One afternoon a couple of years ago, Calgary bassist and composer Rubim de Toledo was in his studio writing music for an upcoming show with Decidedly Jazz Danceworks.
From his apartment overlooking the Elbow River, he could see the rain coming down, hard, and lots of it. The flood risk was enough to make him pause in his work to move some of his stuff up off of the floor before returning to composing, before stopping once again to move some more things to higher ground, then sitting down again to write more music.
So it’s not surprising that the theme of water runs strongly through the music he worked on that day. De Toledo plans to release his third solo project The River on Feb. 21 at the Beat Niq Jazz and Social Club.
The River is also the name of a suite of three pieces on the CD and is one of the group of tunes de Toledo originally composed as live accompaniment to last June’s DJD show Tinge and Tone. De Toledo reassembled the same musicians from the live show for the recording sessions in September. The CD, he says, gave them an opportunity to revisit the music and to preserve it, but also to explore it in a different, more open-ended way and stretch out some of the musical ideas.
“It all has some kind of beat or feel that you can relate to. It’s accessible music for anyone, and it just happens to be jazz . . . it’s a good intro to what jazz is. It’s really diverse; each track is different,” says de Toledo, describing how the music’s origins in a live dance show influenced the music.
De Toledo moved to Calgary from Edmonton two years ago. He teaches in the jazz program at Mount Royal, continues to work on projects with DJD, including their latest show for High Performance Rodeo The Skyscraper, and plays frequently around the city with various groups.
Mummy expert Arthur Aufdeheide once said: “All knowledge is connected to all other knowledge. The fun is in making the connection.” Aufdeheide was speaking as a scientist, but his words could describe the musical career thus far of de Toledo as he draws from a variety of musical and artistic sources of inspiration.
As a first generation Brazilian-Canadian de Toledo finds inspiration in his Brazilian heritage, returning to Brazil yearly. And as a founding member of the Latin jazz group Bomba, he has also explored Cuban and Latin jazz music, making several trips to Cuba to study.
And his cross-disciplinary work with the choreographers and dancers of DJD over the past couple of years has kept him on his toes, so to speak. “Those dancers, they’re really good at what they do, and they’re really musical. They know exactly what’s going on and they’re very aware of the music. They demand a lot. So you have to produce and be ready.”
And even as a composer, Toledo hasn’t been content to work only with his main instrument, the bass.
“I avoid composing on the bass, because then I keep regurgitating the same things that are easy for me to play. So I’ll find other instruments, like the piano or guitar, and then when I have to go back to the bass, it’s challenging. I want it to be music. I don’t want it to be about an instrument.”
Joining Toledo for the CD release will be fellow MRC instructors Jim Brenan on sax, Tyler Hornby on drums, long-time colleague Chris Andrew on piano and Bob Tildesley on trumpet.
The River will be released Saturday, Feb. 21 at the Beat Niq, 811 – 1st St. S.W., (403) 263-1650. Doors open at 8 p.m. music at 9 p.m. Tickets are $15 at the door.