Convergence Review – Geoff Chapman

Toronto is a hotbed of talented sax players, but it’s unlikely that Ryan Oliver is on most top ten lists. That’s about to be remedied with the release of his debut disc. At first glance, you might believe that this session is just another hard-bop outing given his sidemen, a foursome of experienced performers – but you’d be wrong. Oliver, busy hereabouts in Toronto as well as gracing venues in New York and Amsterdam, is clearly an assured, first-rank artist with lots to offer. Originally from Williams Lake, British Columbia, the 28-year-old also manifests composing talent as well as playing with a warm, sweet-ish and slim sound fattened when necessary that suggests the approach of past masters but miraculously remains delightfully distinctive. His band comprises pianist Bernie Senensky, a man for all styles, huge-toned, sturdy bassist Duncan Hopkins, drummer Bob McLaren who delivers surprising finesse plus power and unsung trumpeter Jake Wilkinson, whose excellent bebop chops are well documented here. Six of the nine tunes are Oliver’s, and there’s Joe Henderson’s “Mamacita” on which he showcases a seamless flow of ideas, gliding effortlessly and generating thrills without going over the top. His “Never Forget” is a lovely, melodically-resourceful ballad, the catchy “Shorter Mornings” hints at Horace Silver and illuminates the leader’s breezy ideas as McLaren applies percussive flourishes, an approach also heard on the bustling “Rhythm”, Oliver’s notions blooming and contracting before sweeping into hard-charging swing, Senensky’s nonchalant poise hiking the satisfaction index.
Geoff Chapman – Coda Magazine

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