Geordie Haley’s Sea of Song Trio

Blue Boat
No label No #

Geordie Haley’s East Delta Trio

Summer Garden Party

No label No #

Because the best jazz demands particular chemistry, similar sessions result in variable results. That’s what happened on these two trio discs by Toronto guitarist Geordie Haley. While his East Delta Trio (EDT)’s Summer Garden Party is merely good, his Sea of Song (SOS) Trio’s Blue Boat is exceptional.

Haley who moved west from Fredericton, N.B. in 1997 is one of Toronto’s most versatile guitarists who works with many different-sized bands. It’s odd that Summer Garden Party isn’t better. All the players are Maritimers – alto saxophonist Evan Shaw is a Hartland, N.B. native and tabla player Vineet Vyas hails from Truro, N.S.; plus EDT’s unique instrumentation could open more musical vistas.

In contrast Blue Boat features standard jazz trio instruments; and – at the risk of highlighting regional disparities – the other players are Ontarians: Burlington bassist Rob Clutton and drummer Brandon Valdivia from Chatham. Much of Boat’s seaworthiness can be attributed to Clutton, who keeps the vessel on an even keel rhythmically while providing space for the guitarist’s rapid chromatic runs and the drummer’s rattles, snaps and rolls.

At Party’s best, as on “Minor Figure”, the title tune and “Ipperwash” unanticipated connections are made, as when funky guitar licks are superimposed on top of Carnatic-style beats or when false register asides from the saxophonist meet Haley’s ostinato lines. While the guitarist occasionally sounds sitar-like vamps to complement Vyas’ Indian concepts, on “Ipperwash” all three fittingly evoke Native Canadian music to reflect its theme.

Displaying slurred fingering and speedy note placement throughout, Haley appears more relaxed on the other CD. On “No Parsing”, he replicates tough bottleneck guitar runs, yet on the atmospheric, “Crashed Tanker”, suggests a variant of Country & Western picking that could win favor Down East. Maritime C&W fans may be puzzled by Valdivia’s Keith Moon-like smashes and whaps on that track though, not to mention Clutton’s sul ponticello sweeps that produce electronic-like drones.

Often the three build up to contrapuntal linkages that encompass tempo and pitch changes. Favoring rim shots over ruffs, the drummer still propels “Dangling Manifesto”, which is also notable for bass licks so fluid they could come from an electric. Yet despite speedy note patterns and feedback expansions from Haley here, the trio’s cooperation prevents any one from lick overindulgence.

— Ken Waxman

— For Whole Note Vol. 13 #5