Don Bradshaw

The bass is never suited to the meek, and Don’s approach is anything but, thanks to years of intense pursuit and onstage training with Bob Stroup’s Edmonton-based jazz groups of the late 70s and early 80s--back in the days when one could still play jazz six nights a week, hosting guests and touring heavyweights the likes of no less than Charlie Rouse and John Hicks to name but a couple. Work with others like Mark Murphy and Diana Krall followed. Don and vocalist Rhonda Withnell stepped up to the plate to offer their memorable take on the double bass and voice duo with their CD “Once Was”, released in 2004, which continues to receive airplay.

But Don's world isn't just about jazz.  

In addition to maintaining an active freelance career, Don leads Don Bradshaw's Big Idea - a jazz trio with a mind of its own, and can be often found in an eclectic trio with singer Rhonda Withnell and guitarist Mo Lefever.  Don also a member of jazz-rock power trio The GeoMetrics.  He is an alumnus of a diverse assortment of bands ranging from bluegrass with Jerusalem Ridge, the eclectic electro-acoustic quartet Möbius, celtic-rock band Celtic Fusion Illusion, r&b-flavoured Any Wonder, original power pop with Café Gurus, and the River City Big Band.

 

The GeoMetrics

Bill Damur – Flute, Guitar

Don Bradshaw – Bass Guitar

Gord Graber - Drums 

The GeoMetrics is what you get when three musicians come together and mix a wide range of influences and experiences into a mélange of electric musical interpretations.

Flautist/guitarist Bill Damur and bassist Don Bradshaw were part of the electro-acoustic band Möbius, who released their debut CD “Served” in 2005. The GeoMetrics start where Möbius leaves off; the band is pared down to an electric trio with Don and Bill plus Gord Graber on drums. Their music is best described as rhythmically and harmonically adventurous jazz/rock, wholly original, with elements drawn from European and North American flavours. The jazz/rock label doesn't prevent this adventurous trio from musical exploration far from traditional sources, and the musical experience for Gord, Don, and Bill remains, in the final analysis, an ongoing journey.

Bill has been active for many years in Edmonton's music scene, performing, writing, arranging and directing music that encompasses the medieval to the avant-garde. Active in jazz during his university education, Bill founded the very first regular live music weekly program at the University of Alberta’s remodelled Powerplant. This platform gave local jazz guests an opportunity to be an integral part of the university's community, and set the climate for easy and enthusiastic support for Edmonton's jazz writers and players. Bill has been constantly invited back to supply local, original jazz at our city's various festivals. Among his other duties and projects, Bill continues to write, perform, and support the philosophy that local jazz is as good as anywhere found today. The GeoMetrics are another avenue and outlet for his enthusiasm for Edmonton's creative music climate.

The bass is never suited to the meek, and Don’s approach is anything but, thanks to years of intense pursuit and onstage training with Bob Stroup’s Edmonton-based jazz groups of the late 70s and early 80s - back in the days when one could still play jazz six nights a week, hosting guests and touring heavyweights the likes of no less than Charlie Rouse and John Hicks to name but a couple. Work with others like Mark Murphy and Diana Krall followed. Don and vocalist Rhonda Withnell stepped up to the plate to offer their memorable take on the double bass and voice duo with their CD “Once Was”, released in 2004, which continues to receive airplay.

Gord started playing professionally in fusion bands in his native Winnipeg thirty years ago. Since graduating from MacEwan University’s Music Program, he has been performing jazz under the leadership of some of Edmonton’s finest musicians including Charlie Austin, Don Berner, Craig Brenan, Pierre-Paul Bugeaud, Bobby Cairns, Jerrold Dubyk, Thom Golub, Shelley Jones, Terry McDade, Brett Miles, Jamie Philp, Bill Richards, Daniel Schnee, Robert Walsh, and Wes Yaciuk. Since 1998, Gord has been a member of Celsius – an ensemble known for its eclectic approach to improvisation. Their record Moving Pictures was released in 2014.

The GeoMetrics – electric!

Don Bradshaw's Big Idea

Mo Lefever – Guitar

Dan Skakun – Drums

Don Bradshaw – Bass

Don Bradshaw’s Big Idea is a jazz trio with a mind of its own. Bassist Don Bradshaw, guitarist Mo Lefever, and drummer Dan Skakun mix a wide range of influences and experiences into a mélange of jazz, funk and other musical flavours. They are all bandleaders, and between them they have also played with a who’s-who of international and local artists such as Charlie Rouse, Diana Krall, Mark Murphy, John Hicks, Big Miller, P.J. Perry, Tommy Banks and Bob Stroup.

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The bass is never suited to the meek, and Don’s approach is anything but. This great drive and swing is present in Don’s bass voice any time, from experimental to straight ahead, the strings pulled hard, the intonation divine and the ideas fresh. In 2004, Don and vocalist Rhonda Withnell stepped up to the plate to offer their memorable take on the bass and voice duo with their critically acclaimed CD “Once Was”. 

