The Frankie's After Dark opening weekend

Two nights of Bud Powell and attentive audiences

L-R: Noah Franche-Nolan, Feven Kidane, Jodi Proznick, Todd Stewart (Frankie's After Dark).
L-R: Noah Franche-Nolan on piano, Feven Kidane on trumpet, Jodi Proznick on bass, Todd Stewart on drums at Frankie's After Dark.

Todd Stewart at Frankie's, 11pm to 1am

Frankie's After Dark launched this Friday and Saturday, May 6th and 7th, 2022 with Todd Stewart on drums, Noah Franche-Nolan on piano, Jodi Proznick on bass, and Feven Kidane as a featured guest on trumpet.

Previously, I shared this new series of late shows at Frankie's – which is booked and announced from now into July – in this free weekly article.

Here's what Todd told me back then about leading his first date at the venue and what he would play:

"Since Frankie's has such a nice sounding piano, I'm taking the opportunity to celebrate the works of my favorite pianist/composers of the Black American music tradition, particularly Bud Powell, who was the greatest composer of the bebop era, in my opinion. You'll hear some of of my original tunes and arrangements in there as well."

Promise delivered: it was a successful opening weekend that built up night-over-night.

The music

The set lists for the Saturday night were:

Set one

  1. "Un Poco Loco" (Bud Powell)
  2. "Parisian Thoroughfare" (Bud Powell); the two Bud tunes made for a solid opener with challenging, exciting arrangements. It set the mood and made you feel like New York after midnight.
  3. "Humpty Dumpty" (Chick Corea)
  4. "Any Way" (Todd Stewart), a Monk-influenced, blues-based tune where the band jumped to different tempos within one piano solo. I won't forget this arrangement for any time Todd plays the tune again in the future!
  5. "If You Never Come to Me" (Antonio Carlos Jobim), in A-flat major like the Elis & Tom Portuguese-language vocal version
  6. "Windows" (Chick Corea)

Set two

  1. "Oblivion" (Bud Powell)
  2. "The St. Vitus Dance" (Horace Silver), one of my favourites from the night, where Noah played a greasy solo that the audience cheered
  3. "Timkatu (ft. Feven Kidane)" (Feven Kidane), a powerful post-bop performance where Feven and Noah both let it all hang out; let's hear this quartet on a full set sometime!
  4. "The Star-Crossed Lovers" (Duke Ellington, Billy Strayhorn)
  5. "Crooked Creek" (Jon Cowherd), a tune from a hugely influential band on my cohort; it's the track we went back and wore out from their 2000 album, after wearing out "Stoner Hill" from their 2008 album

The event

Several musician-friends came to both gigs. I heard from everyone I asked that the first night was slower, but still satisfactory in terms of turnout. The second night felt fuller, though the back tables at Frankie's were empty.

Jodi looked quite happy throughout – despite using her energy wisely! – that she was surrounded by enthusiastic young jazz heads.

It's funny how in the main show at Frankie's, the venue declares a listening-room policy; but in Frankie's After Dark, it's not even necessary to make the declaration, because the audience is so literate and attentive.

One of the top functions of this new series seems to be an 'official' release valve for my friends to enjoy after they finish other gigs on Friday and Saturday nights. We haven't had that spirit here since 1969 1999, as far as I know, before Cory Weeds' Cellar became "Vancouver's sole jazz club". Not after midnight, not on this level.

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