Over the years Canada has produced its share of world-class jazz musicians who have reached widespread acclaim, including Oscar Peterson, Gil Evans, Paul Bley, and Kenny Wheeler. Lesser-known, but no less important, are support players like drummer Terry Clarke, who spent a number of years in New York and was a long-time collaborator with guitarist Jim Hall, before returning to Canada a few years back.
Bassist Dave Young, unlike Clarke, has remained in Canada throughout his thirty-year-plus career, but has worked with a wide range of artists, most notably Oscar Petersonwith whom he's renewed his musical relationship following the recent untimely passing of Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen. But while Young's reputation as an intuitive and stylistically unrestricted bassist has seen him collaborate with all manner of artists, he's also forged his own path as a leader, most notably on his mid-'90s recordings Two by Two and Side by Side, which teamed him with pianists including Mulgrew Miller, Kenny Barron, and Cedar Walton. While his latest release, Mainly Mingus, features the closer-to-home talents of a quintet of Torontonians, it's no less substantive than projects where he has worked with artists of international renown.
The only shame is that the disc, recorded live in '02 at Toronto's Top O' the Senator for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, has taken three years to see general release. As the title would imply, and the programmewith the exception of two originals by Youngwould confirm, this is Young's homage to an early influence, the mercurial Charles Mingus. The quintet, featuring pianist Gary Williamson, trumpeter Kevin Turcotte, saxophonist Perry White, and drummer Terry Clark, couldn't be better picked to handle the rigorous demands of Mingus' musicespecially the complex metric twists and turns, and stops and starts of Mingus' reworking of "All the Things You Are, "All the Things You'd Be Right Now If Sigmund Freud's Wife Was Your Mother. When Young and a slightly different version of the quintetwith saxophonist Kelly Jefferson and drummer Michel Lambertplayed this material at the 2005 Ottawa International Jazz Festival, it was clear by the time they finished that they were working hard.
And yet, despite the rigorous demands of this largely swinging set, they make it sound so easy. Williamson's recorded body of work is surprisingly small, so one can only assume he's developed his rich sense of accompaniment and constructed soloing on the bandstand. Since emerging in the early '90s, Turcotte and White have established themselves as two of Canada's strongest players, lyrical yet equally capable of navigating the most challenging charts.
Whether ambling on "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat or swinging hard on the bright and up-tempo "Wham Bam Thank You Ma'am, Clarke and Young create the kind of interpretive backdrop that completely liberates the soloists. Young's a less aggressive, more subtle player than Mingus, yet the lineage is clear. Mainly Mingus is the perfect tributecombining the right amount of reverence with the players' own personalities, giving it a spin and complexion all its own.
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