Tough-toned saxophonist Ryan Oliver got his masters south of the border, graduating from New Jersey’s Rutgers University in 2009. While there, he met and studied with a variety of jazz legends, including drummer Victor Lewis.
“Getting to know Victor Lewis was certainly a highlight,” says Oliver. “Victor is the drum teacher at Rutgers, and I was already very familiar with his work as he’s the drummer on a lot of my favourite records — Stan Getz’s Anniversary, Dexter Gordon’s Sophisticated Giant, just to name a few.” In addition to his stints with Getz and Gordon, Lewis, a professional since his teens, has appeared on dozens of notable jazz recordings, including ones by Chet Baker, Kenny Barron, J.J. Johnson, Carla Bley and Mike Stern. As an educator, his generosity of spirit had a profound influence on Oliver’s music.
“I was fortunate to get the opportunity to play drum/sax duets with Victor at his rehearsal space in New York on a weekly basis for about a year. It was an amazing experience. We would play through tunes, and I learned so much about phrasing, time and making musical statements, just from being around Victor and hearing him play and talk. He’s also a gifted composer, and we would play through some of his originals during the sessions … one thing that struck me the most was that Victor’s drumming would be so rhythmically strong and melodically clear that you wouldn’t need bass or chords to make these tunes sound. You can hear this depth every time he plays. When I left New York to return to Toronto, one of my goals was to bring Victor up here to play. I’m very excited to bring a musician of his stature to the city. These days it’s not happening as much, and I hope folks will take advantage of the opportunity to hear a real jazz legend. We’ll be playing some standards, some of my original compositions and some of Victor’s tunes as well.”
Catch the Ryan Oliver Trio with special guest Victor Lewis on drums, November 18 at the Trane Studio and November 19 and 20 at the Rex.