Where do I start? Last night I attended another concert at Café Resonance on Av. du Parc by this wonderful assemblage of Montreal area musicians playing the music of flautist Dave Gossage.
Let me begin by saying that in Montreal it is a rare thing to hear seven musicians playing high caliber Jazz outside of festival or concert settings, but in a café, it is almost unheard of. I try and catch them every time. Every time I go home smiling ear to ear.
Visually, the ensemble is striking. The front line consists of Dave himself looking like a wild lion maned wizard stage right with his electronic arsenal of effects that makes the word “flute” seem basic. He uses these effects Svengali-like to great advantage, making the breath of humanity into a nuclear hurricane or a murmuration of birds and anything in between. To his left, Alto and Bari sax player Samuel Blais (who also employed electronics (but more as colouration) and Tenor saxophonist Frank Lozano whose appearance as mild mannered accountants belies their fiery and intense expressionism on their horns. Stage left was the domain of stoic guitarist Steve Raegele (who resembles a medieval Norman soldier from a Monty Python film) sporting a hybrid cream coloured custom Stratocaster made by local luthier Ted Stevenson. His tidy lines and thoughtful counter melodies offering clean, subtle but integral support to the music. When he took a solo, he’d kick into overdrive and roar past the others like a sports car jumping a queue with tires spinning and engine racing.
Behind the front line, the rhythm section of David Guttierez Osei-Afrifa on piano and synthesizer(s), Double Bassist Adrian Vedady and drummer Rich Irwin. This time around, my sight line of these three was perfect. The movement and expressive body language of these three being as entertaining as their superb musicianship. David sometimes supporting “conventionally” on piano and sometimes offering other worldly sounds on his synths and bank of Gizmos. His sounds always delighting and surprising without overtaking. One of his solos, mind you, sounded like middle period Chick Corea with soaring melodies and liberal use of the “bend” feature on his synth while always his entire body was swaying and writhing entirely inside the music. The ubiquitous Adrian Vedady was the only musician on stage (besides the tenor) who went straight into an amp sans effects. He was basically (pun intended) holding everything together with his superb, deep, round sound, his solid sense of time and his aura of trustworthiness as he bobbed his head and was seemingly chanting the somewhat tricky ostinato lines of Dave’s music. Rich Irwin on drums and electronic drums also held things together rhythmically and confidently. Not only did I feel that his beat could be trusted, but his creative bursts and his personality not only supported, but elevated the music. The several other times (pre-Covid) that I saw the band, I did not have clear sight lines for the drums. He is super fun to watch.
The music itself (all written by David Gossage) which varied from funky and bombastic to pastoral and sweetly melodic might be considered “challenging” to the casual listener much as trying to follow a conversation in another language might be a challenge. I think that even though one might not “understand” the language, these men displayed their distinct personalities fully in what struck me as a collective love fest. This music is not about fame or money, although I’m pretty sure either would be a welcomed bonus. To me, the Dave Gossage Septet is about musical friends who are so different from each other coming together as a cooperative and creating light in the relative darkness of our wounded world.
I hope that there will be more offerings from this outfit in the near future. I’ll be there. You should be too!