Sophisticated sonic pleasure...

Ron Davis has eight releases under his belt but he's anything but satisfied. He's on a mission to shake up the stereotype of the typical jazz audience by tackling his repertoire differently in an effort to regain the enthusiasm that the genre deserves. Taking three Sundays in a row at North York's Chalkers' Pub to do so was simply a part of his plan. When Blues Modules was released a few weeks ago, critic Peter Goddard implied that Davis might be his own worse enemy. With the exception of the opening instrumental, Goddard suggested Davis to be guilty of the same ho-hum 'light funk' and 'easy listening' and 'cocktail lounge treatments' that Davis had originally rallied against with this release. Indeed, what Davis has tried to do ' succeeded in technicolour ' in this recent run of live shows. Davis, a somewhat chameleonic player who conjures images of a wide range of idols, dependent upon the muse. Yet, the real magic lies in the chemistry and musical makeup of Davis' varied keyboard directions in conjunction with three outstanding players in Ross MacIntyre (bass), Kevin Barrett and guest drummer Tim Shaw. Together this simpatico crew play as if competing only with themselves, surrendering to the song, remaining loyal to the piano's lead yet challenging it. All Davis can do is break into a huge smile as he plunges headlong into each and every excursion. Expert musicians and soloists all, these four glue together in their journey like nothing you'd hear in any lounge I've been to. From 'Roger's Rumble' a too-short original teasing a heartfelt stew of groove that signals what is to follow to surprises like an elastic re-treading of 'Making Plans For Nigel' the lone hit by these Brit groundbreakers, themselves locked between genres, giving birth to something clever of their own.

A different lineup than the album, which featured Roger Travassos on drums/percussion, Donna Grantis on guitar (Prince's newest protégé) and Diego Matamoros' words on a lone track, this quartet smokes and crackles across a wild menagerie of oblique angles and least-suspected covers to create something entirely of their own making. Mission accomplished, Mr. Davis. From the effervescent gumbo that is 'Roger's Rumble' to a collection of covers ranging from music by Bill Withers and Jimi Hendrix; XTC to Stevie Wonder; 'Viva Las Vegas' to the Muppets' theme. Although the potential for lounge could be surmised here, that's not at all what emerges from the other end of the listener's experience.

Spiritual travelers in the name of exploratory improvisation, Davis and his elastic-fingered, 5-stringed bassist, MacIntyre, are joined at the hip while Barrett probes new ground covering a spectrum of influences from Burrell to Metheny, with a splash of George Benson and Warren Haynes for added interest. Sims sits back somewhat, rhythmically flawless, positioned for the attack on a moment's notice, as MacIntyre, Barrett and Davis momentarily spar, all the while laying down complementary journeys of sophisticated sonic pleasure expanding upon the central theme of each cover, launching it into uncharted turf. Davis clearly embraces all music and his co-conspirators begin with his every lead before growing variations of their own.

Those seeking fresh colour combinations and inventive textures in their jazz might plot a course for a live Davis show but be prepared to ingest plenty of stylistic ground which, despite the protests of some, lends the concept of eclecticism a truly positive and progressive spin.

Such was this enchanted evening, which shared the stage with young turk, Andrew Testa, sitting in on drums for 'Sunny' and Daniela Nardi's guest appearance covering an Italian folk tune.

