Canadian Jazz Collective: Septology – The Black Forest Session

Canadian septet featuring local stalwarts Lorne Lofsky and Neil Swainson mixes muscular hard bop with melancholy balladry


Under the co-leadership of trumpeter Derrick Gardner, guitarist Lorne Lofsky and, tenor Kirk MacDonald, this up and coming septet includes Virginia MacDonald (Kirk’s daughter), clarinet, Brian Dickson, piano, Neil Swainson, bass and Bernd Reiter, drums. Recorded at the famous MPS studio in Villingen, Germany during their successful European tour last year, and virtually unknown in the UK, they appeared at Ronnie Scott’s, and returned there this 13 May.

Kirk MacDonald explains that the rationale of the CJC was as a grouping of musicians “with a similar aesthetic, who approach the music with . . . respectfulness of each other’s personalities”. He said: “It’s the idea that the whole should be greater than the sum of the parts.” The eight original compositions on this debut CD (there are only six on the high quality vinyl LP) are by Gardner (three), Lofsky (three) or Kirk MacDonald (two).

The rhythm section of Dickinson, Swainson and Reiter is appropriately propulsive or relaxed as required, while Virginia MacDonald more than keeps up with her father and his colleagues. The opening track – Dig That! – has a powerful solo by Gardner, followed by the idiosyncratic clarinet of MacDonald, and the authoritative tenor of her dad. On a pensive Silent Voices, they gently evoke the mood of the title. Less successful is Lofsky’s nod to Monk’s Well You Needn’t (Waltz You Needn’t) which never recovers from a stilted start. But Terre De DuSable, a Gardner original, allows every member of the collective to stretch out.

Irritatingly, the track numberings (and timings) on this CD version of Septology do not always correspond with those on the promotional copy I originally received. The additional titles are to be welcomed. Highway 9 (a Lofsky original) is performed at a gently loping tempo with rewarding solos from Dickinson, the pianist and tenorist MacDonald. The concluding One Thing Led To Another, a Gardner original, has an impressive introduction from its composer, followed by a lyrical Lofsky and a cogent and extended solo from bassist Swainson.

MacDonald père is quoted as saying: “We all thought this would be a great idea and that the chemistry of the co-leaders’ playing and writing styles would work very well musically.” It does. That said, it would be good to hear this Canadian collective interpreting staples from the Great American Songbook.

Dig That!; The Time Being; Waltz You Needn’t; Silent Voices; Highway 9; Shadows; Terre De DuSable; One Thing Led To Another (50.52)
Derrick Gardner (t, flh); Lorne Lofsky (g); Kirk McDonald (ts); Virginia MacDonald (cl); Brian Dickinson (p); Neil Swainson (b); Bernd Reiter (d). MPS Studio, Villingen, Germany, 8 May 2022.
HGBS Blue Records 2017