Jazz pianist, teacher and composer Ron Davis is a versatile artist whose musical ability both spans and encompasses a variety of genres and styles, ranging from swing to post-bop and even classical idioms. Based in Toronto, he performs widely, has written works for full symphony orchestra, has toured world-wide, including a recent 4th successful trip to Asia, and is a virtuoso pianist. With his latest CD, My Mother's Father's Song, he embraces both his family's rich cultural heritage as well as re-engages with the jazz standard, but with a new eye.
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Co-produced at the CBC with Dennis Patterson, Ron is joined on the album by bassist Mike Downes and drummer Ted Warren for a total of thirteen tracks which include Harold Arlen & Johnny Mercer's My Shining Hour, Stevie Wonder's hit For Once in My Life, James Taylor's Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight, and Coldplay's Viva la Vida, among others. Also included on the CD are four original compositions by Ron Davis, including Sergei's Shuffle, Danza Daniela, Tumba Ron Rumba, and The Climb. The tunes are part of Rhythmaron: The Music of Ron Davis, a deluxe book of Ron's compositions, released last year.
However, what sets this album apart from other "standards" albums is the juxtaposition of standards with an unusual focal point of the album, an eponymous song about Ron's maternal grandfather, the "mother's father" of the Cd title. There are three versions of the tune, one each for bass solo, piano solo, and the full trio: Bal u Grubego Joska.
In Ron's own words:
"A distant time. A different time. Warsaw, Poland. 1930's. I never really believed my mother, Alice. They were just stories she told. Just stories. About her father's restaurant in Warsaw. About how political leaders came there regularly. About the restaurant being so well-known that there was a famous song about it. About her father, Joseph,and his restaurant. Sure, Mom.
"Joseph died before World War II. My mother's remaining family died during it, in the Shoah. Mom forgot how the song went. No one could confirm her story. Sure, Mom.
"Then... a few years ago, at the Polish pavilion at a fair, she was bending another ear, the clerk's, about her father's song. Then and there, the tale became the truth. The clerk pulled out a book of Polish music. There it was. Bal u Grubego Joska - "Party at Fat Joe's" (the song is also known as Bal na Gnojnej). That was the grandfather I never met: Fat Joe, Joseph Ladowsky. And the lyrics celebrate his famous restaurant in Warsaw. And the political leaders there. Just as Mom always said. I showed the sheet music to some Polish friends. It is a famous song in Poland. My mother's tale was all true. I should never have doubted Mom.
"A lifetime later, I'm happy and honored to record Bal u grubego Joska, my mother's father's song. I'm happy and honored that my mother, Alice, is alive to hear the recording. The solo piano version of the song, which I call Piano Lament, was the last music recorded for this project. 12 hours later, my father Alex, 85 years of age, married to my mother for 62 years, a survivor of the Shoah, died.
"I humbly dedicate this recording to my mother Alice Davis. To Grubego Joska, Joe Ladowsky, the grandfather I never met. And to my father Alex Davis."
Davis will celebrate the release with a launch party on May 27 with the trio at Canada's renowned Hugh's Room in Toronto. For additional information, visit www.rondavismusic.com.
Mungle Music (2004) a versatile blend of Ron's own music, classical forms and standards, received wide acclaim:
"A brilliant album!" -The Live Music Report. Best of 2004 -CBC Radio and CODA Magazine. So Much (2003) with singer Lori Cullen: nominated Jazz Recording of the Year for the Canadian Independent Music Awards. Cdbaby's "jaw dropping" front page choice.
"The artistry of Ron Davis is revealed not solely by his playfulisess on the piano. but all the more by his creative decisions as leader." Wholenote Magazine (February 2009)
"One of the city's most talented jazz composers and pianists." On The Beat Diesel Jazz (November 2008)
"Exceptionally gifted and eclectic, Toronto pianist Ron Davis seems like the living incarnation of the perpetuum mobile, buzzing from flower to flower following his successive projects as they emerge, straight from the heart." L'Express (October 2007)
"On every song of this new album, Subarashii Live, we hear Ron's great virtuosity, and he made sure to compose songs where all his musicians sounded their best! You must buy this CD!" Radio Canada
"You would be wise to look up [Ron Davis'] music. Right now he very well may be the most gifted pianist in Canada." www.Rivetingriffs.com (March 2010)
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MY MOTHER'S FATHER'S SONG
Minerva Road / Davinor Records 600977
CD TRACK LISTING (click song title to listen to track)
1. Viva la Vida (G. R. Berryman, J. M. Buckland, W. Champion, C. A. J. Martin) (3:47)