Tuesday 30 December 2014

William Carn Quintet plays The Jazz Room Saturday

WATERLOO DEC.30, 2014 --- When William Carn formed a quintet more than 10 years ago to play his original compositions he needed some of the most creative musicians on the Canadian scene to bring his music to life.

Carn, one of Canada's top trombone players and composers, found what he needed in Kelly Jefferson on sax, David Braid on piano, John Maharaj on bass and Anthony Michelli on drums. The music starts in The Jazz Room at 8:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 3. Cover is $20. More details at thekwjazzroom.com, www.facebook.com/JazzRoom or on Twitter @KWJazz.

“We are really looking forward to this," Carn said in an interview with New City Notes. "This will be the first gig of the New Year, and just getting to play with these guys is a rare treat now. Everyone is so busy, it is hard to get everyone together.  But we just did three nights at The Jazz Bistro (jazzbistro.ca) last month, so that was really great.”

The William Carn Quintet is a powerful fixture on the Canadian Jazz landscape. It has recorded two CDs. The first was nominated for a Juno.

"We are going to do pieces from both CDs.  All the songs are written by myself, but I think I will include some standards as well," Carn said.

"I just came across a tune by Kenny Wheeler that I would like to do on Saturday. For Jan, it was part of the Big Band Suite.  It’s a beautiful ballad and suite that was very impactful when I first heard it. I was just at a jam session the other day with friends, and somebody took out this tune, and I was: ‘Gosh I had forgotten about this tune, and how beautiful it is,'" Carn said.

Contemporary-original jazz sprinkled with standards. Nice.

After working with his quintet  for years, Carn wanted to experiment more, so he formed a quartet called Run Stop Run, which played The Jazz Room before.  It includes Don Scott on guitar, John Maharaj on bass and Ethan Ardelli on drums.

"That group is still active today. We did a tour in January of this year. I also started a group with my wife Tara Davidson, we started a nine piece group, the Carn Davidson NINE," Carn said.

Davidson plays the alto sax, composes, records and performs. Davidson played The Jazz Room last fall showcasing material from her latest CD, Tara Davidson Duets.

The Carn Davidson NINE's debut CD was nominated this year for a 2014 Best Traditional Jazz Juno Award. Carn was also nominated for the same award in 2007 for his CD Other Stories.

"I am just moving forward, and I actually have a new group in mind.  I am just working out the details in my head before I make any calls.”

Carn has played and recorded with a long and growing list of jazz stars, including --- Rob McConnell, Joel Frahm, Randy Brecker, David Binney, Kenny Wheeler, Ingrid Jensen, Mike Murley, Tim Hagans,  Barry Harris, Hilario Duran and Andrew Downing.

“I feel very fortunate to have had a wide variety of experiences.”

His high school music teacher played Rob McConnell and the Boss Brass one day in class, and Carn never forgot the experience.

"I was hooked. The Boss Brass was my first, I would say, jazz icon. It is an icon. Rob McConnell and his arrangements. Just that level of musicianship, and to hear it as an ensemble, it is flawless," Carn said.

Rob McConnell grew up in London, ON. and learned to play the valve trombone. He started performing in the early 1950s. By 1968, McConnell created the Boss Brass, that became the most famous big band in Canada. It toured the world. The legendary Guido Basso played trumpet in the Boss Brass. It was McConnell's primary vehicle for performing and recording into the 2000's. McConnell died in 2010 at 75, but not before influencing a generation of jazz musicians, including Carn.

"That was really a big part of my musical makeup for many years. And then later on I was fortunate enough to, I mean I studied with Jerry Johnson who played in the Boss Brass, and then later on I got to play a few times with Rob’s Tentet. I thought it couldn't get any better than that.”

Johnson was a trombone player in the Boss Brass, and a much loved educator. He passed in Stratford in 2005.

The day after the gig Carn and his partner Davidson fly to New York City. They visit the place regularly, and haunt the Village Vanguard and 55 Bar on Christopher Street.

