Thursday, December 3, 2009

Jon Davis and Bent by Elephants at Sala Rossa

Nothing like coming out of a long sickness to try and get back into things. Decided to take it easy and catch one band I've had my eye on, Bent by Elephants, as the openers for Jon Davis. These are two very talented groups of people who come into the Montreal scene out of McGill's music program.

Bent by Elephants reminds me very much of Joan Osborne, with a rich bluesy throaty songs. The band combines the standard fare of a regular rock band with the magic of a violinist, trumpet and a double bass. With such an orchestra, lead singer Chelsey Waltz has got to power her way to presence. But she does so with amazing virtuosity and still manages to remain charismatic. The music is delightful, complex, and indicative of high level training. I'm hoping Bent by Elephants will continue on its journey.

As for Jon davis, this was the first time I'd seen him. He came out with an orchestra, basically, cellists, viola players, violinists, bassist, plus keyboard, plus trumpeter, plus drums, plus guitarist. Whoa. WTF. This was no small production going on here. There's no denying the talent -- this is a band of, again, highly trained and highly talented individuals. The sound was big and lush, with so many elements coming together. Davis is at the helm, with his James Taylor-esque vocals, lyric driven, emotive. Singer-songwriter sort of material. Yet, for all the pieces, my favorite was the one he claimed was not practiced. I liked it because it sounded less precise, less timed, more... oh... reliant on the musicians' ability to work as a band. I felt as though the jazz section and the orchestra section needed to be better integrated and Davis seemed more comfortable with his jazz players than the orchestra. Not to say that any was lacking -- but I did sense a duality between the jazz side and the orchestra side, and perhaps on this short tour, the two will come closer and closer together as a single unit under Jon.

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