I got word of this show well in advance, and having heard the vocalist do a quick number at the drop of a hat at another show, I made sure I was going to check out this night’s show.  I’m SO glad I did!

I arrived at 120 Diner on Friday, February 27, 2015, shortly before my 6:00 reservation and was given a choice of seating, as there were few people in attendance and seating options were plentiful.  Notably, there were “reserved” signs on the tops of several tables. Service was reasonably attentive in a well thought out arrangement which seemingly provided unobstructed views of the stage from every table.

I’m never a big eater when out in the evening, and 6:00 is especially early for me, so I ordered some basic fries. They were good, if a touch salty for my taste.  To the credit of 120 Diner, it did appear to be a good quality of sea salt rather than the basic “table salt” which I find particularly uninspired and distasteful.  As an afterthought, I decided to top up my full tummy with a tuna wrap.  It should come with a spiciness warning, which was too much for my taste; but I know many who would attack it with relish.  One of the most appealing things I found on the menu, and really more directly from the wait staff, is that there is a good selection of vegetarian and gluten-free options/alterations available.

Back to the stage  Two of the band members were setting some things in place as I was organizing myself at my table, and these two, bass and vocals, threw together a quick number as a sound check.  One member was not yet in attendance and, if that sound check song was anything to go by, when number three arrived and the show got underway, we were in for a good time.  And so, number three arrived and we prepared for the start of the show.

The three musicians on stage were Jordan O’Connor on bass, Christopher Weatherstone on tenor sax, and Ori Dagan on vocals.  Each of these musicians proved himself a master of his craft as the evening progressed, particularly considering that this was the first time all three had shared a stage.  The show proper (post sound check) started with a number I had never heard, “I’ve got the blues”, based on the instrumental “Lester leaps in” by saxophonist Lester Young, and later lyrics by bebop singer Eddie Jefferson.

Ori Dragon

Ori Dagon

Throughout the show, it became clear that the lack of a strong melodic lead in the instrumental allowed the rich bass/baritone voice of Ori Dagan to shine with exuberant improvisation.  Yet, instrumental solo sections in each song offered the opportunity to experience entirely individual takes on the melodic subject and variations.

Unfortunately, I found some of the instrumental solos a little lengthy, and perhaps excessive, occurring in every song, but that’s a matter of personal taste.  Overall, this  two-set show offered a delightful playlist ranging from one of my personal favourites, “You came a long way from St. Louis”, in an arrangement entirely fresh and unfettered, to the classic, “All of me”, sung half in Hebrew by request and off the cuff.  Also a jazz/ballad interpretation of the Beatles’ classic, “Yesterday” which shocked and surprised me in a most enjoyable way, to “It don’t mean a thing”, with an amusing homage to the recent recording by Lady Gaga with the legendary Tony Bennett.  Finally, the show closed off with a very jazzy rendition of “Sweet Georgia Brown”, which had some of the audience members singing along in utter abandon.

I had a chance to chat a little with vocalist Ori Dagan.  Not surprisingly, he listed as his influences a collection of the classics, Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald, Anita O’Day, Louis Armstrong, and Charlie Parker, to name just a few.  This young man was the winner of a CBC Radio 1 competition that named him “Canada’s Next Top Crooner”, and it’s easy to see why, with a deep, rich bass/baritone voice like the best silk velvet, and a vibrato that gave me naughty thoughts.  To top things off, the cherry on this sundae of entertainment is a lyrical jocularity and irreverence that enchants and entertains in the best possible manner.

I most highly recommend this show which is set to recur on the last Friday of each month – March 27, April 24, May 29) from 6:00 p.m. though 8:00 p.m. at 120 Diner, 120 Church St., Toronto.  As I mentioned at the beginning, there were “reserved” signs on several of the tables when I arrived, and the small crowd grew rapidly throughout the evening. I’d suggest calling ahead for a reservation at 416-792-7725.

Bass and Voice and Sax Jazz Show – 120 Diner, 120 Church St., Toronto





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