Gig Review: Montreal Jazz Guitarist Sam Kirmayer With Special Guest David Hazeltine

Jazz Guitar Life thanks Norm Marier for taking the time do this review and special thanks as well to his partner Mila for the photos…all are greatly appreciated – Lyle Robinson


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Montreal has a long history of New York City jazz greats making the trek up north and across the border to play with the city’s more established musicians. We can trace this tradition all the way back to Charlie Parker playing in Montreal with local musicians, such as Paul Bley.

The tradition continues to this day with the Invitation Series being held at Montreal’s Upstairs jazz venue.

Montreal-based guitarist Sam Kirmayer invited the very well-respected New York based pianist David Hazeltine. My reference to Charlie Parker’s visits to Montreal is all the more relevant considering Hazeltine’s clear connection and influence with Parker. History repeats in life and art.

In conversation before the first set, Kirmayer explained that Hazeltine is a jazz player and educator that he has always respected and was deeply honored to have him as a guest for the first of the three gig invitation series.

Sam Kirmayer – Photo by Mila

The first tune of the set began with “Alone Together”, a very appropriate selection given Hazeltine’s late flight coming up from New York. Kirmayer played duo with veteran bassist Ira Coleman. It’s jazz after all, so expect the unexpected.

Hazeltine and Montreal veteran drummer Andre White arrived, just in time to settle into the old jazz standard, “Get Out of Town.”

Kirmayer and Halzeltine had clearly been learning each other’s originals as they settled into a Hazeltine original, “Blues Like”, followed by Sam’s original, “What Could Have Been” (a discreet reference to a certain election, we’re told…).

“Prelude To A Kiss” provided the ballad portion of the set followed by “Cedar’s Blues”, the Cedar Walton standard.

In his soloing, Kirmayer plays one coherent statement after another, spinning lines of improvisation that a listener can follow through the chord changes. Montreal has produced great jazz guitarists who honor this tradition and art form, such as Peter Leitch, and Kirmayer is following in this path and finding his own way.

The closing song, “High and Low”, a Kirmayer original ended the set. The minor tune is reminiscent of Peter Bernstein and his legendary guitar, organ, drums trio. Kirmayer’s album of the same name honors the guitar, organ, drums format and it is well worth a listen.

As a lover of straight ahead jazz guitar playing, the evening was an absolute delight and I look forward to hearing Kirmayer’s work as he moves forward.

A little taste of Sam’s wonderful playing 🙂

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Norm Marier has been a jazz guitar aficionado since he discovered the art as a teenager growing up in Montreal in the nineteen-eighties. He was admitted to Vanier College’s music program as a guitar major in 1982, studied with local jazz guitar veterans and played in small venues. Despite having become a CPA, he remains a lover and student of the art, almost 40 years later.

If you would like to support Jazz Guitar Life please feel free to buy me a coffee or two 🙂

About Lyle Robinson 353 Articles
Lyle Robinson is the owner/creator/publisher and editor of Jazz Guitar Life, an online magazine dedicated to the Jazz Guitar and its community of fine players worldwide.

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