Legendary jazz pianist Thelonious Monk once said, “Writing about music is like dancing about architecture.”
Getting musicians to describe why a certain style of music moves them more than another can be just as challenging, but the members of Guelph band Valet have no problem explaining why they love jazz.
“Pop, especially when you hear all these new songs, is really all the same stuff, the same formula for writing the songs,” said drummer Andrew Schoettler. “I definitely lost interest in all of that a while back.”
Schoettler and his band mates embrace the freedom of the genre and pride themselves on maintaining the improvisational tradition of jazz. It is even reflected in the spontaneous nature of Valet’s origin and progress.
“I started getting in to Jazz because we all have the same teacher at Centennial CVI, Jeff Daniels,” said pianist Tristan Culbert. “I started on piano playing classical music. So, when I came to school the only opportunity to play piano was in the jazz band.”
Daniels is a veteran jazz pianist and music teacher with more than 30 years of experience jamming with and directing professional and amateur musicians.
“I think we can say that Valet wouldn’t be a thing if it wasn’t for him putting us together and letting us practice in his room when he is trying to work,” said Culbert.
It was during a Friday-night open house at the high school in February that Daniels inadvertently put Valet together.
“He said we need some people to show off what we have going on here,” said Culbert. “We had never played together outside the direction of our teachers in the jazz bands. We just started playing whatever we wanted.”
They didn’t realise at the time that they were auditioning for each other for a band they were yet to form.
“We were literally standing in the middle of the hallway and people at the open house were walking by,” said bassist Josh Collesso. “We had never rehearsed. I don’t even know the word for it, but it was so low budget.”
The creative chemistry was immediate and undeniable.
“It was cool how we were all communicating and knowing what each other’s next move was going to be while we were playing,” said Schoettler. “People gathered around and started listening to us play.”
Culbert pulled out his iPhone and livestreamed the jam on Instagram and before they knew it, they were a working band.
“The story behind the name is we were taking pictures and we were wearing what we wear for the performances and my dad said, ‘you guys look like a bunch of valet drivers,’” said Culbert.
They used the iPhone video of their first performance to convince the new owner at Manhattans, Julia Rewi, to book them but their actual first performance at Manhattans was another spontaneous event.
“Jamie “Giggles” Mitges invited us to sit in with him,” said Culbert. “That was the first time and we noticed the audience was really responsive. It was pretty sweet. People seemed to like it. I think there were even people that got up to dance.”
They draw guidance and inspiration from jazz legends such as Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Charlie Parker as well as many local musicians such as Daniels, Mitges, Nick Macerollo, Brent Rowan, Marc Mongrain, Dave O’Neil, Jason Raso and others.
A testament to Valet’s arrival on to the local jazz scene is that they are playing Manhattans Sept. 13 as part of the Around Town performances of the Guelph Jazz Festival that runs from Sep 11 – 15.
They continue to grow their repertoire and challenge themselves as jazz musicians.
“I find it the best genre of music to play because it is so enlightening,” said saxophonist Jakob Durst. “It is a form of expression. I don’t see it just as a song. It’s a way to express yourself every time. There is a great quote. ‘Jazz is the only music where if you pick one note it will sound different every night.’
For more information about Valet and other artists performing during the Guelph Jazz Festival visit: www.guelphjazzfestival.com