Friday 26 December 2014

Michael Dunston is all about soul

WATERLOO ON., Dec 26, 2014 --- One of Canada's best soul singers, Michael Dunston, and some of the country's leading jazz musicians, bring the music of Donny Hathaway back to life in a special Boxing Day show in The Jazz Room.

"Donny Hathaway has been that guiding light, his lyrics and his songs, are my life pretty much," Dunston said in an inteview with New City Notes.

Hathaway exploded on Soul Scene in 1970 with The Ghetto. He won a Grammy Award, garnered legions of fans and critical praise.  It was a life of talent and tragedy. In 1979 he was found dead on the sidewalk ottside a New York City hotel.  His death was ruled a suicide.

"I learnt every song he ever recorded," Dunston said. "And one day Dave Young was playing at The Rex, and he asked me as I was leaving, would I like to put together a gospel thing with him? I said: 'Sure, but I got some music that I think you need to hear."

Dunston brought his collection of Hathaway recordings to Young's house, and introduced the legendary jazz bassist to the largely forgotten soul singer from Chicago. They formed a band, started playing Hathaway's music on the summer festival circuit, and in select clubs. That was about seven years ago.

Dunston is backed by Dave Young on electric bass. Young is a familiar face in The Jazz Room playing his double bass.  For this show, the Dean of the Double Bass breaks out his Fender.  Kevin Turcotte on trumpet, Bernie Senensky on piano, Brian Legere on guitar, Mark Kelson on drums and Perry White on tenor saxophone.

"I think we did three or four jazz festivals last year, it seems to be taking on a life of its own," Dunston said.

Dunston sings with three Toronto-bands with institutional status in that city --- The Lincolns, Crack of Dawn and Soul Stew.  He recorded a single for Atlantic Records back in the Eghties called Walking into Springtime. Since his mid-teens, all Dunston has done to earn a paycheque is sing soul music. And discovering Hathaway's music was like finding home.

"It was very difficult material for me in the beginning because his writing is monumental, his singing is monumental." Dunston said."It was really a challenge for me, but right now it is like buttter. I've got it down.  I knew I chose the right path to go and do this material and it keeps Donny alive, and not many people know that much about him."

 Dunston calls Hathaway one of thre greatest sould singers of our time, more than 35 years after Hathaway's death.

When not peforming with his Donny Hathaway Project, Dunston is performing, writing and recording with Soul Stew.  That band includes David Gray on guitar, Matt Horner piano, electricp iano, organ and background vocals, John Johnson on tenor, alto and baritone saxes, Mark Kelso on drums and background vocals and Roberto Occhipiniti on bass and background vocals.

Soul Stew plays The Jazz Bistro in Toronto on the first Wednesday of every month, and will peform there for New Year's Eve.

"That band plays the Rochester Jazz Festival every year," Dunston said.  "It's the only band they bring back every year, I think we are going for a record nine times now."

Added Dunston: "We are in the studio right now. I have written about four or five songs for the new project, and I guess in a month or two we should be recording them, and it should be out in the summer time."

Dunston grew up singing gospel in church choirs in Providence, Rhode Island.  He also sang on street corners.  While out one evening riding his bicycle a guitar player in a local band spotted Dunston and called him over to sing.  He sang the1968 hit La La Means I love You by the Delfonics.  He was 14 years old. The band recruited him, and Dunston started rehearsing with it for a wedding gig.

The band was called Nakupenda, a Swahili word that means I love you. Dunston sang with the band for years, going on the road during summer vacations and other breaks in school. To this day he has a picture on his smartphone taken when he was 16, and performing with Nakupenda in St. Agatha, Quebec.

"And these guys hipped me to everything about music," Dunston said. "I mean I was so lucky to be involved with these guys."

It was a musical education like no other.

Nakupenda had a horn section, and it covered material from Sly and the Family Stone, and Chicago.

"I can remeber them bringing me to Paul's Mall to see Herbie Hancock when he had just left Miles Davis," Dunston said

Paul's Mall was a legendary venue in Boston.

"I can remember the guitar player going up to Woodstock to hear Jimi Hendrix, I couldn't go but he went," Dunston said..

Dunston could not attend his high school prom, junior or senior, because the band played all those gigs.

