2022, Music

The Joe Policastro Trio Live at The Rex October 26, 2022

A few weeks ago, I was browsing Cover Me’s Best Cover Songs of September and I came across a fun jazz guitar cover of “Take on Me.” I liked it. Jenn liked it. So I followed the group on the socials and saw that they would be in Toronto in a few weeks.

I have a confession to make: despite being an avowed jazz fan for, oh I don’t know, at least 18 years or more, and living in Toronto for about 2/3rds of that time, I’ve never been to The Rex before.

Why not? The best excuse I have is that it’s a haunt of my high school best friend’s parents so, despite knowing its Toronto’s premier jazz bar, I guess I just associated it with them, rather than, you know, jazz.

It is now a pretty great regret that I’ve never been to The Rex. We sat in the second row (with no one in the first row) and the musicians were practically in our laps. I’m somehow who likes to watch musicians play and so the seats were just excellent.

Guitarist Dave Miller is a great player, he was doing all sorts of wacky things like string skipping while mostly remaining within conventional post-bop tonal language. (Mostly.) There were a bunch of influences from different non-jazz genres at play too, including surf.

Bassist and leader Joe Policastro is a great player. I know less about the bass so cannot really comment on his technique as much. He does sing while he solos, which reminded me of Keith Jarrett. Also, it was kind of funny that the crowd clapped after only one of his solos as if they didn’t know when they ended.

Drummer Mikel Avery is extremely fun and inventive. He was constantly changing his kit between songs and changing his sticks within the song. At one point he put a cymbal on one of his toms, which I’ve never seen before. But the real fun one was when he played his drink glass. During one song, he played an electronic device with a touch pad, producing an organ-like noise, but also used his hand to very the volume and give it vibrato.

They played a diverse set: one original, plus songs from West Side Story and South Pacific, plus a song from the Blade Runner soundtrack, covers of Bruce Springsteen and Lou Reed, and a (Brazillian?) composer I’ve never heard of.

I enjoyed the show so much I bought all their albums I could buy digitally and I’ve been listening to them today. (Sadly, I couldn’t find their debut album.) Listening them today, I can tell you that each performance was stretched out from the album version, featuring considerably more soloing. (That’s good.)

We enjoyed the set so much, we thought hard about sticking around for the second. But it was a school night and we had to walk the dog. If we could have planned it better, we would have stuck around. (They promised no repeat performances all week.)

Just excellent.

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