One thing I love with Jazz is that musicians who master it very well have a lot of fun playing. That enthusiasm is very contagious. It makes you smile, it makes you swing, it makes you enjoy the moment and the talent of these terrific musicians.

Jazz veteran JOHNNY O’NEAL, 58 years old, maybe isn’t a big name as other jazzman of his generation, but he should. His career as a sideman to Dizzy Gillespie, Ray Brown, Nancy Wilson, Joe Pass, Art Blakey and Kenny Burrell maybe overshadowed his own work, but he has earned the respect from many greats, from Oscar Peterson to Mulgrew Miller, who both appreciate O’Neal’s touch on the Steinway.

This man is pure joy to watch (and obviously hear) play live. The two musicians of his trio, bassman Luke Sellick and drummer Charles Goold, looked as happy as he was to play this beautifully crazy music with O’Neal. The type of musicians that play every note right, that know when to stay low profile and when to rise and shine.

All three of them had a constant smile on their faces all evening. I couldn’t verify, but I’m sure everybody at the Astral was too.

Johnny O’Neal is a funny man. He often laughs while playing, has fun doing musical jokes like faking to play some sequences. The two youngsters playing with him were talented enough to have the maestro’s respect and quick enough to jump in when and where the door was opened. O’Neil would simply point at one of them or grunt something and the kids were all over the place, happy to serve the song they were playing the best they could. And boy, could they!

I had the luck and pleasure of enjoying this great display of talent on a great seat, front row, at Denise and John’s table. I could see Mr O’Neal’s hands fly on his piano like spiders running on a wall… I could also enjoy Charles Goold’s drumming. Every hit on his cymbals and skins was very consciously delivered. I mark my words: EVERY strike. Beautiful, precise and subtle way of drumming.

jazz johnny o'neal drummer VDL 1

photo: Victor Diaz Lamich

Denise (who had seen Johnny O’Neal play back in the mid-eightees) and John were also in the mood to enjoy great music. Like Johnny O’Neal, I’m sure they had a great time at the Jazz Fest.

We’ll be back tomorrow – no doubt.

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About The Author

Nicolas Pelletier

Mélomane invétéré plongeant dans tous les genres et époques, Nicolas Pelletier a publié 6 000 critiques de disques et concerts depuis 1991, dont 1100 chez emoragei magazine et 600 sur enMusique.ca, dont il a également été le rédacteur en chef de 2009 à 2014. Il publie "Les perles rares et grands crus de la musique" en 2013, lance le site RREVERB en 2014, et devient stratège numérique des radios de Bell Média en 2015, participant au lancement de la marque iHeartRadio au Canada en 2016. Il dirige maintenant la stratégie numérique d'ICI Musique, la radio musicale de Radio-Canada.