By Terry Pender
WATERLOO Ont., Wednesday, April 8, 2015 —- The last time Richard Whiteman was on stage at The Jazz Room he played the double bass, which he picked up 10 years ago, but this Saturday Whiteman leads his trio from the piano bench.
Whiteman plays with Ted Warren on drums, and Kurt Neilsen on bass. After decades of gigging and recording, Whiteman has a solid reputation as a straight-ahead artist of the highest calibre. The music starts at 8:30 p.m. The cover: $16.
“Every time I play, I play stuff I feel like playing at the time, with people I want to play with,” Whiteman said in an interview with New City Notes.
“There are a couple of things of mine that I will be playing,” Whiteman said. ” It sounds uninspired at first, but mostly it is going to be standard kind of material, standard songs, or songs from the jazz vocabulary.”
Straight-ahead jazz. Plain talk. Great music.
“So you will be able to recognize what I am playing, and be able to judge me along with the greats, find out whether I am creative or any good,” Whiteman said. “I am just having fun, and trying to play music at the highest level.”
Whiteman teaches piano at York University. He used to teach in the jazz programs at Humber and the University of Toronto. He has released seven Cd’s as a jazz pianist, and one CD, his last one, as a bassist. Whiteman bought his first bass when he was 44, took a few lessons and started practising.
Eight years later he went into the recording studio with Reg Schwager on guitar, Amanda Tosoff on piano and Morgan Childs on drums. He released his first CD as a jazz bassist in 2012 – “On Course.” At a time and age when most musicians are doubling down on their first instrument, Whiteman was learning, and practising a new instrument, becoming good enough to gig and record.
With the exception of jazz giant Don Thompson, few jazz musicians have reached that level of excellence on both the piano and bass. And he’s self-deprecating about his achievements with the bass.
“I do gigs on it, most of the jobs on my bass are my own construction because if I waited for other people to hire me I might not work as much, so just to give myself ice-time,” Whiteman said.
Whiteman has released CDs of solo piano, and as leader of trios and quartets. He is viewed as one of the best jazz pianists on the Toronto scene. The musicians who played on his eight Cd’s are a who’s-who of the best, including: Perry White on saxophone; David Occhipinti on guitar; Mike Downs, Neil Swainson and Brandi Disterheft on bass; Joan Obercian, Joe Sumner, Barry Elmes and Sly Juhas on drums.
Whiteman loves playing with Warren on the drums.
“Ted Warren has a great history of being a great drummer since his student days, playing with Boss Brass, Mike Murley and many other groups,” Whiteman said. “I have certainly hired him for many gigs over the years. He’s a friend and every time we play together I know it’s going to be fun”
Warren is the artistic director of the Grand River Jazz Society and books almost all of the Friday and Saturday-night acts. The other sideman on the Saturday night gig is Kurt Neilsen on the bass. After graduating from the Humber jazz program, Neilsen quickly established himself as versatile and busy gigging musician.
“There is nothing to put on the headline, it’s just Richard Whiteman playing music he wants to play with people he wants to play with,” Whiteman said.
And nobody needs a better reason for coming to Saturday night’s show.