He's all about taking giant steps

Pianist Ron Davis makes no bones about the fact that he’d like to reclaim jazz and its lost audience.
He agrees it’s not a higher art form, it’s not just for adults, and it’s certainly not de rigeur to rock a Brooks Brothers suit and look all serious while playing it.
“Jazz is one of the most exciting, vibrant genres of music,” the classically trained Davis says. “Jazz was the original pop music. It was the edge music and I consider myself lucky to be part of a movement that comes from pop roots and also stretches its traditional boundaries.”
Bridging that gap is easier said than done, but for most of his career, Davis has been doing just that by infusing various elements into his playing. Adventurous and unconventional, he’s all about taking giant steps every time he enters a recording studio.
This is evidenced on his latest disc, Blue Modules.
“Earlier recordings had different influences, to be sure,” he says. “Blue Modulesis a conscious attempt to bring those influences together. In the past, jazz was the main dish, while klezmer and gospel were garnish. On this record, jazz is an equal ingredient along with pop, and funk in main dish, it’s a hearty ragout.”
The disc, his eighth, is an attempt to celebrate jazz music’s spirit of play and improvisation.
“I want people to groove and dance to the music as they did to (Duke) Ellington’s music many years ago. I want to play recognizable tunes, I want to have fun and I want listeners to have fun,” Davis says.
Recognizable tunes like Bill Withers’ Grandma’s Hands, Stevie Wonder’s Living for the City, Jimi Hendrix’s Voodoo Chile (Slight Return) and yes, even Mahna Mahna. Joining him on this outing is bassist phentermine buy online Ross MacIntyre, drummer Roger Travassos, guitarist Donna Grantis — who Prince recently invited to join his band — and Diego Matamoros.
“I wanted to play songs I loved,” Davis says when I ask what inspired him to reinterpret such an intriguing collection of songs. “I wanted to play songs people knew. The Blue Modules project originally began as a Jimi Hendrix project but it evolved into a mix of songs that reflected different moods from the dark (Living for the City) to the light (Mahna Mahna) to the dreamy (I Will) to the spiritual (Patanjali’s Chant), which is the yoga chant that’s part of the Iyengar yoga practice I engage in.”
Davis may have declared war on jazz conservatism and purists but that doesn’t mean he’s thrown improvisation, one of the music’s key elements, to the wind.
“We improvised solos all over the place for this record,” he says. “At the front of songs, at the end of them, in between, all over! In fact, the tune, Blue Modules, is 100 per cent off-the-floor improvisation.”
And the wild mix, Davis feels, will appeal to all of us who live in what he calls “the playlist era.
“We live in a time where a funk tune on your iPod is followed by a rock tune and that’s followed by a jazz tune, and then by some Beethoven. Blue Modules is good music for the playlist era. And I will further this project in Symphronica, where I bring together two established art forms: jazz and classical music.
“It will fuse those traditions plus world, boogaloo and Latin music into what I hope is a new, revitalized energy that helps bring both kinds of music into the present and beyond.”

Excellent jazz release

With his 8th album, Toronto-based jazz pianist Ron Davis has taken a very different approach to the jazz standard. In a very deliberate effort to avoid the obvious jazz conventions, Davis' new album Blue Modules is almost all covers; but not the songs you'd expect on a jazz album. In fact, Blue Modules is at times more steeped in pop, soul and funk than jazz. For modern jazz fans, it almost seems like The Beatles and Stevie Wonder are becoming the new standards. Davis takes on less obvious tracks from both artists ('I Will' and a driving, upbeat version of 'You Can't Do That' from The Beatles, as well as 'Don't Worry 'Bout a Thing' and 'Living for the City' from Wonder.) Davis also has a nice sense of humour about his work too, covering the Sesame Street classic 'Mahna Mahna', doing a surf-tinged cover of Elvis' 'Viva La Vegas', and turns Jimi Hendrix's 'Voodoo Child' into a smoky, film noir lounge track. The most surprising cover here is XTC's : 'Making Plans for Nigel', which Davis takes to an expansive, spacy place. The best covers are the recognizable ones that go to a place that is the Ron Davis' own. Davis puts his own twist on the well-known songs consistently throughout the album. This is an excellent jazz release that is challenging and accessible at the same time.

Tres groovy, ludique et funky

 l'occasion de la sortie du nouvel album Blue Modules, trois pièces sont offertes à l'écoute, ainsi qu'une entrevue avec le pianiste et professeur.

C'est notre ami André Rhéaume qui nous a chaudement recommandé ce nouveau disque de Ron Davis. Le pianiste ontarien propose avec Blue Modules un huitième album très groovy, ludique et funky. Il nous explique, en français, son jazz !

L'énigmatique professeur Davis est en réalité un bon vivant qui adore rire et jouer. Fils d'immigrants d'Europe de l'Est, sa vie a changé totalement à 8 ans, l'année où il a découvert le jazz et le français, tout en même temps. Laissez-le vous expliquer les liens entre Louis Armstrong et Molière, entre l'Amérique et la France. Celui que certains connaissent comme l'heureux mari de la chanteuse de jazz Daniela Nardi détient un doctorat en français et a même enseigné cette langue à l'Université, en Ontario. Mais, parallèlement, il a réussi une belle carrière de pianiste et gagné ses galons en jouant sans rel‚che et toujours pour le plaisir.

« Davis dérange, explique l'animateur André Rhéaume. Le mec est insaisissable. C'est un excellent pianiste, de l'école Art Tatum/ Oscar Peterson. Mais il est surtout un chercheur, un chasseur de sons et d'harmonies, et un sans peur en matière de répertoire. »

Voilà qui est bien dit! Blue Modules est un album de trio où l'on entend du Elvis, du Hendrix, du Stevie Wonder et du Bill Withers, et même le thème du Muppet show. Le tout assaisonné avec des sonorités de bon vieux Fender Rhodes avec sa friture psychédélique et de vieux Celeste, un alliage bâtard entre le clavier électronique et le glockenspiel.

