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Fragments of a Memory

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Album Review

Some critics have dubbed guitarist Sonny Greenwich the most important Canadian jazzman, according to The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz. That may be somewhat of a stretch given the other jazz players from the country to the north, especially one Oscar Peterson. Nonetheless, Greenwich is a major jazz performer and composer. On this, his first album for Cornerstone, he continues his migration toward including compositions other than his own on the play list. But it's still his work that dominates this session. At the outset, some may be taken aback by the dissonance and strong rhythmic thrust. While listening patience is necessary, the rewards are great. Even though the music at times represents discord, Greenwich never lets the concept of melody disappear. "Fragments of a Memory" is cerebral, showing a classical bent with haunting melodies carried by Greenwich and Mike Allen on tenor sax contrasted against the darting drum breaks of Barry Elmes and the staccato piano of Don Thompson. Contrast this with "Fontainebleau," which flirts with a 3/4 time waltz tempo. In addition to Greenwich's long guitar lines, it features some excellent trumpet by Charles Ellison. Elmes, who seems to have been assigned the task of keeping matters on edge at all times, continues to lay down jagged beats and percussive shots across the bow of the music, à la Elvin Jones. The standard "Where Is Love" is an oasis offering respite during these serious proceedings. Kicking off with a slow chorus by Greenwich, Elmes jumps in, kicking off a swinging set of improvisations by the guitarist with major benefits provided by Thompson's piano. But the bulk of the music on the CD quakes with intensity, innovation, and invention, and is a major jazz happening.


Born: 01 January 1936 in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

One of Canada's top guitarists, the eccentric playing of Sonny Greenwich is always stimulating and usually surprising. He played locally in Toronto, appeared with Charles Lloyd in New York (1965), toured with John Handy (1966-1967), and recorded with Hank Mobley (1967). Greenwich came close to joining Miles Davis in 1969, settled in Quebec (he moved to...
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Fragments of a Memory, Sonny Greenwich
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