Review: Tykhonov Jazz Quartet

In Friday’s Waterloo Record.

Good news for music lovers with sensitive backsides: the Music Room has new chairs! Some of the old favourites, are still there but several of the most epic offenders have been replaced by brand new specimens guaranteed to give comfort to even the most delicate of derrieres.

Perched safely on my customary couch seat Wednesday night, I was well positioned to observe audience’s reaction to these ergonomic improvements as well as the evening’s performers, The Tykhonov Jazz Quartet. Both were warmly received.

The quartet, made up of local(ish) musicians Andriy Tykhonov (piano), Robin Habermehl (saxophones), Clark Johnston (bass) and Sean Habermehl (drums), presented a program of Tykhonov’s devising called Songs for My Father.

The idea was to group together songs that were about fathers or were loved by Tykhonov’s father who has recently died. The latter was quite easy to accomplish but the former & jazz isn’t exactly Ward Cleaver territory & was a much bigger ask. It was in this part of the program that things went off the rails slightly.

Song For My Father, Double Clutching and Estate, while all pleasant enough had little to recommend them aside from their, at times, tenuous connection to the theme.

Immediacy is the Music Room’s sleeved ace and it was the proximity to an unamplified bass and drum set that gave the evening an unusual resonance. Even from the opposite side of the room, I could feel the floor vibrating with every step of Johnston’s imaginative walks.

Another surprise was the sheer pleasantness of taking in a concert without the intellectual or spiritual burden of the Music Room’s usual repertoire. While chamber music does offer rewards worth chasing, it is not often just plain fun.

Shades of the customary hyperformality crept back in at the beginning of the second half when the snares buzzed throughout Tykhonov’s solo rendition of The Nearness Of You. The sound was certainly noticeable but didn’t really become a full-fledged distraction until sound engineer Stanley Lipshitz started rummaging around at the front of the room in an attempt to quiet the noise.

The majority of the pieces in the second half were composed by Tykhonov himself. A self-confessed fan of the Communist cotton candy jazz that was common during Tykhonov’s childhood, his aesthetic is one of unabashed happiness. The second tune, Chaplin, was a thoroughly jolly pastiche of the kind of music that usually accompanies a silent film.

One More Time took off at a blistering pace and even the most staid of audience members couldn’t help but have their toes tapping. Although I was a bit sad not to have a cocktail in hand to accompany the music, it was still 5 minutes of pure bliss.

Moe Better Blues, written by Branford Marsalis was a disappointment. It was conceived as a piece Marsalis could play with university students during masterclasses. While it is fit-for-purpose, the dull melody and flaccid harmony made gave the musicians little material with which to dazzle.

As an encore, the foolproof What A Wonderful World was an obvious and welcome choice. Like Rachmaninov, it’s terribly sentimental and yet it’s impossible not to be utterly beguiled after even a few notes.

For all the fun, the uneven programming left the evening with a feeling of unfulfilled potential. Tykhonov, Johnston and the two Habermehl’s are wildly talented musicians that play extraordinarily well together. As such, it was rather a shame to see them shackled with mediocre or even average repertoire.

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