"These guys, to this day, are actually surprised that I am still performing as an artist," Dunston said. "When Motown picked up Michael Jackson these guys discovered me on the street.  And Michael Jackson made it legitimate for young guys to sing in a band, in a club."

In 1974 Dunston graduated from high school in Providrence, and hooked up with a band out of Albany, New York called Gems of the Future.  Dunston was now 17, and he headed north with his new band, singing and playing a little trumpet. It did not work out well, and before long Dunston was recruited by an older musician named Mitchell Taylor.  Taylor brought Dunston to Canada, crossing the border Thanksgiving Day, Oct. 13, 1975.

"My first gig was in Barrie, Ontario and from Barrie I went to Thunder Bay.  I mean it was all over the place.  It was incredible.  I was on the road.  I really paid my dues," Dunston said.

At that first gig in the Brookdale Park Inn in Barrier, the 17-year-old Dunston met Gail, the woman he would later marry.  They are still going strong after 37 years of marriage.


Wednesday 10 December 2014

Kirk MacDonald and Harold Mabern amaze, charm and inspire The Jazz Room

WATERLOO ON., Sunday, Dec. 7, 2014 --- Harold Mabern finishes a set, stands up from the piano bench, walks across the stage and starts talking into the mic about John Coltrane.

A legend talking about a legend.

It was another milestone moment in The Jazz Room last Sunday. The 78-year-old Mabern continues performing jazz-blues piano at the very highest level. For this gig Mabern played with Toronto-tenor sax sensation Kirk MacDonald.  There was no sheet music and no charts on the stage for three sets of straight-ahead jazz.

Mabern and MacDonald just finished the second set with Moment's Notice by Coltrane. It was featured on the 1957 album Blue Train and since became a jazz standard. Mabern wanted to talk a little about both Coltrane and the song.

"John William Coltrane, let me tell you something folks. I brag about this, I had the pleasure of knowing that man, and playing opposite him night-after-night," Mabern says.

"John William Coltrane was almost like being a saint.  If all of us had met John Coltrane there would be no racism, no muggings or whatever, because he was truly a man of peace," Mabern says.  "I was already a pretty good person, but he made me even better. God bless John William Coltrane. You should applaud that folks, he was one of a kind."

After the applause fades, Mabern continues with his story about how the song Moment's Notice was named. The great trombone playaer Curtis Fuller was looking at the music for the new piece during a rehearsal just prior to the recording session for Blue Train.

"So Curtis Fuller looked at this and said: 'John, John we can't create this on a moment's notice.' And that's how it was titled. Thank you, true story," Mabern says.

The 1957 recording session that produced Blue Train, which was Coltrane's second studio album, included the young trumpet player Lee Morgan. Years later, Mabern was playing piano in Morgan's band.  Mabern was playing the night Morgan was shot and killed - Feb. 19, 1972 - in Slug's Saloon in Alphabet City. Morgan was 33 at the time, and had recently kicked heroin.

Morgan's career was on the rise again. His common-law partner Helen More pulled out pistol at some point that night, and shot Morgan. He bled to death before help arrived.

"I wish  I could have been somewhere else," Mabern says in an interview with New City Notes.  "To tell you the truth, I don't really like to talk about it.  All I know is they were all laughing and talking at one point. The next - hostility, and boom. We heard a shot. That was it."

This happened in between sets Mabern says.  A lot of accounts get that wrong, including a post last week in New City Notes.

"A lot of people got it on the band stand, see that's a lie," Mabern says. "We were on intermission."

"It was a sad way for him to go man. We were getting reading to go to Europe for the first time. He was happy. Happy with his band," Mabern says.

The first set for the MacDonald-Mabern Duo on Sunday: I'll Remember April, Body and Soul, I Have Never Been in Love Before and Alone Together.

Second set: Falling in Love With Love, Bluesette, I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face, Things Aren't What they Used to Be and Moment's Notice.

Third Set: Oleo, Blue Monk, (the third song was a blues, did not catch the name), Bye Bye Black Bird and Green Dolphin Street.

