Carn Davidson 9 lights up Regina

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author: quinn bell |  a&c writer

Giving a whole new definition to ‘jazzed’. / jeremy davis

Jazzing and jiving all night long.

The Carn Davidson 9 crushed it on Friday night. On tour from Toronto, the acclaimed jazz group’s performance was tight. So tight. And at least three of their songs were inspired by their cats. Regina, you missed a great show. 

There’s a lot to celebrate with the Carn Davidson 9, but if I had to pick three things, it would be collaboration, storytelling, and cats. 

The Carn Davidson 9 is collaboration at its best. The project is co-led by Tara Davidson, nine-time JUNO nominated saxophonist, composer, and band-leader; and her trombonist husband William Carn (also a JUNO award nominated artist, also a talented composer). They’ve filled up the remaining spots with some big names from the Toronto jazz scene: Alexander Brown, Kevin Turcotte (trumpet), Dan Fortin (bass), and Ernesto Cervini (drums).  

I know, that’s only six players. What’s super cool about this project is that, because of the hassles of going on tour with a big band, the Carn Davidson 9 picked up new members along the way — different musicians played in each province. For the YQR gig at LeBistro, the Carn Davidson 9 became the Carn Davidson 6 + 3, when the Torontonians were joined by some killer local talent. Regina artists Trent Reschny (saxophone) and U of R alumnus Carter Powley (saxophone, bass clarinet) fit right in with the group and played some of the night’s best solos, and they were joined by Saskatoon’s Spencer Krips (bass trombone). The Regina jazz scene is alive and well, and we produce some amazing talent. Be proud. 

Onto the storytelling (and the cats!). Carn and Davidson took turns introducing each song. Usually, they wrote the piece themselves and so they had a lot to say about where it came from. And usually, the story had to do with their big cat Murphy, for whom they named their newest album (and two of its songs, “Murphy!” and “Murphy’s Law”). That cat must be pretty special; I love it. 

Beyond Murphy, Carn and Davidson also find their inspiration in family (but let’s get real, Murphy is also an important part of the family). Hearing intimate family stories before each song really made the night memorable. It also, I think, helped the music hit people who don’t always get jazz (especially some of the more “contemporary” compositions of the night — I struggled a bit). Instead of getting lost in weird chords and getting a headache trying to follow anything (I’ve been there), the audience could imagine the unfolding stories, or else really focus on the emotions the artists were pumping out. 

In “Colebourn,” written about Davidson’s nephew, it was easy to imagine a happy young boy lost in the Hundred Acre Wood of Winnie-the-Pooh. In “Second Act (for Ron),” you could feel the pain of losing a parent, and hear the musicians remembering the good times they shared. Probably the coolest and most accessible song of the night was inspired by Davidson’s Scottish clan roots. Davidson played a lilting Celtic melody on the flute, which then bounced around the band. 

Beyond collaboration and cats — I really can’t stress that enough; there was so much talk of cats! — there’s at least one more thing to celebrate about the Carn Davidson project: Tara Davidson herself. Look at the rest of the names in the project. They’re all amazingly talented men who have worked super hard to be where they are. They’re all men. This isn’t rare; thinking about the big-bands I’ve seen and the famous jazz musicians I know, it’s apparent that it’s a genre overflowing with men. The jazz world really needs to open up some more. So, it’s really special to have such a skilled player as Tara Davidson come to Regina — and as the leader of a band, no less. There were a handful of music students in the crowd on Friday, and they deserve to see a woman like Davidson owning the stage. Maybe they’ll be some of the next women to lead a JUNO-nominated jazz project. 

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