Ryan Oliver Quartet: Live in Vancouver

More than a Coltrane-influenced quartet date, this live record features Dee Daniels thrice

Ryan Oliver Quartet: Live in Vancouver
L-R: Neil Swainson (background), Dee Daniels, Ryan Oliver, Terry Clarke. Not pictured: Brian Dickinson. Still from video on artist's Bandcamp.

Victoria saxophonist Ryan Oliver, known for his work in Europe and especially Toronto with the Shuffle Demons, the Cookers, and more, recorded two nights at Frankie's last summer with his all-star quartet: Brian Dickinson on piano, Neil Swainson on pass, and Terry Clarke on drums. The resulting album, simply called Live in Vancouver, is a Trane-influenced session through and through with fine moments from all four of them, plus a featured guest.

The quartet wears the influence heart-on-sleeve from the first track of the record, "Wayfaring Stranger", a traditional song (check Rhiannon Giddens' version – I was bummed to miss her at the Chan Centre this year). We can answer the question, "What if the Coltrane quartet recorded this one?" The no-time intro is positively Trane both in style and tone. In the bright swing tempo, Oliver meets the crowd's gusto and hands it off to Brian Dickinson for a grooving, appropriately McCoy-tinged piano solo. To cap it off, the band goes into trading with drummer Terry Clarke.

In the Trane vein, the quartet goes on to play a faithful arrangement of "Equinox" and an uptempo-only "Lonnie's Lament", the latter of which opens with a solo expedition by Oliver – who outlines all the harmony well on only his saxophone. But this gig is not a Coltrane tribute: Dee Daniels elevates the set by fronting the band for three songs. First up: "Lonesome Lover", a bluesy waltz. The slight bleed between Daniels' and Oliver's mics is not a distraction but simply a welcome reminder that we are live.

Daniels' second vocal feature "Tryin' Times", by Donny Hathaway, opens up the lane connecting activist themes circa 1970 to the same efforts today. The easy-swinging arrangement has Daniels in great form, ranging from her soaring belt register to the low notes.

Oliver's original "Peaceful Warrior" is both the name of a yoga pose and a meditation that the saxophonist dedicates to Pharoah Sanders: a relatively short improvisational number. After that is "Corcovado" in the key of A-flat major to suit Daniels' singing; Dickinson's piano solo is brief but has a bold beginning.

"Canyon" has keyboard instead of piano. Neil Swainson is such a professional, having nothing to prove; we had no bass solos in sight until this tasteful one. The last track of the digital album, "Nancy with a Laughing Face", feels like a closer, which makes me believe that the talk-and-play outro was not grafted onto the end of this track but rather actually happened that way on stage. In this uptempo swing tune, the crowd loves the stop-time section, and you can feel the room's attention lock in on the piano trio while Dickinson solos.

Sheldon Zaharko's credit list gets another notch with engineering this live jazz recording, away from Cellar Music for a change; Live in Vancouver is out on John Kong's label Do Right! Records. The CD has a bonus track: Wayne Shorter's composition "Mahjong", which makes perfect sense coming from JuJu, the album that Shorter made with the Trane rhythm section. It's more of what the quartet brings through the main track list, including another climactic drum solo.

Frankie's will host the album release shows for the album recorded on the same stage last year: Clarke on drums will be here with Oliver to play this music on August 2 and 3, 2024 alongside Tony Genge on piano and Steve Holy on bass.

released May 3, 2024 / Buy CD & Digital (Bandcamp) / available on streaming