La seule chanson qui trouve grâce aux yeux du maestro et qu'il traite avec respect dans un style romantique et plus classique de piano jazz, c'est bien I Will de Paul McCartney. « C'est la plus belle chanson des Beatles, affirme-t-il avec autant de passion qu'un ado. Vous ne trouvez pas? »

Firmly an innovative force within the world of jazz.

Alex Davis should not have worried when he told his son Ron, "All you care about is music, why can't you get a real job?" The now acclaimed pianist and composer makes a living off of music, and with eight noteworthy albums behind him, he has firmly established himself as an innovative force within the world of jazz.

Davis's talented fingers and shifting, indefinable style become clear when he hops onto the piano seat opposite bass player Mike Downes at an on-campus event put on by Musicians@Ryerson and Hillel@Ryerson. He takes on pieces from Duke Ellington's C Jam Blues to Bal u Grubego Joska (Polish for "Party at Fat Joe's"), an eponymous song about his late grandfather, to an improvised jazz version of You Are My Sunshine.

"It's a border-free, open-playlist type of influence," Davis says when asked about his multi-genre playing, which originated from stride and swing roots. "Eclectic? Sure. I would just call it open-minded. I appeal to different tastes."

Davis is quick to say that his music does not qualify as "jazz purism," and he openly embraces criticism of his work. "You're not making a statement if there isn't room to disagree with the statement," he says. "When you're making music, there has to be room for rejection in your work, otherwise it's too bland."

It is little bits of wisdom like these that Davis shares with the group of students and guests gathered before him at the evening performance. "Let me tell you, the music that you're getting from whatever source you're getting it from â?¦ that music is as highly processed as a McDonald's hamburger. One of the things about this music is it's handmade."

Davis is a small man with a big presence. Upbeat and energetic, his amusing digressions bubble with exaggerated impersonations and droll self-mockery. "I married a musician and she thought she was marrying a lawyer!" he jokes. "Thank you for putting up with it," he tells an old schoolmate after she congratulates him on his performance, at the end of the night.

Light-hearted and loquacious in person, at the piano Davis is straight-faced and focused. His nuanced, freestyle improvisation emits liveliness and breeziness, combining the fragile and strident in a quick phentermine buy on line succession of notes.

Music wasn't always the way of life for Davis. Despite playing piano since age eight and studying at the Royal Conservatory of Music beneath Darwyn Aitken (a student of classical master David Saperton and jazz legend Oscar Peterson), Davis decided to pursue a career in law. Two years later, he returned to the University of Toronto to get his PhD in French and teach, as an assistant French professor.

Davis' fervour for professional music was reignited just 16 years ago, when saxophone player Doug Banwell nudged him into a jam session that soon transitioned into regular gigs at local cafés. It took four years for Davis to remove "lawyer" from his email signature.

Since then, the piano has ousted the legal robes and conjugation charts. Davis has toured worldwide with various collaborators and accrued a great deal of praise to his name, with Jazz.FM calling him "one of the great minds in jazz" and CFRB "one of Canada's A-List pianists."

In his newly released album Blue Modules (displaying a cover image that Davis calls his "FU cover"), covers like Elvis' Viva Las Vegas and Jimi Hendrix's Voodoo Child (Slight Return) are interspersed with originals. Symphronica, his next album, set for release in late 2013, is a jazz-symphony fusion that bridges the divide between classical and jazz.

Davis has also found a way to shrink the gap between music and charity. For eight years, he co-produced Jazz for Herbie, a benefit for the Sick Kids Hospital Foundation, and he served as secretary of The Glenn Gould Foundation for many years.

These days, he also performs regularly for various charities and sits on the advisory boards of Reaching Out Through Music and the Jazz Performance and Education Centre, as well as serving on the board of Opera Five. "There are so many challenges in music that somehow I think we can identify with some of the charitable causes," he said. "There's that natural symbiosis."

Though fulfilled with his music career, Davis can't help but to wander back to his late father's misgivings. "My father was always like, "You're a lawyer, you're a French professor and now you do just piano?", he jokes with a hint of earnestness.

CD features Windsor Symphony Orchestra with Ron Davis

Ted Shaw, The Windsor Star

A CD recorded while John Morris Russell was still at the helm of the Windsor Symphony Orchestra is set for release in October.

