01 Georgia Peach (A. White)
02 Wesology (B. Coon)
03 Should I Have Known? (A. White)
04 Enigma (B.Coon)
05 DX'd (A. White)
06 Silent Heart (B.Coon)
07 Reversa (A. White)
08 Understatement (B. Coon)
09 I Left My Suit in Saskatoon (A. White)
10 Open Eyes (B. Coon)

Bill Coon and I grew up together in the West Island part of Montreal. We were teenagers in a highly suburban lifestyle, and we were kind of stuck out there with limited financial resources and loads of leisure time, before there was an internet. We both went to the same high school, along with an electric bassist, Peter Andersen, and by the end of Grade 9 I found myself playing drums in a rock band with them called "Zodiac." I didn't really have any idea how to play rock music, because I hadn't been exposed to much of it. I spent most of my time listening to swing era jazz and eventually I got interested in more modern jazz.

By the time I was 15 or 16, I renewed my interest in playing the piano; I knew a little bit of the basics due to some ill fated lessons when I was younger, but the discipline and enthusiasm wasn't there at that time. The more puberty kicked in along with depression and self awareness, the more I felt a need to learn how to play and eventually write my own songs.

So Bill and I kept playing together in the basement with Peter and others, and we continued after high school at Vanier College where we met all kinds of interesting musicians who lived either in the city or closer to it. With helpful instruction from Art Roberts, one of the greatest jazz educators who ever lived, we continued our interest in jazz; we also went to the Rising Sun to see Dexter Gordon and McCoy Tyner and Archie Shepp and Sonny Greenwich and Bill Evans and Jim Hall, and continued playing together through the early 80's. We both began to write music specifically for the bands we often played in together, and Bill quickly blossomed as a composer and arranger. By the mid 80's we were playing a lot of original music in the basement and occasionally we earned piddling amounts in the various coffee houses and bars downtown.

As Bill evolved as an improviser and composer, he started to expand his musical associations with other performers in town, and I got busier as a drummer and became involved in a group with Fred Henke and Randy Phillips; we played as a rhythm section hosting headliners from New York and Toronto. Even though Bill and I were doing different things musically, I tried to keep playing with him and some of our Vanier buddies as time progressed.

By the 90's I was playing a lot more piano and working mostly as a member of Kevin Dean's quintet and I had formed a trio with Alec Walkington and Dave Laing through my exposure to them while teaching part time at McGill. At that point Bill wasn't really that interested in teaching, and we saw each other less frequently. I still managed to keep a group going to play some of our originals, and by 1991 or 1992 Bill and I were rehearsing regularly with bassist Tim Nolan and drummer Dan Skakun, both of whom had gone through the McGill jazz program. A lot of the music on "Esprit De Corps" is from those days, and even though we rarely performed it was my hope that someday I would be able to record this music with Bill.

Our continued association also led to a natural and satisfactory solution to the guitar and piano accompaniment issue that can often become problematic if egos are too strong or listening isn't a priority. Bill and I used to listen to a lot of guitarists together, and I think if I could come back and do it all over again, I would have taken up the guitar. That mutual interest helped us both find a way to play together in an integrated rather than segregated fashion.

Eventually, Bill moved to Vancouver and I became a full time jazz educator and it seemed as if my idea would never happen. I applied for grants to fund the project but that went nowhere, and I tried to get the Banff Centre interested in some kind of exchange of lecture/clinician work for studio time but that proved unsuccessful as well, so I had to bide my time and save my money and make it happen on my own, like every other musical project I have undertaken.

After surviving a serious illness which strengthened my resolve to realize this project, I started planning, even though Bill was in Vancouver and Dan was in Edmonton, and Mike had never played the music. Mike and I rehearsed the tunes on our own, and then Dan and Bill arrived the day before the recording session and we put things together. Although Mike is quite a bit younger than the three of us, his solid time, abundant imagination, and big sound were perfect to freshen things up and inspire us. Dan had matured since our McGill days, and he was excited to play this music, and thrilled to interact with Mike. I rented the Oscar Peterson Concert Hall at Concordia University in the late summer, and I was fortunate enough to get engineer Paul Johnston to work his magic for these sessions.

I sincerely hope you enjoy the music we created which has until now been in hiding and thanks to the Internet we can reach a potential audience with it. This project was realized WITHOUT the help of any federal, provincial, or municipal agencies.

Andre White (piano) Bill Coon (guitar) Mike De Masi (bass) Dan Skakun (drums)

All photographs by Hendrik Hassert