020919 Kevin Breit, Ottawa, ON

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After a stellar show the night before (following a less-than-stellar show the night before that), on February 9th, 2019 I committed to see Kevin Breit’s third and final show at the Ottawa Jazz Festival’s brief winter fest.  The last-minute decision to attend the show was augmented by my promise to Kevin the night before that I would scour the 600+ cd’s I retrieved from Ottawa taping-legend Bradm’s estate for some of the many recordings that Brad had made of Kevin’s parade of musical projects.

(Given that the show started at 5pm I coupled the plan with a burger at a new-to-me place in the market called Chez Lucien and a second last-minute ticketed show at the festival starring Megan Jerome, but that’s another story.)

I arrived early and took a seat in the second row of Nouvelle Scene’s tiny Theatre B, which was the farthest back I sat of the three Kevin Breit shows.  Regardless, the band’s gear was set up just a few feet away, so I took a moment to deposit a small stack of Bradm’s cd’s next to Kevin’s monitor.  This was his last show of the run and for all I knew he was going to step off the stage and straight into a car to the airport, and I didn’t want to miss him.  Anyway, when he came out to start the show he picked them up and set them aside, with a nod of acknowledgement in my direction.  

(To be honest, there were no actual cd’s featuring Kevin in Bradm’s entire collection.  But over the years Bradm had handed me many, many recordings of Kevin as gifts.  Heck, for several years every time I would see Bradm he would hand me one or more of his recent recordings; they literally fill a box.  So I dug through the box and came across eight or ten shows covering three or four of Kevin’s projects that I had never listened to, so I bundled them together to give to him.  Bradm would be very happy that Kevin not only has these recordings now but that he was really, really interested in having them.)

The show was almost the same lineup as the previous night; Kevin and two of his Bona Fide Scoundrels (Dave Clark on drums and Michael Herring on bass), with one of the sax players from the first night collaboration thrown in.  In contrast to that first collaboration, this wasn’t a no-hold-barred improv.  The idea behind this collaboration was to play each other’s songs, and I gotta say, it went way, way better than the first night.

There was a good mix of styles but it leaned towards rock and rockjazz, and added to the great joy of having one of my favourite guitar players jamming away just feet from my earballs was this wonderful, wonderful drummer Dave Clark.  Many might remember him from The Rheostatics (I didn’t) and not only was he a superbly creative and solid drummer with eyes continually wide and probing, but he just would not stop smiling.  The guy looked like every moment was the greatest moment of his life, and it sounded like it too.  Funny, the drummer in Kevin Breit’s longtime band The Sisters Euclid (Gary Taylor) is a chronic smiler too.  I guess it’s fun to play with a guy like Kevin (or guys like Dave and Gary).

One thing I noticed was that everyone onstage had a music stand and were reading off of charts; everyone except Kevin.  He was playing long, synchronized melodies through the sax players tunes and just nailing them.  It occurred to me that maybe the reason Kevin never seems to take the time to rehearse with other musicians (or so I felt before seeing the Bona Fide Scoundrels the night before) is because he has a peculiar talent for holding music in his head?  It sure looked to me like he had all these tunes down, and he wasn’t reading anything but the inside of his eyelids while the bass player, the sax player, and yes, even the drummer kept theirs semi-glued to their sheets of music, tracking each other’s unfamiliar material in real time.

Maybe Kevin Breit is a savant.  He’s too old to be a prodigy*.

Anyway, it was a great show that I really enjoyed and one that I almost didn’t attend.  I’m glad that Kevin and his new cohorts knocked it out of the park the night before; that show convinced me to watch him knock it out of a whole different park again at this show.  

*FYI I called dibs on “Adult Prodigy” as an album title long ago so don’t even think about it, buddy. 

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