Tyson Naylor Trio at Granville Island's Performance Works on Saturday, Feb. 23 at 12: 45 and 1: 30 p.m. as part of the three-day Winterruption Festival. Free admission.
Visit coastaljazz.ca/series/winterruption_2013 for complete schedule.
THE piano was doomed.
Battered out of tune, the blacks and whites had a date with demolition when fate, and a musical mother, intervened.
"My mom rescued a piano from an alternate school where they were going to have official piano-trashing day," recalls Tyson Naylor.
After a few hammers were replaced, the parlour piano with the bright sound made a fine addition to the Naylor household, and eight-year-old Naylor discovered the instrument that would turn into a lifelong passion.
"I played on that beater for probably five years," Naylor says.
The East Vancouver piano prodigy began with the building blocks of the blues before segueing into his favourite musical form.
Jazz, that musical marriage of precision and improvisation, was beloved by the Naylors. As a child, Naylor remembers his father ensuring his vacation days coincided with the Vancouver International Jazz Festival.
Like a tourist trying to see all a city has to offer in a single day, father and son would rush from performance to performance, drinking in the stylings of avant-garde, European jazz musicians.
"I was used to the sound of honks and squawks from a
pretty young age," Naylor says.
The Tyson Naylor Trio is scheduled to take the stage for two shows Saturday at Performance Works on Granville Island as part of Winterruption.
While most children tend to reject the musical influences of their mothers and fathers, Naylor says he was captivated by his parents' music collection, unearthing Professor Longhair, Dr. John, and piano jazz legend Thelonious Monk.
After graduating from high school, Naylor enrolled at Capilano University, back when it was a college, hoping something would grab him.
"I was told numerous times, 'You've got to have something to fall back on,'" he says.
He took classes in English, history and economics, seeing if anything would grab him half as much as music.
"It didn't really," Naylor says.
Over one year at Capilano and another at UBC, music seemed to be calling.
"If I have a song in my head or a rhythm, I'll keep time by putting my teeth together," he says. "I think I'd be doing that more often than not in lectures, kind of tapping away, hopefully not annoying my neighbours."
Naylor decided to look for a school where everyone had a song in their head and enrolled in the music department at Vancouver Community College. He quickly went from being a B student to an A student.
"I had very supportive parents so I wasn't being pushed hard to get a real job," he says.
Now playing regular gigs with independent musicians like Dan Mangan as well as his own group, Naylor has a real job.
The Tyson Naylor Trio released Kosmonauten last year.
Having recently returned to Vancouver after spending an extended period in Berlin, the bulk of the album was recorded in a single day at the Warehouse Studio in Gastown.
The music is wild and experimental, featuring Skye Brooks on drums and Russell Sholberg on bass, as well as a few appearances from clarinetist Francois Houle.
"Alee der Kosmonauten" is one of the album's highlights. The tune incorporates a range of divergent tones and emotional improvisation bonded by a simple piano riff.
"That's sort of the easy part for me is finding a melody or a riff," Naylor says, discussing his approach to songwriting. "Finding out what to do with it later is harder. I like to leave a lot of that up to improvisation."
Brooks' playing is particularly strong on the up-tempo "Book It." The piano and drums seem to swap roles at a certain point in the song, with snare and cymbals turning melodic and the ivories playing the part of percussion.
"Adrift" features some of the album's most peculiar sounds. Each member of the trio seems separate from the other two as the song begins, creating an effect like shards of a melody falling through space. Houle emerges at that point, along with a haunting melody.
"I like to have melodic fragments that sort of re-introduce themselves at various times," he explains.
The trio sounds assured throughout the album, confident in their collaboration no matter where the song takes them.
The recording process was nearly effortless, according to Naylor.
"We had a day in the studio booked, and just tried to lay down as many things as we could," he says.
Asked about the costs of recording in a studio, Naylor laughs.
"We weren't about to book another day anytime soon. I'll just leave it at that," he says.
When it comes to collaborators, Naylor looks for a specific physical quality.
"Big ears," he says. "The willingness to be very responsive in the moment."
Choosing personality over perfection, Naylor credits Sholberg and Brooks for putting their stamp on his music.
The Winterruption show is scheduled to feature a more electric version of the trio, with Naylor planning to try his fingertips on the Wurlitzer.
Despite an education in improvisation, Naylor prefers to rely on instinct when performing.
"I'm just trying to be there and react," he says. "Anything where you have to perform, the more you're thinking inside your head, the less successful you're going to be."