A Day in the Jazz Life

First thing in the morning, in other words around 2PM, I rode the bus to Cory’s place on the west side to pick up copies of the brand new, hot off the press Linton Garner CD. I knew Linton (Errol’s big brother) for close to thirty years. Not well, but I knew him – one of the great human beings it’s been my honour to know, and a beautiful musician – quietly brilliant, humble, and funny as hell. I first met him in the mid-seventies. He’d come backstage at concerts I’d produced, to say hello to old friends like Mary Lou Williams, Betty Carter, and others. When I saw their faces light up with loving recognition I knew this was a special man. Linton had played with Fletcher Henderson, Billy Eckstein, Dizzy Gillespie, and others– went to high school with Billy Strayhorn – etc. I must have heard him play a thousand times over the years. Around 1981 or 82 I was hanging out with Patricia and I’d find a pair of non-jean pants (dress code in those days) and we’d go to the Four Seasons to drink and listen to Linton Garner who had the piano gig there for years. It wasn’t Bop City but it was steady. He playedthese kind of gigs for decades and what the music lacked in fire was made up for in beauty. They were basically cocktail gigs but on occasion Linton got to show what he could do in jams at various bars and clubs around town. He never complained about any of it. He loved to play and, as he told me, his landlord liked him to play, too. When he played what turned out to be his last performance, at The Cellar in November 2002, for Colin Browne’s CBC-TV documentary, I was there and took some nice pictures of him, three of which are on the CD. Linton died just four months later. He was 88 – one year for every key on the piano.

I got home about 5:00PM and put the album in the player, listening through once and then putting it on again as I started fading. I was a couple of hours past my usual nap time. The music was even better than I’d remembered and beautifully recorded. This isn’t music to shake up jazz and start a revolution. Sometimes all you want or need is the warm hand of a sweet old man on your brow. There’s not even a drummer on this date. Just piano, tenor sax (Ross Taggart) and bass (Russ Botten). Nice.

Woke up an hour later, starving. Decided to get something to eat and a couple of beers at O’Doul’s, my neighbourhood hang. Chris Sigerson’s trio was playing – with Russ Botten, the bassist also on the Linton CD, and my pal, Dave Robbins on drums. I planned to catch a set and go home but couldn’t tear myself away. These guys played great. Chris has to be the most underrated pianist in the country. The swung like crazy all night long – played some great tunes. After the gig we hung around another hour or so and I started for home.

I remembered I was out of coffee and the Safeway was still open so stopped in and ran into Danny Casavant, whom I hadn’t seen in a couple of months. Danny’s one of those workhorse blues and R&B guitar players who’s been around forever, played with everyone – studied with and befriended the legendary Lenny Breau and, in fact, helped Randy Bachman organize and issue some of Breau’s greatest recordings, especially the double CD with bassist Dave Young, Live at Bourbon Street. He works bars around town and occasionally tours. Another great cat and another one of all those men and women without whom life would absolutely not be worth living yet work day in day out for barely any money and even less recognition.

I got my beans, Danny got whatever he was getting and we walked over to the 24-hour coffee joint around the corner and discussed music and related topics till maybe 4 in the AM.

This is the CD referred to above.
Check it out at Cellar Live Records

Photos, top to bottom, Linton Garner, Chris Sigerson, and Danny Casavant – all by the author.

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