Michael Danso: A Joy for all Seasons


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The Brantford Downtown Jazz Series as conceived by Drummer extraordinaire Frank di Filice is one of the best-kept secrets by Jazz Afficionados in Ontario and other points of interest in Canada.

I don't want to give you one of the usual “I want to Impress you" lists by naming many of the High-profile Artists that have appeared on this Bill, Lord knows they don't really need the promo, but let it suffice to say that this Series has also proven the fact that there is a lot of great Jazz Music being created and performed by innovative Canadian Artists who do not have the big contracts and record-label promo behind them pushing their product and bolstering their careers.

These “Independants" do it all on their own and pick their venues with self expression and creativity in mind - and not just ticket, t-shirt and C.D sales, though those things are important towards financing the next project..

The Series began its 7th year last September 2003 and audiences have grown exponentially as time goes by.

On Monday, March 22nd, this discerning Jazz audience was treated to a rare gift: 2 hours of Jazz Vocalist Michael Danso at the top of his game in what proved to be an intimate setting at The Sanderson Center in Brantford Ontario.

He was accompanied by Frank Di Filice on Drums, Bassist David Field, and Danso's Musical Director/Conductor and Orchestrator Charles Cozens on Piano.

The Trio began the evening with a deeply swinging version of Thad Jones' “A Child is Born".

They wove a tapestry of sound that proved to be not only highly entertaining but a technical tour-de-force as well.

Di Filice, legendary for his ability to chop time up into tiny slivers of rhythm served on a chromatic block of seamlessly blending Bars of music was enabled by Bassist Dave Field's pulsing, constantly driving bottom notes on the acoustic Bass which accented and stretched the multi-varied rythms created by Di Filice.

Cozens brought it all together by bringing what proved to be a prodigious technique as well as lyrical sensibility to the mix which was applauded frequently by the attentive audience.

His left hand was just as creative and active as his right which brought a full, lush, almost orchestral sound that one does not often hear from a small Jazz ensemble.

No left hand 'claw' here!

Cozens' extensive training has obviously given him the freedom to freely express his inner feelings and emotional state of being around and about any piece of music with which he is involved.

He does not use the overly-played technique of playing various sets of scales and safely landing on a note which may be part of the melodic line of the piece.

His is true improvisational and experimental Jazz at its finest and he is, in my opinion an Artist to listen and pay attention to as well as a Talent To Watch

Danso came onstage to the sound of Cozens delicately playing the English Nursery Rhyme “ London Bridge Is Falling Down “.

When he reached the microphone he turned to Cozens and asked in his deep Scottish Brogue “ Whit is THAT ye're playin' there Charles-lad ?.

Ye're no expectin' ME tae start aff MY evenin' wi' a song aboot the English, are ye?.

He then proceeded to sing the song with simple variations and immediately segued into a blistering version of “A Foggy Day in London Town" which included a scat section that was as good as, if not better in some ways, as anything ever done by anyone.

The material Danso chose to do this evening consisted of Jazz classics such as 'Our Love is Here to Stay,' 'Green Dolphin Street,' 'Lady is A Tramp,' 'Night and Day,' 'When Sunny Gets Blue'and many others.

His vocal material was interspersed with stories of the beginnings of Jazz in New Orleans with mentions of legends such as King Oliver and Louis and Lil Armstrong.

An A-capella rendition of 'Alexander's Rag-Time Band' which shot all who heard it back to another time zone was used to introduce a high-uptempo 'Sing You Sinners/That's A-Plenty medley that had the audience on the edge of its'collective seat because of the complexity involved in its' execution.

Like most people, I have seen Michael Danso performing on Large Concert stages, on Television, and heard his music played on the radio ( “Give Me That Jazz" C.D released June 27th 2003,last year on his Syrdan Label ).

Much has been made of his vocal abilities for he posesses a deep, rich four-octave Baritone which stretches high into the Tenor range.

This vocal instrument combined with an ability to completely immerse himself inside the lyrics and stories which make up his material sets him apart from the crowd.

He should be seen and heard live, if possible, in order to reap the benefits of a full Danso experience.

His body of work is truly multidimensional, for example, Charles Cozens will conduct The Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra for Michael Danso in the Symphonic Jazz Production 'Harlem To Hollywood' which is based on the music of Harold Arlen and Cole Porter this April 2nd 2004.

Danso's plan to take his Jazz Music to World Stages of all sizes and Forums is now taking shape.

His vocabulary of sounds while scatting is extensive, and his ability to not only hold a note forever, but to be able to sing entire phrases and lines of a lyric without seeking air allows him to interprete material in a unique style that is his and his alone. The show this evening consisted of the traditional Jazz materials which were heard from Dansos' mentors Johnny Hartman, Mel Torme and Ella Fitzgerald, but in a few pieces such as 'Ain't Misbehavin' 'Georgia' and 'Love for Sale' there were strong indications of Kurt Elling, whom Danso admittedly and openly admires.

Danso's interpretation of 'Love For Sale' sung with piano accompaniment only, had the unusual approach of being made into an Objective rather than Subjective piece: ( “SHE goes to work"...as opposed to the original “I go to work"...., etc ) It gives One pause and a new perspective on Creativity and Music.

This is what Kurt Elling is already known for and the listening Jazz audience is discovering about Michael Danso.

He took this audience up and out for a ride through the Jazz Universe and tried to set us down with a riveting rendition of 'There Will Never Be Another You' However, some of us just may never come down...or want to

Mumford Taylor
March 22nd, 2004
Sanderson Center
Brantford Ontario

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