Adrean Farrugia is striking while the ivories are hot.
The jazz pianist appears with drummer Ernesto Cervini and bassist Jon Maharaj this Friday, Sept. 3 for the TD Niagara Jazz Festival’s In Your Own Backyard Dinner and a Show. The gig at Shady Acres follows a week spent tutoring youth at the Interprovincial Music Camp in McKellar, Ontario.
For those who missed the concert, it’s available online Saturday, Sept. 4 at 7:30 p.m., at https://niagarajazzfestival.com/events/in-your-own-backyard-online-edition-adrean-farrugia-trio/
One day back from the camp and on his way to the Stratford Summer Music Festival to play with trumpeter Jens Lindemann, a member of the Order of Canada and professor at UCLA’s Herb Alpert School of Music, Farrugia calls while on the road.
“It’s great to be back playing live,” he says. “I think we all have that mentality, performers, club owners, festival organizers, we’re trying to squeeze in as many things as we can because things feel a little tenuous right now.”
Though he says he’s not booking too far ahead, his September includes gigs at the Rex Hotel and the Jazz Bistro in Toronto, as well as a date in California, his first time playing in the U.S. since the pandemic began. He’ll be scheduling
those in between his responsibilities with the music faculties at the University of Toronto and both Humber and Mohawk Colleges.
As well, he’ll be hitting the recording studio with bassist Roberto Occhipinti and drummer Larnell Lewis. On top of all of that, he’s also packing up his Hamilton home in preparation for a September move back to Toronto.
Busy times for sure. But Farrugia loves it. Especially the live gigs in front of audiences happy to be out enjoying jazz once again.
“It’s a big reminder about how meaningful all of this is,” he says. “There’s a special kind of energy when performer and listener are in the same place. It creates this feedback loop that is so important.”
Like many musicians, during the pandemic Farrugia shifted to online concerts, including one in May, 2020 for the TD Niagara Jazz Festival’s Live, Love, Jazz series.
“It’s great that we are in a place where technology allowed us to offer these online shows,” he tells The Local, “but there’s nothing that can replace the experience of playing in front of a live audience.”
Farrugia is about as versatile a jazz pianist as is possible. He’s performed or recorded with the likes of Ernie Watts, Larry Carlton, Tom Scott, Bob Brookmeyer, Randy Brecker, Molly Johnson, Jane Bunnett, Kenny Wheeler and Pat Labarbera.
As band leader he has released four albums, the most recent 2018’s Blue Dharma, a duo recording with American saxophonist Joel Frahm. Featuring five original compositions and two covers, it’s a collection that shows off the melodic interplay between sax and piano, with the two long-time collaborators both inspiring and challenging each other on each track.
Farrugia and Frahm are both core members of drummer Cervini’s band Turboprop, a sextet that won the 2020 Juno Award for Jazz Album of the Year (Group) for their 2019 release Abundance. They’re known to be an energetic, electrifying and innovative combo in the vein of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers.
“They are two of my oldest friends,” Farrugia says of Cervini and Maharaj, who make up his trio this weekend. “And they’re two of the very best in the country. We’ll be featuring some of my own music for this show, and probably some other well-known compositions.”
Farrugia has become a mainstay of sorts with the TD Niagara Jazz Festival, having appeared in the region on many occasions and in a variety of configurations. He’s thankful to be invited back to Niagara.
“Juliet (Dunn) and Peter (Shea) have done a lot of stuff for the music scene,” he enthuses. “They’re amazing. They have single-handedly generated a music scene in the area, and have provided musicians with some great opportunities to play.”
Asked when he might record the follow-up to Blue Dharma, Farrugia expects that this month’s burst of activity might provide the catalyst.
“I’m hoping that the momentum builds,” he says, “and it will inspire me to write some new music so I can eventually record some new material.”
This Friday’s concert takes place literally in the backyard, at Shady Acres, located on Arthur Street in St. Catharines. Tickets for the VIP-exclusive dinner and show are $99 + HST, and are available in limited quantities.
As well, groups of up to six can reserve an entire tent for either $529 or $559. A three-course dinner is being provided by Giganti Events and Catering. The performance will proceed rain or shine.
For tickets and information, visit niagarajazzfestival.com.