MacDonald and Mabern go way back.  Mabern was in town playing a gig at the old Cafe des Copains in Toronto. He also sat in on a regular Saturday CBC Radio broadcast of a jazz show in the Sheraton Centre. Jim Galloway was the tenor sax on that weekly gig, but Galloway couldn't make it that day.  MacDonald was called to sub.

"And the band was Terry Clarke (drums), Neil Swainson (bass), Harold Mabern, and I was scared," MacDonald says. "That was a long time ago. I had such a great time."

MacDonald saw Mabern perform whenever he could, sometimes in New York, sometimes in Toronto. This past summer, MacDonald called Mabern and asked the great pianist if he would come to Humber College to teach during the summer workshop that MacDonald leads.

"We spent 10 days together playing music, teaching and all that, and we did a recording at the same time," MacDonald says. "So we are back at it, and renewing old acquaintances."

That new CD was recorded for Addo Records and  is called Vista Obscura. It was released in the U.S. on Dec. 9th. It features Neil Swainson on bass, Andre White on drums and Pat LaBarbera, also on tenor sax. It is beautiful and flawless. Having two virtuoso tenor players on the same recording gives the reeds a rich, full sound to balance Mabern's vigorous playing. Last Saturday, MacDonald and Mabern played Gallery 345 in Toronto as a CD release party.

"It's a very beautiful record," Mabern says.

Mabern is more vital and productive than many jazz artists half his years. He played a Christmas show at the Kennedy Centre earlier this week. In April he is on another CD that will be released by Smoke Sessions Records. Smoke is the straight-head New York City club on Broadway near 105th Street.

"I have to compositions on the album," Mabern says. "So if you are in New York City, April 10-11-12, come by Smoke."

When the music was finished last Sunday, and the crowd gone, Mabern was putting on his coat, getting ready for the drive back to Toronto.

"Wonderful club, wonderful piano," Mabern says of The Jazz Room. "You all got quite a thing here."

check out Mabern's website, http://haroldmabern.jazzgiants.net and MacDonald's site at, http://kirkmacdonald.com.

Tuesday 9 December 2014

Mark Eisenman only gigs when he can do justice to the music

WATERLOO, Tuesday Dec. 9, 2014 --- Mark Eisenman brings his trio to The Jazz Room Saturday night and a lifetime of respect for the music.

Eisenman, a veteran jazz pianist from the  Toronto scene, plays with Steve Wallace on bass and Terry Clarke on drums. All played The Jazz Room in the past and are enormously popular with club regulars. This will be a night steeped in tradition and straight-ahead jazz.

"I have worked with these guys so many times it is so easy to play," Eisenman says in an interview with New City Notes. ""If people want to hear a lot of standards, I like playing them because then you can just call tunes that everybody knows."

Eisenman, Wallace and Clarke have played together so much they don't need a set list for the gig.

"You are just diving in there with creative musicians," Eisenman says. "The  best music I ever heard are guys communicating on the level of songs, and being so good at it, they just don't need to have anything planned."

Eisenman records, and teaches in the jazz program at York University. He picks and chooses his gigs. You can read more about him here, www.cornerstonerecordsinc.com.

"Sometimes I turn down a lot of work because I want to play real pianos," Eisenman says. "That's why The Jazz Room is so important to me, because I can go play a good piano in front of nice people who are listening."

The Jazz Room stage is dominated by the Yamaha C7 grand piano. No talking is allowed when musicians are performing.

"I figure if I am going to out now and I am going to play this music, justice has to be done to it. And having a good instrument to play is the first step. Now it is up to me after that. If it's not good, it is my problem," Eisenman says.

When it comes to respecting the music, Eisenman never forgot what happened the day he headed for the the Colonial Tavern on Yonge Street in the early 1980s to hear the Johnny Griffin Quartet for a Canada Day gig.   He was looking forward to the show. Griffin was a bop and hard-bop tenor saxophonist who played with a long list of greats,  starting in the 1940s with Lionel Hampton.

