Every musician that steps out on stage is looking for that performance, the one where all the players are so in sync with the vibe that the audience feels it, turning the show into an event. Nowhere is that more the case than with jazz, where getting into the groove is what it’s all about.
Having captured some of that magic during a 2010 concert at Kitchener’s Registry Theatre, saxophonist John Tank will be back at the venue Apr. 20 to celebrate the release of the album Jazz Live From The Registry.
As was the case two years ago, Tank will be joined by Bernie Senensky (piano), Jim Vivian (bass) and Ted Warren (drums). But don’t look for this to be a repeat of the show from the CD – “I kinda like to break it up,” said Tank on the phone from Manhattan, the place the K-W native has called home for more than 30 years.
In fact, he’s recently been incorporating parts of his entire repertoire – substantial given his decades-long love affair with the instrument – into his live shows. And, because this is jazz, spontaneity and variety are an essential part of the mix.
After some 50 years, Tank has no interest in getting into a rut. Songs long left unplayed are making an appearance. Others are constantly getting new approaches.
“I do have an idea about what we’re going to do,” he said of the Kitchener show, “I’ll be playing stuff from my first CD and through my last CD. I like to mix things up. And I want to keep the musicians interested, too.”
We can expect this to be jazz in the old-school style, in keeping perhaps with his experience recording with Charles Mingus. There’s lots of John Coltrane and Dexter Gordon to be heard in his playing.
That New York sound is a long way from those made by a five-year-old taking lessons on the Hawaiian guitar. He stuck that out for about a year, but it wasn’t until his teens that he came back to music lessons. He considered the guitar but was introduced to the saxophone through a friend, what would prove to be the defining moment in his musical career.
The first time he heard a saxophone played live, he was hooked.“After I heard the saxophone, it was story over. I saw the saxophone, and that was it,” he laughed.
His father had taken him to see a big band perform at the Kitchener Aud – all that brass was so much to take in. Later he heard a sax solo and knew he’d found his musical calling.
“I thought to myself, ‘wow, that has got to be the greatest sound.’”
Starting on a $3-a-week rented saxophone, along the way he encountered local high school music teacher Michael Bergauer, the legendary mentor for many local musicians. Bergauer had an eye for real talent and knew from early on that Tank was special, having him concentrate on the tenor sax. With Bergauer’s support, he began to play in local dance bands. It did not take long for Tank to realize that he wanted to make his life in music.
Beginning in 1961, he sought out the great Canadian saxophone player and teacher Paul Brodie, himself a student of Marcel Mule, director of the Paris Conservatoire and considered the world’s greatest classical saxophonist.
Following two years of intensive study with Brodie, Tank attended Boston’s prestigious Berklee School of Music. He returned to Canada and played the Toronto scene in the early ’70s before settling in the heart of the jazz world, New York City, and has lived in Manhattan ever since.
While jazz’s fortunes have ebbed since he first started, New York still remains the center of the jazz world. The golden age of jazz has gone, but there’s still a determined group of musicians and devoted fanbase, despite whatever might be getting play on pap, erm, pop radio.
“The worse music gets, the more people can appreciate something with substance,” said Tank of jazz’s continued influence.
For him, there’s no option but to pick up the sax and make music.
“If I don’t play, I feel like something is missing in my life.”
He’ll certainly be playing for all to hear Apr. 20 when the John Tank Quartet takes to the stage at 8 p.m. at the Registry Theatre, 122 Frederick St., Kitchener. Tickets are $25, available at the Centre in the Square box office by calling 578-1570 or toll free 1-800-265-8977 or online at www.centre-square.com.