All Compositions by Andre White

01 Dave's Dilemma
02 Caretaker
03 Ferguson
04 Eleventh Avenue
05 One Who Listens
06 Off The Radar
07 Orchitis

Dave & Andre
Janis Steprans
Pierre Francois
Alec Walkington
Ralph Bowen
Kevin Dean
Nick Di Giovanni

Reflections by Dave Laing

Andre asked me to provide a few words to supplement the release of his newest recordings, including “Give the Drummer Some”, a project that features both he and I playing drums. So if you’ll indulge me, I’d like to share some thoughts about both the project itself and Andre as a figure on the Canadian jazz scene.

In the late 1980’s, there was an important Montreal jazz club called Bar 2080. It was the quintessential jazz club: postage-stamp sized, smoky, dank, and dimly-lit, littered with more than a few odd-ball characters, some of whom were what you’d call “underworld”. It had just enough of an edge to be exciting and to heighten the impact of the music, even when there were only a handful of people in the club. However, the place would really hum when legendary guitarist Sonny Greenwich performed there to standing-room only crowds. His band included drummer Andre White, a towering figure---literally and figuratively---still in his twenties. My memories of that band are seared into my nervous system—and of course, being an aspiring jazz drummer at that time---I had laser-focus on the dynamic and powerful support Andre would provide for the band. From that time to today, I have been heavily influenced by Andre’s style and approach; not only with Sonny’s band but in all the other contexts he plays. He can move through jazz styles with ease: from the deft touch required in a bebop outfit to the Coltrane-infused high energy explorations that characterized Greenwich’s music.

Early on in our friendship, Andre invited me to play a session with him and guitarist Bill Coon and bassist Peter Wilson, with Andre on piano. We got together at Bill Coon’s NDG apartment, where, in the basement, Bill had access to a space where we could play. I was quite new to this whole experience and after a coffee in Bill’s cozy upper duplex kitchen, we descended the backstairs to a dingy, damp, concrete and brick walled basement with an uneven floor and dirty laundry waiting in a pile near the ancient washing machine. An orphaned set of drums awaited me. We proceeded to play a variety of tunes I didn’t know, while crookedly hung pictures of jazz greats looked on. First lesson: the jazz musician’s calling was not the glamorous life of a musical artist I had envisioned for myself, but a near-religious cult, whose devoted observants were unconcerned with personal fame and wealth. What had I gotten myself into here? From that time to this, Andre has been a personal and professional mentor. His approach to jazz mirrors that of his life and relationships: generous, unselfish, full of humility, and, though he’s had his share of personal obstacles, he is exceedingly warm and full of gentle humanity.

And though Andre is an amazing and completely unique drummer, he is just as skilled and as widely known for his piano playing. To play two instruments at such a high level is rare and puts him into a category not shared by many other musicians. But his talents and accomplishments don’t stop there: as these latest CD releases clearly demonstrate, he is a gifted composer also. He is also an award-winning recording engineer and producer, and a highly respected jazz educator as one of McGill University’s faculty professors that have guided, mentored, and developed hundreds of musicians over the last 30 years. It is difficult to find a Canadian jazz musician working today who has not been influenced by Andre in some way. As you can imagine, I’m honoured to call such a person a colleague and a friend.

I’m very humbled to be a part of two of the three recordings Andre has released this week (Sept. 2016). Andre has provided some great insights and personal reflections on how this music came about so I will only add this: I’ve played with Andre hundreds of times---when he’s at the piano. We only performed once together in a two drum setting and that was 25 years ago for one concert performing the Duke Ellington/Billy Strayhorn arrangement of The Nutcracker Suite. So when Andre suggested we do a two drum project I was certainly eager but also more than a little nervous and intimidated. You see, Andre plays with what you might call “propulsion”. That would be putting it mildly. And yet amidst the seeming chaotic inferno there is a highly structured, listening, supportive and aware musical consciousness that guides all of this churning energy to a highly spiritual destination. This is not an easy task and he pulls it off with ease and also some considerable mystery. I say ‘mystery’ because, I’ve been playing drums for over 30 years and I don’t really know what or how he does some of the things he does. I’ve gleaned a few things over the years and prodded him to show me of his moves, but there a still quite a few that have escaped me. I suppose I could sit down and puzzle them out (though I would never be able to carry them off like he does) but for now I’m still happy to let the magician keep the secrets to his art and just sit back and enjoy it all as I hope you do as well.

