Eric Darius,
Night on the Town
(Higher Octave, 2004)

To be fair to Eric Darius, I am not sold on jazz. It's not a sound I tune into on a regular basis, but I am a seeker and thought it was high time for me to gain some insight into this art form.

I was hesitant, but committed and slapped the Night on the Town CD into my drive. The first thing it wanted to do was put some files on my computer. Well, that didn't impress me much. So out came the old portable CD player, and though the sound wasn't great, I did have a listen to the saxophone of Eric Darius and thought, OK. A few days later I listened again but still couldn't find a groove to fit it into that would give it some context in my life. When and where could I make it fit, when would I give it some time and be able to enjoy it?

Yesterday my son called from somewhere and he needed a ride home. First thought: I'll come get you; second thought: there go two-and-a-half precious hours of writing time; third thought: my son is much more precious than any writing I could do.

Fourth thought: grab a CD (only two left to do) and let's see if Eric Darius can survive this ride.

Not expecting much, I put the CD in my new two-month-old automobile CD player and put the pedal to the metal. Now this is January in Atlantic Canada and there's not a whole lot of cruisin' going on at this time, but Night on the Town was super, super music for a solitary long haul up the Atlantic coast.

The point of all this personal rambling is that I had deliberately not read his bio and album info until after connecting with his music. And I was reading it this morning and it said "In 2001, Darius released his debut album Cruisin'. ... The inspiration for the album started when I was just 14 and dreaming of when I could buy a car," he stated.

I was moved. Now he's 21 and he's been composing and playing ever since. The album is full of rich tones, saxophone that moves you all the way. The first cut is a beautiful, dashing tune that brought the sun out on that dull winter's day -- the absolute musical equivalent of a "Joy Ride."

"You're So Fine" is a sultry-warm song with a mysterious waltzy attitude that not many 21-year-olds could pull off, with a vocal version and an instrumental version for your preference (bet you can't chose just one). "Let's Stay Together" is sweet and cozy, even-tempered and true with teasing vocals at chorus time. "In the Pocket" is a jaunty and cheerful getting-to-somewhere you like to be; "Love TKO" brings another dimension to the saxophone, a dreamy, soft quality. And so it goes.

There's no doubt Darius is a versatile, very memorable player-composer, and the whole package is so much more than I ever expected jazz to offer. There are no low-down, moody pieces; even the softer ones are uplifting.

His experience shows and he's made the most of it. He's been playing since he was in his pre-teens and over the last few years played the Apollo in New York, the Clearwater Jazz Festival, the Umbria Jazz Festival and the Vienne Jazz Festival.

No doubt the backing of experienced musicians adds finesse and sparkle to the album, but his strength as a musician-composer is so obvious I'm sure it won't take others long to find their way to his repertoire. There's Gary Grainger on bass, Jay Rowe on keyboards, Kevin Prince on percussion, Andre Webb on drums and Robert LeGrand on guitars helping make this something I can listen to again and again.

Isn't life a wonderment to explore?

- Rambles
written by Virginia MacIsaac
published 5 February 2005

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