And The Beat Goes On Feb 1999

No less than three Canadian cities can lay claim to having “produced” Bernie Senensky, surely one of this country’s finest pianists. He began playing in Winnipeg in his teens, and by the time he was in his 20s he had moved on to Edmonton to brighten that city’s jazz scene.

Since the late 1960s, he has been one of the most highly respected pianists in Toronto, working with everyone from Moe Koffman and Peter Appleyard to Zoot Sims and Joe Williams.

I remember him in action with the Ron Rully Trio, with Aura Borealis, at Toronto’s Top of the Senator. He showed a true flair for accompanying a singer, an art in itself – providing tasteful, effective support without attracting too much attention to himself.

Senensky’s gifts include the ability to weave subtly intricate filigree-like solos that can be breathtaking. As examples, I cite two tunes on The Chalet Sessions, a CD with his own trio. The tunes are both old standards, If I Should Lose You and How Deep is the Ocean. Brilliant.

One of this more recent CDs pairs him with the impressive (and understated) saxophonist Del Dako, and by coincidenc one of the tunes played here is Star Eyes, which he did so enticingly with Ron Rully last spring at the Senator.

Whoever he plays with, wherever he lives, Bernie Senensky is a genuine Canadian treasure.

All strings
Aficionados of classical guitar in the Toronto area should look for two upcoming concerts at the Ford Centre for the Performing Arts.

On March 11, the Romeros Guitar Quartet entertain there. One critic wrote of them: “What the Three Tenors are to the world of opera, the Romeros are to classical guitar.”

And on April 6, the Scottish guitarist David Russell returns to the same venue. His debut there two years ago sparked a tumultuous ovation.

Making love
In an often quoted statement, Guido Basso once stated that “you attack the trumpet, you make love to the flugelhorn.” Since Basso is probably the reigning authority on the subject, I wouldn’t argue with him.

As evidence, I cite two recent examples of his flugelhorn playing. One, recorded in Montreal, was issued last year by Justin Time, and features Guido with the fine saxophonist Dave Turner, plus a rhythm section.

The tunes, written by Richard Karmel and Steve Rosenbloom, cover a wide range of moods, from a gentle jazz waltz to a romantic bossanova. Both horn players shine throughout. There’s also some fine guitar work by Roddy Elias.

Exhibit Two, recorded in 1997 on the Jazz Portraits label, features Guido with the superb organist Doug Riley in a collection of standard tunes, from A Lazy Afternoon (also the title of the CD) to Embraceable You and I Can Dream, Can’t I?

Riley’s playing is every bit as sensitive as Basso’s, and the result is a gorgeous musical love fest. These two gifted musicians didn’t bother with a rhythm section – nor is one missed.

Paul and George
As promised, David Lennick has come up with another gem of musical history. It’s titled Paul Whiteman’s Gershwin and features (on two CDs) some 27 selections recorded by Whiteman’s orchestra between 1921 and 1945, all by George Gershwin.

Included is the version of Rhapsody in Blue with Gershwin himself at the piano.

As with the earlier Gershwin Memorial Concert CD, you can buy this memorable collection by calling Joe Radio at 1-800-563-7234.

It was on one of those phone-in programs where they were discussing the idea of abolishing Canada’s Senate. One caller, who was strongly in favour of abolition, referred to our Parliament – perhaps inadvertently – as “the House of Commerce.”