Wray Downes / Pete Magadini / Don Menza / Dave Young

December 11, 2014

Bones Blues

Delmark/Sackville CD2-4004

Recently reissued with an added track, this 1977 Toronto-recorded gem is nearly timeless since it’s an unpretentious session by consummate professional that could have been taped any time after 1954 … or tomorrow. Unlike contemporary bop-era emulators however, the participants in Bones Blues were around as mainstream jazz was being forged and played this mixture of blues, standards and rhythm tunes almost daily in nightclubs.

Bones Blues has added value as well because it initially gave Toronto piano legend Wray Downes one of his first chances to stretch out on record. On the intro to What a Time We Had, for instance, his sympathetic elegance is as notable as his innate command of the blues sensibility is confirmed by the title tune. In 1977, Massachusetts-born leader, drummer Pete Magadini, had just begun his 28-year Canadian residency as teacher and performer; while on the disc Buffalo-born tenor saxophonist, Don Menza consistently demonstrates his mastery of both bop and swing that gave him featured status in big bands like Buddy Rich’s. Buoyant even when assaying assertive 1950s classics like Solar and Freddie the Freeloader, the saxophonist’s skillful balance is a highlight. Note how his caressing of Poor Butterfly’s melody parallels Downes’ two-handed, near-boogie-woogie exposition, and how both lines are underscored by Magadini’s subtle brush work. Amplifying the others work with powerful strokes and decorative cadenzas was bassist Dave Young, has in the intervening years become a local legend, habitually busy with club and concert work in a variety of contexts.

Overall, ballads and finger-snappers are treated with the same respect and performed in the same high level on this CD. Listening to how the disc’s eight tracks evolve and gratify, confirm why this session, unlike many pretentious, highly vaulted projects of the same era has stood the test of time.

–Ken Waxman

— For Whole Note Vol. 20 #4