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August 9, 2005

Jazz Bassist John Hyde

Written by
cindy mcleod

One of the bright lights of Canadian jazz is bassist John Hyde. As a freelance player, John moves around genres with great ability, but his jazz contributions are by far the longest list of his credits. John is a tasty and dynamic player, he has superb intonation and the uncanny ability to produce exactly what the sound and composition requires, aside from his excellent reading skills, he lays down a solid groove and is extremely musical in his approach. John also listens, which is part of what makes him so wonderful to work with. By that I mean that he listens intently to the music and players he’s performing with, paying both respect, but he also listens to the masters, which is a distinction among all great players, for the influences that have been memorialized on recordings are our finest guides.

Aside from being one of the busiest guys around performing his many gigs, John is also an educator for the Jazz Diploma Program at Mount Royal College, the University of Calgary and University of Alberta, nurturing a whole new generation of jazz musicians. He is a quiet and humble man, but his contributions significant, he’s played a huge role in the development of the scene in Western Canada, from working as Artistic Director for the Calgary International Jazz Festival, as a board member of the Calgary Musician’s Association, and as a returning jazz adjudicator for the Juno Awards. If there’s a new and possible avenue to grow the jazz idiom on a business level, you can always count on John to offer his expertise, energy and insight. It’s people like John who help to make things better for us all.

As a vocalist, I love to work with John, for he lays down the rhythm, is unwavering about the time, and he knows the material inside and out. I’m not the only one, he�s the bass player of choice for visiting artists such as vocalists Sheila Jordan and Jay Clayton, and instrumentalists Roswell Rudd, Julian Priester, and Randy Halberstadt to name just a few. This guy swings like nobody else, but he can just as easily produce a funk feel or latin groove with the same finesse. I particularly love his bow work, all too rare in bass players these days, adding a dimension to the composition and sound that is lyrical and lush. I’m told learning to play with a bow is like learning another whole instrument, but it’s one of the most exciting aspects of the bass that it can be such a dynamic instrument, and John is a true master at it.

I was very impressed with John’s work in the studio on his duo recording with Ralf Buschmeyer Manic Thematic, a superb recording of original material in the vein of Charlie Haden/Pat Metheny. This recording is often in my CD player, for it’s inspiring, gentle, stimulating, elevating, and oh so musical. I love music that soothes me, and I don’t mean that it’s lazy or insipid, rather that it’s beautifully crafted and well thought out, offering harmony that seems to align with the power of the universe. Not to mention these two gentlemen have a deep rapport that clearly comes across in this recording.

If you’re ever in Calgary and want to hear the best of the best, make sure to find the gig that John is playing, I guarantee you will walk away feeling lifted to another plane, your spirit and heart filled with the joy of beautiful jazz.

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