Symphronica is the newest release from Toronto composer and jazz artist Ron Davis, who performed the work with the WSO and Russell, now conductor of the Cincinnati Pops, in January 2012.

In my review of that concert, I wrote: "The classically trained Davis fused orchestral music to jazz in works that quote such composers as Bach, Prokofiev and Stravinsky. ... The orchestrations are reminiscent of the symphonic where to buy phentermine online safely early recordings of Chuck Mangione and the orchestra sessions Miles Davis did with Gil Evans."

The album is highlighted by a reel based on a Quebec fiddle tune played by WSO concertmaster, Lillian Scheirich.

The CD will be released Oct. 1 and officially launched at concerts at Toronto's Lula Lounge in late October, early November. Those concerts will feature two Windsor musicians, violinist Anna Atkinson and cellist George Meanwell along with Davis' performing trio of Kevin Barrett, Mike Downes and Roger Travassos.


Classical and jazz mix as... Ron Davis goes symphonic

By a happy coincidence, today marks two orchestral events in Toronto that bridge the usual divide between classical and jazz. They are the launch of Ron Davis’s Symphronica CD featuring his original compositions performed by the Windsor Symphony Orchestra, and Sneak Peek Orchestra’s “Coltrane Ballade” concert this evening at the Al Green Theatre featuring Daniel Jamieson’s DanJam Orchestra.

The most exciting concerts in our city make a genuine effort to connect musical genres and art forms. Some use this as a foundation for their entire season (as is the case with the Talisker Players); others explore the possibilities as opportunities arise (see previous articles on Musical Toronto about Eybler Quartet and Ensemble Polaris.)

Jazz pianist and composer Ron Davis may not be familiar to fans of classical music, but his roots are firmly planted in classical music with his early studies under Darwyn Aitken — a student of Oscar Peterson and classical great David Saperton — at the Royal Conservatory of Music.

If you saw Davis perform recently at Paul Hahn & Co. as they celebrated their 100th birthday, or at the launch of Alliance Francaise’s 2013-2014 cultural season, you will no doubt recall his entertaining and virtuosic style.

Davis moves between the jazz and classical genre with unassuming ease. He once was an assistant professor of French linguistics at the University of Toronto, he trained as a lawyer, and he boasts a melange of other pursuits that you wouldn’t expect a performer to have under their belt. (Or perhaps most simply don’t flaunt their non-musical accomplishments enough.)

Knowing a little more about Davis makes listening to the Symphronica CD all the more satisfying. The six original tunes harken back to the origins of today’s jazz standards. The Windsor Symphony Orchestra shines in the recording under the direction of John Morris Russell, performing Davis works arranged for his jazz trio and orchestra.

Watching Davis at the piano is also a joy. There is a rare “no holds barred” honesty in his performances that audiences are drawn to. We rely on music to express what words cannot convey, and Davis certainly has a lot to tell us through his compositions.

Forging deep connections between composers, performing artists and audiences is a cornerstone for Sneak Peek Orchestra’s concerts. Their “Coltrane Ballade” concert this evening is their first all-jazz program, with maestro Victor Cheng showing off his jazz chops at the piano, giving way to his New-York-based Canadian collaborator and friend Daniel Jamieson to lead at the podium.

True to Sneak Peek Orchestra’s mandate, original works are on the programme along with the classics. This ensemble’s often thrilling interpretation of orchestral works holds the promise that tonight’s concert will be a memorable and exciting one for both performers and audiences.

There is a thirst from our young and emerging orchestral players for such genre-bending concerts, as exemplified by the growing interest in Simon Capet’s Classical Socials every Sunday at Fionn MacCool’s on Adelaide St W. His monthly Euphonia concerts at Lula Lounge — the last place you might expect to see a classical orchestra — is the same venue in which Davis has chosen to celebrate the launch of Symphronica over three Sundays, starting Oct. 27.

Euphonia violinist Tanya Charles and cellist Samuel Bisson frequently appear as Sneak Peek Orchestra’s concertmaster and principal cellist, respectively.

These young musicians are driven by a desire to revitalize classical music, agreeing to perform with only the promise of splitting the box office receipts, in the hope that the noise they are making collectively will shake the dormant audiences awake to start noticing the music around them.

A lot of conventional wisdom about what it means to be a classical performer is being questioned. For many young artists, it is increasingly the norm to engage in their artistic pursuits in parallel with other means of making a living. They are much more opened about trying different artistic involvements, casting their nets wide as there is no longer, and perhaps never was, any one formula for success.

