CRAZY DOG IMPETUS FOR JAZZ ALBUM,
WATERLOO— As a songwriter, Barry Elmes was highly productive during his year long sabbatical from teaching jazz at York University and the result of all that productivity is a new CD, “Dog’s Breakfast.”
Though the British term means a complete mess, a real jumble, this reference describes the eclectic nature of the music.
“Each song is quite different, a wide variety,” he said. “Like a dog’s breakfast.”
The term dog’s breakfast came to him from a cartoon illustration of a dog’s stomach content, all the junk that Rover gobbles down in a day including crayons, toys, bones and homework.
“The instigation for this was a poster beside my bed, ‘Dog’s Breakfast,’” he said. “It puts me in a good mood for the whole day, it makes me laugh.” Then he adds “and I’m a dog maniac,” meaning he really loves dogs but sadly, only has one at the moment and she is a pretty wacky canine which matches the levity of the poster’s image.
Crazy dog on the poster, crazy dog at his feet, crazy dog on the CD cover, it’s the perfect trifecta for a creative guy like Elmes.
The nine-track recording by the Barry Elms Quartet will be released at the Jazz Room on Saturday night and in his usual comfortable style, Elmes said he will be talking directly to the audience, telling them stories about the music. Chances are good the subject of dogs will pop up.
The Cambridge-born drummer has toured the world, recorded on more than 90 jazz albums and performed with such greats as Diana Krall, Dizzy Gillespie, Oliver Jones and Moe Koffman. He formed the Barry Elmes Quintet in 1991, recruiting the top jazz musicians in the country: Mike Murley on sax, Brian O’Kane on trumpet, guitarist Lorne Lofsky and bass player, Steve Wallace.
In his day job, Elmes is associate professor of music at York University and currently serves as the Jazz Area coordinator hence he was able to take a sabbatical to really concentrate on composing music for this album.
“Dog’s Breakfast” recorded on his Cornerstone label, is the band’s sixth release and its song titles are as eclectic as the music: “Terminal 2”, “Pierre Burton’s Pig” and on the cute side, “Little Sunflower.”
Like all the songs on the album, “Katie’s Blue” comes with a story.
Katie Malloch was the 40-year veteran jazz broadcaster with CBC Radio and it was the Barry Elmes Quintet that performed at her retirement party in 2012.
“She was a terrific supporter of Canadian jazz music,” he said.
The song “Right as Rain” struck him as a song title because it’s one of those expressions you hear all the time, a colloquialism “that means nothing” but to him, signifies happiness.
“Jazz was never the most popular music,” he admitted. “It’s always been a select group of people but there’s a large generation coming up with (access) to all that jazz education.”
Elmes began his drumming career long before he held a set of drum sticks.
“I was banging on stuff since I was born,” he said. “I used to rush home from school to play the drums.”
He learned by playing in youth bands in the 1960s as well as practicing at home and his long suffering parents were always supportive to the point where he devised a set of headphones connected to the television so they could watch their shows in peace when he practiced.
His first serious taste of drumming came while studying environmental science at the University of Waterloo, playing in bars on weekends.
“I knew then that I wanted to be a full time musician,” he said. “Just as I was finishing my last year, York was starting up its jazz program.
It was more than Elmes could resist so after graduating, he got a job working for a vacuum cleaner manufacturer for year, saving enough money to attend York.
“Since then, I’ve done an MA (masters degree) in music,” he said.
Though he’s back to teaching full time, Elmes and his band have plans to tour the new album which was first released earlier this month at The Rex, in Toronto. Their next show is Dec. 16 at the Old Mill in Toronto.
Barry Elmes Quintet will be playing at The Jazz Room Saturday.