, not all of Canada is like Toronto and indeed Ontario—at least in terms of "the cultural scene." Montreal, Quebec and Vancouver, British Columbia are both keeping a bright flame burning—at least for jazz. And no one is doing it better than Cory Weeds and his enterprises: Cellar Live, the label that feeds on its mothership, the Cellar Restaurant and Jazz Club—reaching out to the rest of the world from Vancouver, BC.

This is the setting for Chances Are, a piano-less quartet setting featuring the inspirational talents of Fair, who plays just tenor saxophone here, Dave Robbins on drums, Jodi Proznick, a bassist with a nervy muscularity in tone and manner, and the magnificently erudite Bill Coon on guitar. It is hard to believe that this group was put together at very short notice. Apparently, producer Brian Nation heard that Fair was in town, got her the gig, asked Coon "to put together a rhythm section" and the rest is history.

It's remarkable that Jane Fair—who is rarely heard live—should have chops like an artist who plays nightly. Let us put one additional matter to bed right away: she is the saxophonist that Duke Ellington never had, but may have given a dance on a dime to write for. For Jane Fair is not just lyrical, but poetic as if Dylan Thomas came to life and took up the saxophone—and when soloing on "Chances Are," a song that loosely recalls the changes on "Memories of You," even Whitmanesque. Fair makes her tenor wake up and sing like a horn come to life. Her compositions are also incredibly complete in the way that perhaps only fellow saxophonist Wayne Shorter's are.

"Fu's Feast," played in a tantalizing meter that shifts every alternate bar or so in the theme, sets the tone for the record. Cool, almost detached and yet with that pulsating 10/8 heart, there is something exhilarating about the manner in which the music unfolds. Coon is superb right from the start. His tone is lean, yet round and each note and chord is played with thoughtfulness and exquisite good taste. Fair is, of course, unparalleled in her exploration, not just of harmony, but also of timbre. She appears to make every breath sing, and count. And it seems that the brass of the sax could very well be as pliable as velvet for notes to emerge from. "Poco Luce," the track that Fair once dedicated to "the promise of illumination," has a remarkable harmonic tilt that alternates between major and minor, sometimes 7ths, and at times diminished and augmented keys and chord changes as well. Here, Fair and Coon almost whisper to each other and it is wonderful to hear them as they converse.

"Lazy Afternoon" and "Johnny Come Lately" are the only tracks that Fair did not write. But she stamps them with her unique voice. The former, by John Latouche and Jerome Moross, is played airily and truly exquisitely. Robbins is taut and in complete control of his brushes here—his work on percussion is sophisticated, pure and flawless throughout. And on the final, Billy Strayhorn composition, Fair leads the quartet through the intro of the song and then rapidly hands off to bassist Proznick, who takes her cue and makes a remarkable expedition with soaring harmonics. So wonderfully does she stretch that listeners are treated to a bass master-class in melody, harmony and rhythm all at once. In his solo Robbins takes the song into exhilarating territory.

The great bassist and composer Charles Mingus once told us that when he made Tijuana Moods (RCA, 1957), he thought that Clarence Shaw, a trumpeter he hired for the set, was remarkable in that he knew how few notes he needed play in order to make a song sound memorable and beautiful. Jane Fair does so track after track on this record.

Tracks: Fu's Feast; Poco Luce; Chances Are; Lazy Afternoon; Johnny Come Lately.

Personnel: Jane Fair: tenor saxophone; Dave Robbins: drums; Jodi Proznick: bass; Bill Coon: guitar; Producer: Brian Nation.

Title: Jane Fair Quartet: Chances Are - Recorded Live in Vancouver | Year Released: 2008 | Record Label: Cellar Live


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