Fall 2006

CD REVIEW: Beginnings: Nimmons'n'Braid

By Stuart Broomer, Signal to Noise

Clarinetist Phil Nimmons and pianist David Braid must come close to representing the age extremes of the Canadian jazz mainstream. Nimmons, now 83, was a proto-modernist by the late 40s, then leader of the cool-school band Nimmons'n'Nine, and a pioneer of jazz education. A distinguished composer as well, he has had a career that makes it possible to overlook a singular feature: he's a genuinely great clarinetist. Braid is 53 years his junior, a musician and composer who has rapidly found favor among Canadas jazz conservatives. However, both these musicians can approach edges that are seldom touched in their more formal work, and their openness to free improvisation is evident in this concert recording.

It's not the radicalism that stands out (apart from the improvisatory methodology, the music is rooted in classical impressionism and early modernism), but the lyricism of these seven pieces named for the first seven letters of the alphabet (and notes of a scale). Nimmons has a gift for creating spontaneous and essential melody often from modal materials then burnishing it with a gorgeous liquid sound and an intense high register. For his part, Braid can delicately echo a phrase, reinforce a tonal center or surround the clarinetist's lines with a dense weave of recirculating harmonies. The result is a fluid beauty that can suggest Debussy or Stravinsky but which everywhere testifies to the subtle interaction that can arise only in improvisation.