Ten Albums, Ten (Local) Heroes

I recently wrote a piece for italia.allaboutjazz.com.  It was originally going to be about the 10 CD’s I’m currently listening to.  I decided to do something slightly different.  Below is what I wrote:

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It is a pleasure to share with you 10 albums that had a significant influence on my music!

These lists are difficult to compile; I’ve listened to hundreds of albums and artists over the years.  I’m sure you would recognize many of them: Erroll Garner, Keith Jarrett, Fred Hersch, Coltrane, Miles etc.  But I thought it would be more interesting to list albums and artists that may be unfamiliar to you.  After all, I’ve also had many local, Canadian influences over the years.

Furthermore, compared to the superstars, local artists are underappreciated.  But they’re equally talented, equally deserving of recognition, and equally vital to the proliferation of artists and art.  This list pays homage to my local, Canadian, jazz heroes.

Kenny Wheeler – Flutter By, Butterfly (Soul Note Records, 1993).

Kenny Wheeler has spent most of his life in the UK, but his origins are in Canada.  Many of my Toronto heroes are admirers of Kenny.  Thus, I fell in love with Kenny’s music while studying with my heroes at the University of Toronto.

Doug Riley – Freedom (Duke Street Records, 1990).

Unfortunately, I never met Doug.  Thankfully, after hearing him play at the Montreal Bistro in 2005, I bought this solo piano album.  I loved it so much, I transcribed and learned all the music.

(Can’t see the video?  Click here)

Kieran Overs – Quartetto (Unity/Page, 1995).

The musicians on this album are heavy weights based in Toronto – Kieran Overs on bass, Alex Dean on sax, Brian Dickinson on piano and Ted Warren drums. They play and record in different combinations in Canada and all around Toronto.  As a student in Toronto, I would get to hear them play all the time

Kirk Macdonald – New Beginnings (Radioland Records, 2000).

Kirk has had a profound influence of me; he’s a master performer and educator.  I studied with him while at the University of Toronto.


Brian Dickinson – Live at the Senator (Jazz Inspiration Records, 1995).

I listened to Brian obsessively in my teens; I can still hear how he influenced my music today. Top o’ The Senator was a popular jazz club in Toronto; it closed in 2005.  Some of my best memories of the Senator are hearing Brian’s trio play with Jerry Bergonzi.

Ingrid Jensen – Here On Earth (Enja Records, 1997).

Ingrid is based in New York City, but has Canadian roots.  I first encountered Ingrid in my teens, when she was adjudicating at MusicFest.  I don’t remember where I bought this album, but I remember listening to it repeatedly!

Oscar Peterson – Canadiana Suite (Limelight Records, 1964).

Oscar’s name is very recognizable, but I can’t neglect my first jazz influence!  Oscar’s Canadiana Suite was one of my first jazz records; I listened to it so much I was probably humming it in my sleep.


Nancy Walker – Luminosity (Panda Digital, 2000).

Nancy was one of my first jazz piano teachers at the Humber College Community Music School.  This album was released in 2000, when I was studying with her.  She was the first teacher to show me the importance of discipline while practicing.  I now give some of her exercises to my students!

Rob McConnell – Rob McConnell Tentet (Justin Time Records, 2000).

Rob McConnell is best known for leading The Boss Brass.  Rob’s tentet is a scaled down version of that band.  Musicians like Doug Riley and Rob McConnell had a tremendous impact on the Canadian and Toronto jazz scenes.

Pat LaBarbera – Deep in a Dream (Radioland Records, 1999).

As a teenager, I would make an extra effort to hear Pat play at the local clubs.  Pat’s Coltrane tribute (with Kirk and Brian) was – and still is – not to be missed!


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