Barry Elmes Quartet – Happy Hour – Cornerstone Records CRST CD 142, 61:59 ****:
(Perry White – tenor saxophone; Vanessa Rodrigues – Hammond B-3; Reg Schwager – guitar; Barry Elmes – drums)
Barry Elmes is probably not a name that many readers of this site recognize who reside outside of Canada. However he is one of the backbones of the Canadian jazz scene having recorded over the years with Dizzy Gillespie, Tommy Flanagan, Cedar Walton and Diana Krall. In this new release Happy Hour he teams up with some other well-known Canadians to deliver a set of familiar tunes of the American song-book done with rollicking enthusiasm.
The tenor sax/organ/guitar/drums band is a well-rooted jazz format so the Elmes configuration falls nicely into that groove. Tenor saxophonist Perry White, who is originally from Vancouver BC, has been a solid fixture in Toronto since the ‘80s. With a mellow tone, he has played with many bands including Rob McConnell’s Boss Brass. Here he takes center stage on most tracks but is especially effective on the lyrical opening track “Comes Love” and the Elmes original tune, the aptly named “Happy Hour”.
A new name on the jazz scene is organist Vanessa Rodrigues. Although she was born in Canada she has recently re-located to Rio de Janeiro, which one can only hope will not be a permanent situation as it would be a loss. A real swinger, she commands the Hammond B-3 with style and dynamism, and manages to avoid the wailing often associated with this unwieldy instrument. She keeps the band cooking on all tracks but really digs in on “When You’re Smiling”.
Guitarist Reg Schwager was born in The Netherlands but came to Canada at an early age and has made a name for himself both domestically and internationally as a pre-eminent player on his instrument. He has toured and recorded with the late George Shearing as well as with Diana Krall and Junior Mance. Fleet of finger, his fills are unobtrusive where appropriate, and he lays down his guitar lines with sensitivity as required. As for the leader Barry Elmes, he is more than a time-keeper, but a drummer with a laid-back style who stays in the moment and pushes the band along. This is a well-thought out session from a cohesive and sure-footed band.
TrackList: Comes Love; When You’re Smiling; There’s A Small Hotel; Happy Hour; Yesterdays; Softly As In A Morning Sunrise; I’m Old Fashioned; All Or Nothing At All; Time After Time.