Arts &
  Arts Culture Analysis  
Vol. 9, No. 4, 2010

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Robert J. Lewis
  Senior Editor
Mark Goldfarb
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Bernard Dubé
David Solway
Robert Rotondo
Marissa Consiglieri de Chackal
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Emanuel Pordes
Diane Gordon
Serge Gamache
  Arts Editor
Lydia Schrufer
Mady Bourdage
Marcel Dubois
Emanuel Pordes
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Tommy Emmanuel
John Stetch
Susie Arioli
Coral Egan
Diana Krall
Stacey Kent
Carol Welsman
Aldo Romano
Denzal Sinclaire
Madeleine Peyroux
Bireli Lagrene
Sonido Isleño
Provost & Lachapelle
Kevin Breit
Sophie Milman
Annie Poulain
Badi Assad
Donato & Bouchard
Ingrid Jensen
John Roney
Russell Malone
David Binney
Kurt Rosenwinkel
Mimi Fox
Voo Doo Scat
Coral Egan
Martin Taylor
Jordan Officer
Melody Gardot
Jean Vanasse
Yves Léveillé
Sylvain Provost
Louciana Souza
Patricia Barber
Jill Barber
Corrine Bailey Rae
2010 Montreal Guitar Show (Sylvan Luc)
2008 Jazz en Rafale Festival (Montreal) - Mar. 27th - April 5th -- Tél. 514-490-9613 ext-101 (featuring David Binney)
Montreal Jazz Festival 2010







Piano Keyboard


by Robert J. Lewis

Featured artist: CHET DOXAS


Sartorially dressed he is not.

Montreal saxophonist Chet Doxas mounted L'Astral's stage wearing a straight, no chaser shirt (think Kramer from Seinfeld), throwback Army & Navy styled pants and Brylcreem flattened hair. If the audience was doubtful over the retrograde 1950's look, there was no doubt about his very serious and revelatory playing and composing that draw their inspiration from one of the two major currents of jazz that characterized that fervent period. The conservative camp featured, among many, Dexter Gordon, Ben Webster and Stan Getz, who, despite the temptations of bebop – its madness and freedom – didn’t waver in their belief that the single note can emote as effectively as a cluster, and that the space between notes is of no less importance than the ones played -- and finally, speed ‘can’ kill. And while Doxas’s often haunting musical excursions are very much a product of the early 21st century, he owes much of his rich tone and considerate voicing to the names mentioned above.

For the occasion of his 2010 Montreal International Jazz Festival concert, which featured most of the tracks from his new CD, The Sea, Chet Doxas made it apparent from the outset that unlike many of the young guns out there he is not interested in challenging the laws of physics: how fast can you take the corner before losing control? For Doxas and his bolt-tight quartet, music is not a feat but a telling, which tells he has already arrived at an understanding of his art that belies his age: he only just turned 30.

Nonetheless, and for all the wrong reasons of which some are related to his low profile, Doxas is an acquired taste since it requires several listenings to fully appreciate the moods and spaces his music articulates. As we journey through the playlist, the music can be alternately moody, probing, ominous and even dark: sometimes a sudden increase or decrease in the weight and clash of the notes makes you feel like you're on a collision course with a stranger you're not quite sure of. In this respect, Doxas’s music faithfully depicts the hazards of finding one’s way in worlds spun out on constant change, and the sense of not belonging that perpetual change engenders. If there’s a temptation to compare Doxas to David Binney -- much admired by the band -- the analogy doesn’t take you far because Binney’s frenzied soloing aims at transcendence and grace, while Doxas wants to expose the world in all its hurting and contradiction – and leave you there. His music is a wake-up call whose endgame is the here and now that for bliss-bound Binney is only the beginning. It’s almost beside the point whether you like it or not because you will have already been affected by the spell it has cast, much of which is owed to his fellow musicians, most with whom he’s been playing since his high school days.

When it comes to suddenly investing music with unexpected depth and dimension, there’s no one who does it as naturally as his drummer Jim Doxas who, with five over-the-top taps on a closed high-hat or a spray of bullet shots on the rim of his snare, makes you aware of the tension, stretch and verticality of compositions that might otherwise stay the common course. As for the quartet’s guitarist, Ben Charest, he is not a game changer, a dimension divulger, especially on the CD where he plays subdued electric in the background, filling in well if not inventively. But for the live concert his soloing was more expansive, authoritative and impressively directional; and when on those occasions he matched the sax note for note the effects were indeed gratifying. Rounding out the quartet is the granite-solid play of Zach Lober and the unassuming telepathic interplay between him and the other musicians. Be as it may that his sound is very conventional – the familiar muted acoustic produced by the upright -- his sense of melody, superb punctuation and timely harmonizing with the sax significantly contribute to the many swerves and turns the music features.

Chet Doxas is all about mood and tilt; he opens up unfamiliar worlds that linger long after the last note has sounded. In his soloing, deceptively unspectacular, he exhibits an uncanny ability to develop and sustain an idea. He can be both tenacious and agile in wending his way around and through musical terrain that is often foreboding. He refuses the many shortcuts jazz offers – those grammarless outbursts vouchsafed by free-form or abstraction that are the stock and trade of musicians who, having nothing to say, try to say it all.

Compositionally, most of the tracks are based on a primary harmonic that doesn’t vary. Occasionally, the mood short circuits like a dry twig snapped off a branch and major catch-up is required, but for the most part, through his use of texturing and rhythmic variation, Doxas takes what’s there and turns it into a seductive voyage that leaves us wiser if a bit unsettled.

Especially in jazz, there is often a disappointing gap between live performance and the CD. The Sea falls significantly short of the live performance, the former resembling a domesticated creature, the latter that same creature thriving in its natural habitat – the concert venue. At L'Astral, the track “Blumen” was turned into an engaging, uplifting work that benefited from an invigorating Bad Plus feel. It was significantly superior to the studio version which the group didn’t know how to end, so they resorted to the cheap trick of volume fade out, which in my book constitutes dereliction of compositional duty. It is my fondest hope and prediction that Doxas will never do that again.

That being said, there is no need to consult the Oracle of Delphi to predict that big and better things are going to happen to Chet Doxas, and if his name doesn’t yet ring a loud bell outside the city of Montreal, it’s only because there is a necessary lag, especially in unsexy jazz, between the mature product and the painstaking cultivation of appreciative audiences.

With The Sea, Chet Doxas, who also composes classical music, announces his deserved candidature for a rendezvous at the International Dateline.

Photo©Marcel Dubois


John Coltrane
Miles Davis
Thelonius Monk
Charlie Mingus
Oscar Peterson
Charlie Parker
Dizzy Gillespie
Wes Montgomery
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