 Before his death in 2008 Griffin played with Thelonius Monk, Paul Chambers and Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, among many others. Eisenman arrived early for the show, and secured a seat near the stage. One member of the quartet came in, played a few chords on the piano and shook his head. Eisenman never forgot what that musician said: "'This piano is not tuned. We will be back to play when the piano is tuned, as per the contract.'"

Eisenman was born in New York into a musical family. His mother was born in Toronto, and loved to sing. His dad played piano, saxophone, accordion and composed music.

 Eisenman's dad was a Holocaust survivor who came to Canada in 1948 after living through the horrors of Auschwitz. He arrived at Pier 21 in Halifax three years after the war ended. Eisenman's grandfather on his dad's side was the principal flutist in the Lodz symphony in Poland before the Second World War. Everyone in Eisenman's father's family perished in the Holocaust, except for Eisenman's dad, and his dad's youngest brother.

After arriving in Canada and meeting Eisenman's mother, the family moved to New York, and back to Toronto more than once.

"He did a lot of different things, including some piano teaching and taught me a little bit," Eisenman says. "He was always going around teaching kids. He used to be a substitute teacher. So music was always there. My mother did a little singing. There are some demo recordings I have of my mom and dad from 1954, just amazing."

Eisenman started in  jazz studies at York University in 1974. It was a ground-breaking program, one of the first at a Canadian university.

"I really learned a lot about it there with the guys who started the jazz program  there, John Giddings and Bob Witmer," Eisenman says. "They were both great players."

He teaches at York now. The list of alumni from that program includes the leading players on the scene today.

Following his gig at The Jazz Room (www.kwjazzroom.com) on Saturday, Eisenman will be back on stage on the Jazz Bistro in Toronto with his quartet on Friday, Dec. 19 and Saturday, Dec. 20. It includes Kelly Jefferson on sax, Neil Swainson on bass and Morgan Childs on drums.

The Mark Eisenman Quintet is at The Rex in April, and includes Steven Wallace on bass, John McLeod on trumpet/Fugel horn , Pat LeBarbera on saxes and John Sumner on drums.

Wednesday 3 December 2014

Boom for Rent comes to The Jazz Room Saturday night

WATERLOO ON., Dec. 3, 2014 --- When Brendan Davis plays jazz he wants toes tapping and people singing at least one of the tunes by the end of the night.

Boom for Rent comes to town Saturday night at The Jazz Room. This quartet is comprised of veterans from the Toronto scene. Davis on bass, Reg Schwagger on guitar, Chris Gale on tenor sax and Ted Warren on drums. Gale can not make the gig Saturday, so Perry White is playing in his stead. White is a sensational tenor player, and well known to regulars of The Jazz Room.

"We've been working on Soon, a George Gershwin tune. You will probably hear a Wayne Shorter song called Tom Thumb, maybe Bolivia. And we've been working on this tune called Tombo in 7/4 by this great percussionist Airto Moeira," Davis says.

"We are not looking to alienate anybody, but we like to play with a lot of energy, and a song can go anywhere basically," Davis says.  "We will probably play one or two Dave Holland compositions as well."

This quartet grew out of a weekly jam at a little place on the Danforth called 10 Feet Tall back in the spring of 2012.  That club is now closed, but Boom for Rent lives on. The jam session was great while it lasted.

"I did not know Reg all that much, and I asked him to come and play one night, and he did," Davis says in an interview with New City Notes. "And he said: 'You know, when this thing kind of cools down from there we should play together some time.' So I set that up and we added Chris and that was it."

Boom for Rent usually plays in and around Toronto --- Chalkers on Marlee Avenue , The Rex on Queen West and a little place called The Local GEST in the heart of Cabbagetown on Parliament Street. In July it had a residence at The Rex and played every Monday night.

"The quartet was playing and it got better, so much better every week,:" Davis says. "By the end of it, it was unreal."

Davis loves Boom for Rent, and he's busy composing music for it. He wants the band to head into a recording studio in the second half of next year.

"There is quite a large palette to draw from with these musicians, so I am going to, so I am starting to work with that and come up with some ideas and compositions," Davis says. "So I am looking at that right now. That is my personal goal with this band."