Guitarist Mo is particularly inspired by some of the great musical pioneers of the seventies, such as Joe Zawinul, Weather Report, Roland Kirk and Stevie Wonder. Current favourites include the likes of Prince, and the always evolving Medeski, Martin and Wood. Mo’s primary focus of late is refining her own take on jazz / funk fusion. Her CD “Unposed” includes everything from tasty arrangements of classics that Mo has truly made her own, to some fresh and saucy original tunes.

Drummer Dan returned to Edmonton in 1996 from a two year stay in New York preceded by seven years in Montreal. Dan obtained degrees from McGill University (Montreal) and from the Aaron Copeland School of Music (NY). Out East, Dan was fortunate to be able to study with all sorts of wonderful people such as Jimmy Heath, Sir Roland Hanna, Joe Morello, Kenny Washington and others. Dan has oodles of influences from drummers such as Elvin Jones and Philly Joe Jones to bands such as The Police and Yes.

 

Rhonda Withnell and Don Bradshaw

In the world of Jazz music one finds a broad palette of instrumental combinations. From the Big-bands of Basie, Ellington and Miller, the strings of Charlie Parker, the Chamber jazz of Miles in the 50s to the solo Saxophone recordings of Lacy and Parker in modern times. Every combination brings with it its own set of musical complexities and performative challenges but it is the duo instrumentation that is arguably one of the most daunting.

The Jazz duo occupies a unique shelf in the historical record collection of the 20th century; from the pairings of serpentine harmonic/melodic heavyweights such as the Bill Evans and Jim Hall recordings, the loung-y stylings of Joe Pass and Ella Fitzgerald to the full-on, headstrong power of John Coltrane with Rashid Ali, the duo has always been a remarkable achievement in expression by confronting an unsettling notion of something missing. Is it the bass? the drums? the piano? The bold presence of sound made bolder by a surprising absence of sound.

If the duo is at root a challenging artistic perch, then within this category there must likely be none more bombastically unlikely than the combination of one singer’s voice with one acoustic bass. It is an ensemble that requires its devotees to be at the highest level of personal comfort and musical security, a song that, when sung, is fundamentally stripped of all trappings, all historical underpinnings of orchestration and gloss, the phenomenological reduction writ large and put on display before your very ears as if to say, “here is the song the way it was originally conceived, the way it appeared in the composer’s head before it found the conductor’s score and/or the performer’s hands”.

The voice with bass duo might have a small presence in the pantheon of classic jazz recordings but it has a high bar level. The duet settings  that have paired Helen Merrill with Ron Carter and Sheila Jordan with Harvie Swartz are the most notable; it could be that those greats are four of the few who have been bold enough to accept this chamber ensemble challenge. It is now time to add another pair of names to this list, Canadian vocalist Rhonda Withnell and bassist Don Bradshaw have stepped up to the plate to offer their memorable take on this approach.

Both of the voices that make up this duo are strong enough to swing, sway and swagger through the rockiest of terrain and tender and giving enough to make it all seem so easy. After all, who wants to listen to difficult music that sounds like it was all that difficult to play?

Don Bradshaw is the quiet giant in this outing, a personal voice soft as a quiet country morning but possessed with a virtuosic control over the instrument that is frightening as a mid-winter bear, hungry for retribution. The bass is never suited to the meek, and Mr. Bradshaw’s approach is anything but thanks to years of intense pursuit and onstage training with Bob Stroup’s Edmonton-based groups of the late 80s and 90s--back in the days when one could still play jazz six nights a week with a large band, hosting guests and touring heavyweights the likes of no less than the great Charlie Rouse and John hicks to name but a couple.

This great drive and swing is present in Don’s Bass voice anytime, from experimental to straight ahead, the strings pulled hard, the intonation divine and the ideas fresh. It is of course this mastery of approach that makes it possible to walk confidently alongside of the great, quixotically light and somehow still smokey voice of Ms. Rhonda Withnell.
Few singers out there possess the ability to go from Blossom Dearie to Aretha Franklin in a breath span, but here is one. Rhonda makes the playful more jubilant and brings longing to the sad, mournful if needed but never morose, campy if need be but never mocking. But this is what comes of a singer as inspired by Shirley Horn as by Leslie Feist. This openness to the entirety of a language is what makes or breaks modern performances, just how much is one willing to make their own out of the vastness of what is available? Apparently for this pair the answer is quite a lot thank you very much.

The CD of nine varied, creative and confidently played tracks known as Once Was features a gorgeous bass tone. (It is sure to go down in the pantheon as a benchmark production values if you care about such things.) And it is upon this bed of thickly transparent chording, walking, and grooving that Ms. Withnell spins her yarns: alternating between wordlessly breathy and lyrically sweet, always traversing smoothly and with joyful confidence over the chasms in between.

The world should wish for more pairings like this one, performances that allow the completeness of the instrument to be heard, stripped down but somehow bigger for the exposure; like reveling in the majesty of a Baroque church spire that has been too long obscured by the flat facades of the cityscape around it. Let the walls come down and revel in the splendor of Rhonda Withnell’s voice and Don Bradshaw’s double bass.