Lovely listening but no easy answers




Terra Hazelton and Her Easy Answers
Herman’s Jazz Club October 26, 8:00 pm
Terra Hazelton, vocals
Nathan Hiltz, ukelele, guitar
Kelby McNair, drums
Bruce Meeko, bass
Patrick Boyle, trumpet

Reviewed by Jennifer Messelink

We sometimes forget what a vast country Canada is, but Terra Hazelton reminded us how far she had to come from Toronto, in her Ford Escort, to get here, to Herman’s Jazz Club. Hazelton, along with her musical partner Nathan Hiltz and local musicians Kelby McNair, Bruce Meeko and Patrick Boyle, performed a fabulous selection of 1920s jazz combined with distinct expressions of Canadian culture.

The multi-talented Hazelton is described by some as a Renaissance woman; she is a Canadian singer, Genie-nominated actress, and radio personality originally from B.C. Now a staple on the Toronto jazz scene, she leads her own band ‘Terra Hazelton and Her Easy Answers.” Victoria was the final stop on tour to promote her new recording “That’s All,” a trio album recorded live off the floor, and as she explained, the most sentimental recording she has done.

This is for all the broken hearts out there.

Hazelton is at home when singing love songs. Her powerful, sweet and growly vocal range perfectly combines old-school jazz with a modern cynicism. Speaking of her repertoire of love songs, she explained, “I can’t afford therapy, so I do this.” The first song of the evening “I’m Confessing,” by Louis Armstrong began with Nathan Hiltz on the ukelele, accompanied by an easy drums and walking bass. The ukelele was a popular standard instrument during the jazz age, and Hiltz played it with style and depth. Throughout the 1920s, the ukelele was popular with musicians and amateur players, higher pitched than the guitar, less resonant but with a light, transparent sound. Hiltz moved easily to the guitar on the popular songs “You’re Driving Me Crazy, and “Trouble in Mine.” The ensemble (who had never played together before Friday) communicated playfully with the audience and each other.

Hazelton’s original song “There’s a Cry,” based on the Canadian poet Robert Service’s poem “The Lure of Little Voices,” expressed her Canadian voice. The solo guitar, and folk-like character, was distinctly Canadian, but the dissonance and jazzy chords at the end were unique to this ensemble. She spoke highly of the next song “Keeping You in Mind,” written by Mary Margaret O’Hara, an established musician, songwriter and sister of SCTV cast member Catherine O’Hara.

Humorous and sarcastic with a sweet disposition, Hazelton is at ease performing and fun to watch. Throughout the evening she expressed her hatred of love, in a tone that was a bit sweet and a bit salty. She asked if anyone in the audience was in love and was shocked when some answered yes; allegedly, Torontonians don’t believe in love. The Ballad “Am I Blue?” moves through minor keys to end with a bright timbre on a major chord. Does Hazelton really hate love? The repertoire she chose said it all. Although she confessed that she is “not a therapist, just a sad, sad girl,” I think that, like the rest of us, she would rather have heartbreak than nothing.

Jennifer Messelink is a Victoria writer