Davis studied jazz at York University, and during his last year Oscar Peterson was appointed Chancellor. The giant of the jazz piano would play with the students in workshops. Davis still speaks about the experience in reverential tones.

"Just to be able to stand beside that machine, and play with him. His playing was so strong. I would just hear whatever I had to play," Davis says. "It was fantastic."

A couple of years after graduating from York, Davis headed for the New England Conservatory of Music to do a master's in jazz. Davis studied under the legendary bassist Dave Holland at the New England Conservatory. Holland played with Miles Davis in the Sixties. He is still going strong, and was a headliner at the Detroit Jazz Festival this year.

The New England Conservatory jazz program was great, but not long after Davis finished he did not play for nearly 10 years. He had a bad back. But then, about 2004, he was well enough to start playing again. He was gigging in Vancouver, and had a trio with Amanda Tosoff on piano and Morgan Childs on drums.

In 2008 Davis and his wife drove back to Toronto.

"We were driving back and I checked my Facebook and somebody said: 'I need a bass player in Toronto, I need a bass player for Friday night.' And I was already working before I got back here, and I haven't turned back since," Davis says. "The city has been really good to me since I've come back."

When Davis was trying to think of a name for his small ensemble he was looking at a book about his favourite artist Jean-Michel Basquiat.

"He had something spray painted on the wall of his studio that said: 'Boom for Real.' And I thought, okay, not quite. Boom for Rent, that's it. It's goofy and clever at the same time, kind of like me."

Toronto born and raised, Davis remembers George's Spaghetti House, a legendary jazz venue that booked bands to play for an entire week. He took his first date to that place to hear the Moe Kauffman with Bernie Senensky, Jerry Fuller and Neil Swainson.

Tuesday 2 December 2014

John Tank and his all star band set for special show

NEW YORK CITY, Thursday, Nov. 13, 2014 --- John Tank settles into a chair in a trendy coffee shop on The Bowery, looks around and shakes his head.

"I feel like a tired old man sometimes," Tank says.

The over-priced java, and the gleaming cafe around him are unwelcome reminders of how money changed the former-Bohemian enclave where he's lived for more than 40 years --- The East Village. When Tank moved here in 1974 the neighbourhood was packed with musicians and venues. Now it is teeming with rich people, and many of his favourite places to play closed long ago.

In the basement of this trendy coffee shop was a club called the Fez Under the Time Cafe. That's where the Mingus Big Band played every Saturday. The Fez closed more than 10 years ago, and the Mingus Big Band moved to the Jazz Standard.

Back in 1974 most of the ground-floor units in the East Village were boarded-up. Now the street-level units are all occupied with busy restaurants, shops, cafes and boutiques. A one-bedroom typically rents for at least $3,500 a month.

The smash musical RENT was set in this neighbourhood. The show was developed in one of the four theatres on East 4th Street where Tank lives. But this neighbourhood, like every other one on Manhattan, was gentrified beyond recognition.

Tank is getting ready for his gig in The Jazz Room in Waterloo with some of the best jazz musicians on the Canadian scene. He is traveling to Waterloo for his 96-year-old mother's annual Christmas party. To help pay for the trip, Tank does a show on Sunday, Dec. 14, 4-7 p.m. in The Jazz Room.

The quartet includes Robi Botos on piano, Dave Young on bass and Ted Warren on drums.

This will be something of a re-union of sorts for the musicians. They first played as a quartet at the Uptown Waterloo Jazz Festival in 1996.

"I tell you something, my playing really feels good," Tank says.

These days Tank plays in the New York City Jazz Workshop's Big Band, which recently had a gig in Something Jazz near Times Square. He's also playing in the Monday night jam at the 11th Street Bar that often features Charles Davis on tenor sax, Pasquale Grasso on guitar and Murray Wall on bass. He sometimes jams at Fat Cat and the Zinc Bar in the West Village.

When he first moved to the East Village the neighbourhood had lots of places to play. A jazz musician earned a living walking to and from the gigs in the East and West Village.

"I had my choice of so many places to go, and they were all run by musicians," Tank says. "Basically I just stayed in this neighbourhood."

