TORONTO, April 30, 2015 --- A jam session many years ago and a chance meeting with a Cuban pianist changed jazz drummer Ethan Ardelli's musical life.
Ardelli was in the jazz program at the University of Toronto when he headed for Blur on Bloor for a jam session where David Virelles was playing piano. (www.canadianjazzarchive.org/en/musicians/ethan-ardelli) Virelles was a busy, inventive professional pianist cutting a wide swath through the Toronto Scene. Ardelli and Virelles clicked.
"It was fortunate at the time because he wanted to start his own project," Ardelli said in an interview with New City Notes.
"He was looking for a specific type of drummer. He was looking for someone to play jazz, but who also had an idea of some Afro-Cuban rhythms.," Ardelli said. "It was kind of a Latin jazz band when we first started."
While still a student at the University of Toronto, Ardelli started getting calls for gigs and recording sessions. Virelles was a respected fixture on the Toronto Scene, and he was recommending the young drummer from Sydney, Nova Scotia.
Ardelli found himself recording with the soprano saxophonist and flautist Jane Bunnett, who loves Afro-Cuban rhythms. The sessions resulted in Bunnett's highly-acclaimed Radio Guantanamo: Guatanamo Blues Project, Vol. 1. It the 2006.." Juno Award for Best Contemporary Jazz Album. Also on those recording sessions was the legendary tenor saxophone player Dewey Redman.
"I think it was the beginning of my fourth year at U of T, and David called me up one day and said: 'Jane Bunnett is recoridng this record, she needs a drummer to play on a couple of tracks, Dewey Rredman is going to play on it. Are you up for playing on it?'" Ardelli said. "I said: 'Well, I have class, but I think I can get out of class to play with Dewey Redman."
More gigs flowed through Virelles, and Ardelli was playing with jazz vocalist Nancy Walker, bassist Mike Downs, and bassist Kieran Overs.
About two years ago Ardelli was asked to play drums for the tenor saxophonist Fraser Calhoun. The band included the legendary jazz pianist Mulgrew Miller. On bass was Neil Swainson. The quartet played two nights at The Rex in Toronto, and then headed for The Jazz Room in Waterloo for a Saturday night gig on March 24, 2013.
It was one of Miller's last shows. The great man was killed by a stroke two months later. Mulgrew's career included three years with the Duke Ellington Orchestra, stints with Woody Shaw, and Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers. Beginning in 2005 Miller was the head of jazz studies at William Patterson University in New Jersey. Ardelli will never forget the three nights he played with the great man.
"He was so nice, and it was pretty incredible to get a chance to play with him," Ardelli said. "It was cool to play three nights in a row, and get a chance to hang and chat. He was very supportive, very nice. He was just a really cool dude."
Virelles moved to New York City in 2009, was signed to ECM and is busy gigging and recording in the World Capital of Jazz.
Ardelli is busy on the Toronto scene. He plays The Jazz Room Saturday with Luis Deniz on alto sax,
Reg Schwager on guitar, Devon Henderson on bass. Cover: $18. Word of advice: Catch this young drummer now, before he too heads for New York City.