Music can bridge differences between people and bring them together under a common spirit. That’s the underlying vision of Symphronica.
A well-known Canadian jazz pianist and composer, Ron Davis is the quintessential renaissance figure: Originally trained in the classical tradition, he had always looked for an opportunity to combine his two loves in a hybrid setting, even while he was a practicing lawyer and later a professor of French linguistics at the University of Toronto.
The search bore fruit in Symphronica, now a 10-years-and-counting musical child of a creative mind that sees connections between conventional boundaries, with an intuitive way of connecting with the audience.
Last year, Davis’ jazz trio joined forces with the Windsor Symphony Orchestra to release the album “Symphronica”, a collection of original compositions and new arrangements of classics that harken back to the big band era of memorable tunes – but with a contemporary twist.
The record put Symphronica on the map. For some, it might have been the culmination after many years of work, but for Davis it was just the beginning. Shrink down that orchestra to a quartet, add a guitarist to form a jazz quartet, and a whole new world of possibilities opens up to you.
The chamber/club concert series has found a home at Lula Lounge, a venue that is expanding beyond its strong roots in Latin and classical music, and has been bringing in all sorts of classical and opera performances.
Last year’s four Symphronica concerts were eclectic; some featured new arrangements such as GAGA (a mash-up of Poker Face and an original classical fugue with the notes G-A-G-A), while others featured the unlikely Nagata Shachu Japanese drum ensemble, as part of the Lulaworld festival.
Each show was full of surprises, but it was wandering in search of its voice as a united series. It’s not easy to be rooted in two musical traditions that have very different ways of engaging audiences.
In this second season, there is a strong connection between the four concerts. Each night will feature guest artists who embrace the artistic possibilities offered by Symphronica to push their own music-making to new heights, and attract the audience who is looking for unforgettable musical encounters, regardless of genre.
The featured guests in the series are a force to contend with on their own. Rock guitarist and symphonic composer Jason Nett is a newcomer to Toronto, but a long-time arranger for Symphronica. He is already stirring things up with the Night Shift project, creating shows that feature alternative, classical, and pop music.
DJ Sam Pereira has collaborated with Davis through their mutual involvement with the Glenn Gould Estate to explore the artistic vision that Gould lived and breathed. Together, the two will be bringing that spirit back with Lady Gaga covers and video projects by Saul Lederman.
Guitarist Kevin Laliberté, the co-founding member of Sultans of String, met Davis when they were touring together. They encountered each other again by chance some time later during a gig Davis played at a Toronto restaurant. Laliberté joined in for an impromptu session, and it was a natural combination. Joining forces with Symphronica guitarist and music director Kevin Barrett, Laliberté and Davis form a powerhouse trio not to be missed by guitar fans.
Nagata Shachu brought the house to its feet at Symphronica’s season finale, and the ensemble is back again, introducing audience to an ancient art form that is rarely seen and heard.
Symphronica is an encounter with Ron Davis himself: A man with a simple and gentle demeanor off-stage, but whose on-stage presence betrays the intense love and curiosity he has for all that the world has to offer.
Except everything is conveyed through music; bridging differences between people in ways that language often can’t, and bringing them together under a common spirit.
That’s the underlying vision of Symphronica, and each performer onstage breathes and lives by it. The project is still evolving, but this is certainly an exciting moment to be part of the audience.
You can say later that you were there when it all started.