The Tin Palace was a regular venue for Tank back in the day. It is now an Italian restaurant. Studio Rivbea is gone. That's where Tank played in Sam Rivers' band the Winds of Manhattan, and Sam Rivers' Big Band, which also included Dave Holland and Barry Altschul. Every Saturday, Tank had a gig at the Ladies Fort with Joe Lee Wilson and Monty Waters Big Band. The Ladies Fort was a jazz performance loft at 2 Bond St. in the NOHO District.

"I used to go to Boomers all the time, that was a great club, now it's like a diner," Tank says.

All that's left of The Village Gate is a sign on a wall above Bleeker Street. One of the last shows there before it closed in 1993 was Penny Arcade's "Politics and Sexuality." The club is long gone, but Arcade is still at it. She is developing a wickedly funny piece on the gentrification of New York City, and the decline of the culture in the world capital of culture.

"It's starts with a cafe and it ends with cupcakes," Arcade says in an amazing performance of her unnamed work-in-progress at Joe's Pub on Nov. 10.  Watch for more of Arcade's incredible work. She is giving voice to the experience of artists like Tank.

The old Village Gate was a special place for Tank. That's where he sat in with Charles Mingus.

"Mingus was looking for a new sax player, and his sax player at the time and I got on the stage and we had a tenor battle, and we brought the house down," Tanks says.

"After that I was in the backroom, and Mingus said: 'Let me hear you play a ballad.' So I played My One and Only Love," Tank says.

A few weeks later Tank was with a group of people in Mingus' apartment in Manhattan Plaza on 43rd Street. Mingus' wife Sue was there. So was the trumpet player Jack Walrath.

"So Mingus turns around and says: 'Are you going to come to my record session?' And I said: 'Yeah, I'll be there,'" Tank says.

Tank is on the Mingus recording called Me Myself An Eye, and  Something Like a Bird. The band for that recording session included Walrath, the Brecker Brothers, George Coleman and Eddie Gomez, among many others.

"That was a great time," Tank says.

Tank moved here in 1974. He was born and raised in downtown Kitchener. After learning the tenor saxophone Tank studied at the Berklee School of Music in Boston during the mid-1960s. He always wanted to live in New York and work the jazz scene here. He did that as an illegal alien for his first 16 years. That's how much he wanted it.

Out on the sidewalk, Tank looks around his New York neighbourhood. It is crowded with reminders of another time when the dollar was not king.

"This was the only place I could afford," Tank says, standing at the corner of Easts 4th St. and Lafayette. "When I moved down here, this was a very dangerous place to be. There was nothing, all these buildings were all closed. There was nothing here."

Everything was boarded up. It just before New York City flirted with bankruptcy. It is now bustling with pedestrians going in and out of businesses big and small, coffee shops and cafes.

"Most of the artists have gone," Tank says. "I am fortunate that I have been able to maintain a low rent for all these years, that keeps my place affordable."

As Tank walks up the Bowery he talks steadily about the neighbourhood and how it's changed.

"If you go straight east that's where Slugs was. That was a famous jazz club. That's where Lee Morgan was shot six times. His woman came in and emptied a gun on him. He was playing on the stage," Tank says.

Slugs was on East 4th St. in Alphabet City, between Avenue B and Avenue C. Morgan was a 33-year-old trumpet player who had recently kicked heroin. Morgan's career was on an upswing when his angry woman shot him to death in the club. It was closed after the murder.

"There were people killed out in front of that club.  There was a saxophone player, a young guy, walked out on the street and somebody shot him," Tank says.

When the Loft Scene closed down a lot of musicians hit the streets.  Tank used to play by the New York Public Library at 5th Avenue and 42nd St. There would be 10 bands in that area on any given day.

"They soon made short work of that, they started arresting musicians," Tank says.

In the 1970s New York was battling an epidemic of heroin addiction. In the 1980s crack cocaine arrived. Tank watched it all unfold from his fifth floor apartment on East 4th St.

Tank is standing at the corner of East 4th St. and the Bowery, in front of a pub-restaurant called Phebe's. Tank used to play there in the late 1970s.

"Now it's a sports bar," Tank says.