Tom Daniels,
The R Months
(Touchdown, 2002)

Jazz, warm jazz.
I like the deep tones,
Russet, rusty, raspy,
Slipping and sliding over a river of mercury
That breaks into bubbles and clusters.

Those were my thoughts the first time I listened to The R Months. It's been a very, very long time since I've listened to music of this type. The artist, Tom Daniels, is "a 28 year-old guitarist/composer/singer-songwriter/improviser" and though The R Months carries eight tracks of solid, mature jazz/improv, he has a variety of musical styles up his sleeve. For instance, he also plays Celtic style accompaniment with Cape Breton fiddler Gabrielle MacLellan. He is an assistant professor of jazz studies and contemporary improvisation at St. Francis Xavier University (which is highly respected for its jazz program) in Antigonish, Nova Scotia.

I really didn't know what to expect. The first thing I noted was the absence of horns and in my books that meant we were off to a good start. (It's just that sometimes there's too much of a good thing.)

Daniels took the lead as guitarist, with Peter Herbert on bass and Jamey Haddad taking care of drums and percussion. The trio recorded together in Tedesco Studios, New Jersey, in 2000 and the result is very vibrant and robust. Everything is extremely sharp and clear. Each note is animated, formulated and coaxed out of a still, black void to hold, swing or shimmer.

Since my ear isn't attuned to this type of music, I couldn't find a rhythm. Instead, there was movement and flow through sounds that were rich and original. I listened for the Scottish sound in the "Thane of Cawdor," but couldn't catch it. I liked this track the best, though, and thought I understood its movement from military tones into a dream-like state.

I don't think you have to "like" jazz in order to appreciate this CD because the strength of composition and excellence in musicianship are really evident. It probably leans more to improv than pure jazz, though it's hard to draw a line. If you're already into this style you're sure to appreciate these seven instrumentals of such mature orchestration and the one vocal number by Dana Steele that was pretty and haunting at the same time.

- Rambles
written by Virginia MacIsaac
published 6 September 2003

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