Jimi James’ Jazz House Electric Passion Dance at Chill X

The Jimi James Fraser Sextet’s extended jams were a celebratory first set in Mt. Pleasant

Jimi James’ Jazz House Electric Passion Dance at Chill X
L-R: Gordy Li (adjusting sound board), Brad Pearson, Arvind Ramdas, Patrick Kao, Connor Lum, Jimi James Fraser

Jimi James Fraser played keyboards in his sextet billed as Jazz House Electric at Chill X Studio on November 15, 2023 with Gordy Li on electronic wind instrument (EWI), Connor Lum on alto saxophone, Patrick Kao on guitar, Brad Pearson on bass, and Arvind Ramdas on drums.

The Jazz House is a well-known home to many musician-tenants including several of these folks, located in Marpole in a big house. As for Chill X, I had played there the previous Wednesday.

I’m thankful that we had a great time at that show! That night, at first, I was a bit disappointed that I didn't get more people out to it. And when I first showed up to this show, it was no different: there were less than 10 people in the room. All we knew, from the soundcheck, was that it was going to be loud.

But more people trickled in over the course of the first set, which consisted of only four numbers, each of them well over 10 minutes long.

Thinking about each musician, Gordy on EWI was the gem – we didn't know he would be there until this week. Spencer Drody, who is a fixture of the Jazz House, was set to play trumpet before Gordy had to sub in.

Gordy spent most of the first tune trying to get the soundboard right, not only for his instrument, but for the whole band, perhaps. That's right: they did their own sound. I didn't do that last week!

But then, Gordy ripped into extended blowing that showcased his devotion to his craft at a young age. He was the most intense soloist of the group. He stood offstage out of the spotlight, practically just because there wasn't enough room for him on the stage that already had five people, but also giving a sense of mystery that I'm sure he was aware of.

Brad and Arvind locked in together. Brad danced on the groove with a smile on his face, his eyes closed, for a lot of the grooves. The first tune was an eight-note bass line that they returned to later; the second tune, just a two chord groove.

They played "Passion Dance" by McCoy Tyner from Tyner's classic 1967 quartet record The Real McCoy:

Jimi used keyboard sounds to pad out the mid-range of the ensemble and jump in behind Gordy's furious playing, and to communicate with Arvind. The drummer was the boss of the band, driving every groove and taking a long solo to the greatest applause of everyone's solos.

The guitarist Patrick was the most unassuming. He played tight licks and simple chords that could still sound eerie on top of what the other people were playing.

Connor played his alto into a delay effect on the microphone, except on one swinging number where he stripped it down to an acoustic sound. The six-piece band broke up into many of the different configurations within the arrangements: Connor on sax with the guitar trio, Jimi and Patrick with no horns, a moment of interstellar space with just Gordy and the drums...

Bill Clark jumped in on trumpet for the first set's closing number, and for a few tunes in the second set, which I didn't catch. By the time the room filled up with people over the course of the Jazz House Electric's extended jams, it became a celebration worthy of a hot summer festival set and not this cold night.

The gig's name pointed back to a special place that operates under the radar in our scene, but keeps its youthful fire burning. I guess this is where I need to confess – I've never been to the Jazz House. I wonder if I will, before the tenants must move and it gets demolished someday in the near future.

Chill X's weekly format will likely end after December; in the new year, expect the programming to narrow down a bit as the series adjusts to how hard it has been to fill the room regularly on Wednesday nights.