The Cellar in Vancouver is exactly that. You go down a flight of stairs to enter an intimate and tastefully appointed old school Jazz Club. The red walls are adorned with black and White photos of Jazz Artists, and behind the small stage, graced with a shining baby grand piano, hangs thick black curtains. Dinner is served at the small tables and the food is delicious and served almost silently.
Cellar Co-owner Cory Weeds, (who is also an amazing alto saxophonist) welcomes the audience and reminds them that there is a no chat policy. He couches it in a joke but it is obvious- he is not joking. The Cellar is a concert venue- not a pub where patrons bellow above the music. This is all about serious listening and appreciation. After all the latest Downbeat has included The Cellar as one of the Greatest 100 Jazz Clubs.
Tonight Hugh Fraser is performing a tribute to Charles Mingus. He originally transposed the epic work of Mingus "Black Saint and the Sinner Lady" at the behest of Dave Holland, a herculean task and a labor of love. It would be challenging for any group to attempt to recreate the performance of the Mingus band but Hugh Fraser has assembled a group of musicians that are equal to the task under his ebullient and joyous direction. An award-winning Trombonist leading his own quintet and big band he is also a respected Jazz educator. There is no doubt Hugh Fraser is a force and presence in Canadian Jazz. He conducts the Big Band gleefully dancing and busting the stereotype of the laconic, super cool Jazz musician. Hugh Fraser is more like your favorite uncle who always has chocolates in his pockets and breaks out the magic tricks with butterflies materializing on demand. His demeanor totally belies the pure genius that lays behind the accomplishment of not only transcribing an unbelievably complex score but also directing a band to perform it flawlessly giving the impression of freedom and sometimes wild abandon. The Baritone Sax of Chad Makela anchors the group and creates the characteristic Mingus sound playing complex counter bass lines and soloing with almost demonic intensity. The sax front line also included Perry White, tenor sax; Cam Ryga, sop/alto sax/flute; Cory Weeds, alto sax all of whom demonstrate technical prowess and unique improvisational voices. The series at The Cellar continues in May with Hugh Fraser’s tribute to John Coltrane a performance of African Brass.
The Cellar deserves support from local and visiting Jazz fans as it continues to offer a variety of Jazz genres including in May - Latin Jazz with The DANILO PEREZ TRIO.