Monday, 9 December 2013


Sunday Afternoon Jazz a Big Hit in Waterloo.

Thanks to everyone who came to see The John Tank Quartet in The Jazz Room on Sunday afternoon. The show succeeded on all levels and I could not be happier with the turnout and the music. We are going to do this again in the New Year.  More world-class jazz on a lazy afternoon with winter winds howling down King Street. Big Ups to the musicians --- John Tank on tenor sax, Dave Young on bass, Bernie Senensky on piano and Ted Warren on drums. 

The music was varied and flawless. The quartet started playing at 3:30 p.m. and stopped just before 7 p.m., with two short breaks in between.

"This was the best jazz show I have ever seen," Brent Needham said to me during the second break. It was Brent's first time to The Jazz Room, and I am sure he will be back soon.
From the first song to the last there was rapt silence in the room punctuated with intense bouts of applause and hoots of joy.  The audience was awesome. Period.
"I have never watched people listen so closely to the music," Ziggy Wiens said.

The set list was custom-made for lovers of straight-ahead jazz.

The first set: "Tune Up" by Sonny Rollins, "Emotion" by Harry Whitaker, "New Irk, New Work" by John Tank, "Blues for EJ" by Bernie Senensky, "Windows" by Chick Corea, "Moon in Sand" by Alec Wilder, and "Voyage" by Kenny Barron.

There are strong, emotional connections between this music and John. Harry Whitaker was a friend and mentor to many New York City jazz musicians, including John. Harry's musical spirit pervades the best jazz club in NYC to this day --- Smalls in the West Village.  There is a large portrait of Whitaker behind the piano bench where he often played before his death. His cat Minnow lives in Smalls. When Harry was not at the piano he was often in the backroom playing chess, taking on all comers. The first CD issued under the Live at Smalls label was Harry playing solo piano. Great stuff.  The John Tank Quartet brought a little of that into our lives on Sunday with a beautiful rendition of "Emotion."

The second set: "In a Mellow Tone" by Duke Ellington, "Now's Another Time" by John Tank, "Have You Heard This Song Before" by John Tank, "Come to me" by Bernie Senensky, "I Loves You Porgry" by George Gershwin and "Take the Coltrane" by Duke Ellington and John Coltrane.

Coltrane has special place in John's musical heart. When John was growing up on Duke Street in downtown Kitchener, Ontario in the 1950s there was no jazz around.  John found a record store specializing in jazz on a shopping trip to Buffalo, New York with his parents. The store manager suggested two 45s --- Cannonball Adderley's "Jack of Soul" and John Coltrane's "Cousin Mary." After listening to Coltrane that was pretty much it.  John started playing the saxophone and eventually studied at the Berklee School of Music in Boston from 1964 to 1969.  While driving taxi in Boston to help cover expenses John was pistol whipped and robbed one night  But he stayed and he learned. He moved into a tenement on 4th Street in the East Village of New York City in 1974.  He still lives in the same building.

The third set: "Lament for all the Young Lions," by John Tank and "Steppin' Up" by John Tank.

Sunday, Dec. 8 was the anniversary of John's Lennon's assassination.  The quartet played the lament in Lennon's memory.  It was a  sad and beautiful tribute to the great man.  John originally wrote it for the young jazz musicians who struggle to find paying gigs and tours in a world that is largely deaf to the music's magic. But inside The Jazz Room on Sunday the magic of jazz worked on every one --- from the little girl who sat on her mother's lap at the foot of the stage to John's 95-year-old mother Olive.

"I never miss a show," Olive said on her way out.

John Tank is back in Kitchener in the spring of 2014 as part of the Jazz at the Registry series.