Pianist composer and arranger Brian Dickinson is possibly not as well-known in the UK as he should be. A native of Ontario, Canada, he is a two-time winner of the Juno Award. Juno awards acknowledge the artistic and technical achievements of music artists and bands in all aspects of music in Canada. Winners are chosen either by members of the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences or a panel of experts, depending on the award. The awards date back to 1970. Dickinson has been a mainstay on the Canadian jazz scene for more than thirty-five years.
I am only aware of Dickinson from his association with fellow Canadian and, of course, long-time British resident, the late Kenny Wheeler, which resulted in the album ‘Still Waters’ in 1999.
‘The Rhythm Method’, his eleventh release as leader, is a collection of ten original compositions and Dickinson is on record as saying that the instrumentation as well as some of the compositions are his homage to the cool music created by fellow pianist Lennie Tristano. He is well placed to do this having previously worked with another pioneer of the ‘cool school’; Lee Konitz. He takes his cue from the two saxophone front lines often featuring Lee Konitz and Warne Marsh adopted by Tristano. Here we have Luis Deniz, taking the part of Konitz, on alto saxophone and Kelly Jefferson exhibiting a somewhat gruffer and more powerful persona, somewhat reminiscent of Pete Christlieb. The opening track ‘Orion’, by way of a tribute to Wayne Shorter, allowing all to set out their respective stores.
‘Open Season’ follows, being a nicely paced piece which reminded me a little of the music of Horace Silver.
‘Bon Voyage’ is a very graceful sounding track which allows the rhythm section of Neil Swainson on bass and Ted Warren at the drums to exhibit their sensitive sides.
‘Moonshine’ is an altogether more complex piece of music and features some powerful tenor saxophone from Jefferson. ‘Tude’ is somewhat similar in approach.
The remaining five tracks constitute ‘The Rhythm Method Suite’ which allows all five men to doff their respective caps to the ‘cool school’. The trade mark of this type of music-making is the complex unison interweaving of the twin saxophones. I particularly enjoyed the suite, almost as much as I appreciated the tune titles. ‘Lennie’s Loonies’ features a lovely bass solo and a very self-assured Jefferson on tenor saxophone. ‘Trane Trip’ follows a similar format with more great bass playing. ‘Stepping Out’ features Deniz on alto saxophone to good effect. The prize for best song title has to be ‘It’s Hugh or Nolan’, following the format established earlier with more from Jefferson. The set concludes with ‘Raking Leaves’ with inspired piano playing from Dickinson, more fine alto and a neat drum solo from Warren.
All-in-all this is an enjoyable recording and a welcome reminder of an important but sometimes now overlooked period in jazz history.