It is inspiring to see a seasoned artist like Ron Davis continuing to break new ground, while a new generation of musicians is out to forge new rules of engagement for themselves. As they cultivate a new kind of audience, they are contributing to a movement that is larger than any one of them can bring about individually.

There is a symphony being orchestrated in the truest sense of the word: a harmony, a union of sound, different voices expressing the same sentiment in concert with each other.

Margaret Lam
is the founder of BeMused Network, and an occasional contributor to Musical Toronto. You can learn more about her at

WSO SymphRonica rocks!

In a sense, the two concerts by Windsor Symphony and Ron Davis at Chrysler Theatre Saturday and Sunday were tune-ups for their recording session Sunday night.

The featured works at all three were taken from the Davis set of compositions titled SymphRonica.

The classically trained Davis fused orchestral music to jazz in works that quote such composers as Bach, Prokofiev and Stravinsky.

He also borrowed from gospel, traditional Jewish folk songs and Quebec fiddle music, to name a few. The com-position Pawpwalk, meanwhile, has a Horace Silver-like groove.

The orchestrations of melodic material are reminiscent of the symphonic early recordings of Chuck Mangione and the orchestra sessions Miles Davis did with Gil Evans.

The concert featured many of the works that will make it on to the CD. There was a beautiful slow gospel composition, Allelujah, and a stunning ballad written for his wife, singer Daniela Nardi, titled Danza Daniela.

Nardi then joined him onstage to sing an Italian pop song.

Davis adapted a Bach melody from the St. Matthew Passion, Mache dich, mein Herze, rein, into a mesmerizing orchestral piece that called on flutist Jean-François Rompré, oboist Graham Mackenzie and the bass player in his trio, Mike Downes, for solos.

Another inventive composition, D'Ror Yikra, employed a traditional Jewish song with quotes from Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring.

John Morris Russell was back on the podium after an absence of more than month, and he seemed invigorated by the occasion. In the samba piece that ended the concert, Thomachonga, Russell left the conductor's stand and invited members of the orchestra to dance.

Another keynote work was Sergei's Shuffle, a boogie- woogie piano piece using themes from Prokofiev's Piano Sonata No. 7.

The trio, consisting of Davis on piano, Downes on bass and Ted Warren on drums, played two songs on their own - a cover of the 1950s pop hit My Shining Hour, and Davis's adaptation of a popular Polish song, retitled My Mother's Father's Song, which was the title of Davis' most recent CD.

The performance Saturday, unfortunately, was marred by the mushy microphone used by Davis. There were some minor flubs in the orchestra, too, which presumably were cleared up for the recording session.

He’s achieved the rare feat of bringing jazz to the symphony orchestra

“Ron Davis brought his show “Symphronica” to the Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra, and left with everyone’s heart in his pocket. He has an embarassement of musical riches in his fingertips and a non-stop imagination. With the addition of a set of excellent charts, he’s achieved the rare feat of bringing buy phentermine online jazz to the symphony orchestra and doing full justice to both. When he wasn’t playing brilliantly he entertained the audience with endearing stories and left an indelible impression. This is crossover at it’s very best. It was a special event in our Pops series.”

Que fait-on lorsque l’on fait du jazz?

Le vendredi 4 octobre, l’Alliance Française de Toronto a réuni deux grands jazzmen de Toronto pour un concert exceptionnel.

D’entrée de jeu, Ron Davis l’a annoncé : « Ce soir, toutes les notes seront jouées dans les deux langues officielles ». Le ton était donné. Et quel ton! Ron Davis n’est pas n’importe qui. Ron Davis est un pianiste et compositeur torontois dont la carrière connaît un rayonnement international, notamment en Europe et au Japon. Ses principales influences pianistiques comprennent Art Tatum et Oscar Peterson, mais sa musique est pétrie d’influences diverses, allant du classique au rock en passant par le klezmer. Son plus récent projet, Symphronica, lui offre l’occasion d’interpréter ses compositions à la tête d’orchestres symphoniques.

Et pour l’accompagner ce soir, rien de moins que le contrebassiste, compositeur et pédagogue Mike Downes. L’un des jazzmen les plus en demande au pays, comme en témoigne la liste impressionnante de ses collaborateurs qui comprend, entre auters, Oliver Jones, Diana Krall et PJ Perry.

[...] L’improvisation joue une place centrale dans le jazz. Mais l’improvisation, c’est énormément de travail. Un travail en amont, pour être capable de s’exprimer comme on le veut avec un instrument.

Et c’est ce que ces deux musiciens ont fait en envoyant du rêve et du son au public. La définition du jazz en somme.