"I'll just start to play something. You'll know this," chuckles bassist Don Thompson before introducing "Alice In Wonderland," while guitarist Reg Schwager intently listens. Spontaneity, interaction, instrumental mastery, the blues and a seemingly unlimited repertoire of tunes all come to mind to the well-read jazz music fan. But, less known are the taxing sessions and late night gigs musicians mandatorily go through learning to create this music on a whimmoreover, looking debonair doing it. With chance, a deeper connection between musicians and receptive listeners is made out of the sonorous melee.
This is exactly Canadian label Alma Records' gamble with its One Take
CD/DVD seriescapturing on tape the fleeting and rather risky yet, at its best, superlative music-making act that is improvisation.
Thompson (b.1940, Powell River, British Columbia), is, simply put, a Canadian national treasure. In addition to being a distinguished multi-instrumentalist and arranger, he is recognized as a trailblazer in the characteristic Canadian compositional sound (along with his flugelhornist friend Kenny Wheeler) upon which younger compatriots have built.
With elder statesman Ed Bickert, Schwager (b.1962, the Netherlands) epitomizes the archetypical, ultra-smooth style that watermarks so many Canadian guitarists' playing. His full-bodied, Jim Hall-like tone, perfect eight-note feel and phrasing are exemplary in the genre.
In the relaxed studio's atmosphere, the duo ad libs through twelve standards (the CD version only contains nine tracks) and Thompson's "To Scott LaFaro," as they would on a jam session. Oral exchanges are minimal, except for the fascinatingly insightful (and quite humbling) "Behind The Scene" treat where Thompson recollects old war stories of his stage experience with iconic figures Mel Torme, George Shearing and Milt Jackson. This will assuredly be of interest to practicing musicians.
Notwithstanding the fact jam sessions are a hard sell, especially considering the wealth of fabulous music coming out, candid three-camera productions with interesting perks such as this one undoubtedly serve the art form well.