And as a final side note to accompany the music: Andre is in the right channel and I’m in the left. For the most part we each take turns accompanying the various soloists, each of them fantastic: Ralph Bowen and Janis Steprans on saxes; Pierre Francois, piano; Nick Di Giovanni, guitar ; Marcin Garbulinski and Alec Walkington, basses. However there are a few moments where we both play behind a soloist and, of course, there are lots of drum exchanges. “Hell-bent for leather” as Andre might say. Enjoy!

Reflections by Andre White

My first experience playing together with another drummer was in Andrew Homzy's Jazz Orchestra, and in the process I discovered the world of Duke Ellington, and Francy Boland. In one particular concert we gave at Concordia, Dave Laing subbed in, and we played Ellington's Nutcracker together. It had been a long time since I had so much fun playing music, and I thought to myself at the time, "I need to investigate this further."

Dave and I have played together in many rhythm sections, and usually I'm on piano while he plays drums. We have a lot in common in our musical tastes and the choices we make rhythmically, and over the years I became convinced that a two drummer project would be successful.

I kept searching for recordings with two drummers, which are pretty rare. My starting point was the Kenny Clarke-Kenny Clare collaborations with the Clarke-Boland Big Band, I subsequently discovered a Hal Galper album with the Brecker Brothers that very successfully combined two drummers, and there was also Rich vs. Roach, which actually is an incredible document of its own.

Because I'm less of an arranger and more of a song writer, I tried to keep the musical frameworks fairly open and loose. In fact Dave and I only played drums together the day before the initial recording session and most of that involved talking through the music. The actual structuring of the pieces really happened in the studio. A lot of things I had originally envisioned got tossed away, and we arrived at what really worked through playing the tunes.

Dave's Dilemma was written as a feature for Dave many years ago. I had recorded it with him in trio format several times, but we both were dissatisfied so it never got released. I reworked it for a larger ensemble and due to the inspired abandon and masterful soloing of Janis, Ralph and Kevin, and Dave's supercharged contribution, this take was a keeper.

My song Caretaker is the only selection that features two bassists and two drummers simultaneously! The superb simpatico between Alec and Marcin, gorgeous piano of Pierre Francois and Janis' impeccable tenor made for a special take indeed.

Ferguson is my commentary on the devolving societal problems we all seem to be witnessing these days. This one features the guitar of Nick Di Giovanni, who freshens up the proceedings with a brilliant solo after stellar contributions from Janis on alto and Ralph on tenor.

Eleventh Avenue refers to a recent address of mine where I wrote most of the music for this project. It's a song which represents an attempt to survive, to continue the struggle of creating, even though most of the world seems to be indifferent.

I wrote One Who Listens for Celine Arajdal, a local jazz fan who helps all of us with her abundant enthusiasm and infectious spirit.

Off The Radar is a feature for Ralph, and is one of my favourite moments in this project. Both saxophonists reach down deep for meaningful statements.

Finally, my song Orchitis named for a recent malady, is a straight ahead romp with contributions from Nick, Janis, and Ralph.

My heartfelt thanks to all of the amazing performers, and I hope you will enjoy the two drum madness, recorded brilliantly by Padraig Buttner-Schirer!

As usual, this project was realized WITHOUT the help of any federal, provincial, or municipal agencies.

Special Guest Ralph Bowen (tenor sax) Janis Steprans (alto sax, tenor sax) Kevin Dean (trumpet) Pierre Francois (piano) Nick Di Giovanni (guitar) Alec Walkington, Marcin Garbulinski (bass) Andre White, Dave Laing (drums)

Session photographs by Marcin Garbulinski

Pierre Francois, Marcin Garbulinski, Dave Laing, Andre White, and Janis Steprans

Listening to takes