Groovin' with the Deborahs
Many moons ago, a trio of jazz musicians banded together to play some straight up standards. Although their initial aspirations were relatively straightforward and by-the-book, something odd happened along the way. The piano player, Dafydd Hughes, traded in his piano for a electric keys and the occasional bit of laptop noodling , Chris Banks put down his upright and picked up an electric bass, and drummer Roger Travassos exchanged his brushes for a pair of sticks. They abandoned the standard repertoire in favour of original instrumental pop songs and added Paul Mathew on guitar. And that's the way they all became the Deborahs.
Recently, I got to spend a few minutes chatting with Hughes, the Deborahs' man behind the ivories, about the philosophy that drives the band. He said they're out to do something different than one would expect from jazz musicians playing rock tunes (Herbie Hancock's LP The New Standard comes to mind as a perfect example of what you can usually expect). The Debs don't want to say "Hey, look at us, we're playing pop songs like jazz tunes!" They just want to write some good solid grooves they can use as vehicles for collective improvisation as a natural extension of the pop form.
Hughes is of the impression that this is an attitude unique to the Toronto scene, a vision shared with other local bands like Exitman and the Worst Pop Band Ever (of which Hughes is also a member). The goal is to remove the layers of self-reflection and abstraction between playing pop tunes and playing jazz. The result is a groovy instrumental mĂŠlange of styles that can get some serious head nodding happening.
If you'd like to find out for yourself what the Deborahs are all about, they're playing the Rex Hotel (194 Queen St West) Thursday, January 3, 2008 at 9:30pm.
Photos by Javier Lovera
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