The St. Thomas-Elgin Public Art Centre, thanks to the vision of curator Laura Woermke, has been the site of many exhibitions of visual artistic splendour.
On Friday night, the Ladd Quartette took to the STEPAC stage. The result was an exhibition of pure SONIC artistic splendour.
The Ladd Quartette plays a variety of musical genres including jazz, rock & blues with a consummate professional flourish, & their current line-up boasts some topflight musical talent:
Noel Lesperance • saxophone/keyboards
Guy Miskelly • guitar
Sandy MacKay • drums
Kim Ladd • bass
Copyright PhiLiP s. SchMidT
From the opening chords, a relaxed laid-back atmosphere was the order of the evening. Neither the band or the audience seemed to be in any hurry to get to the end of a song.
One of the great strengths of this foursome is the sheer scope & diversity of their repertoire.
They began with some delightful, up-tempo groove tunes. Then, all at once, they shifted out of gear. In fact, three of them left the stage altogether, leaving Guy Miskelly to serenade us with his enchanting acoustic guitar.
I found Noel Lesperance downright fascinating to watch. One minute he was enchanting us with his keyboard wizardry. The next, he was filling the air with a sweet jazz ambiance, courtesy of his saxophone. At one point in the concert, Lesperance laid his saxophone across his lap, let loose on the keys, then switched seamlessly back to the saxophone!
And then there was the drummer. Or perhaps you prefer the term ‘timekeeper’ or ‘percussionist’. Hey, whatever you wish to call him: Sandy MacKay, just like his bandmate, proved to be as entertaining to watch as to listen to.
For instance, while performing a classic Miles Davis number, Mr. MacKay kept time with a brush in his left hand and a drumstick in his right hand. On another occasion, he flipped the drumsticks end for end in his hands – like a cheerleader twirling his/her batons – & started tapping with the stubby ends of the sticks.
And I’ll tell you something else, too: These seasoned musicians exhibited a playfulness on stage that I found irresistible. Just as Kim Ladd would ‘decide’ what the band should play next, Guy Miskelly would play the opening riffs to ‘Sweet Home Alabama’, like he was trying to goad Kim into inserting that song into the band’s repertoire. And of course, we would all catcall Kim to go for it. This fun little musical ‘jab’ was repeated several times and never failed to produce laughter.Kim Ladd “eases” into his bass guitar solo.
Copyright PhiLiP s. SchMidT
Which leads me to a salient point that I wish to express about this band:
When Simon & Garfunkel toured in the 80’s, their intense dislike for each other was so palpable that it affected the audience, & it detracted from the overall enjoyment of the concert, regardless of the talent that was on display.
It was obvious to all on Friday night that the The Ladd Quartette enjoyed each others’ company tremendously, and it showed. It struck me that they were very collaborative, unselfish musicians.
Everyone got their chance to shine, but the soundscape produced when all 4 musicians combined their efforts was polished & tight, yet laid-back at the same time.
I loved how the band prolonged their intro when they returned to the stage after the intermission. This gave us time to return to our seats without feeling that we were ‘late’ for the second half.
And STEPAC kept a single unintrusive stage light directed at us so that no one was in darkness. This accentuated the informality of the evening, & minimized the professional distance between the musicians up on the stage & us in the audience.
The band entertained us thoroughly by jockeying between songs featuring the vocal talents of Ladd & Lesperance on the one hand, & the instrumental work of the musicians on the other.
Kim Ladd‘s closing remarks to us summed up the camaraderie that the band had built up with us over the course of the evening:
“Thanks for going with us on this journey into all these (musical) corners.”
When the lights finally went up and the show was over, a profound sense of satisfaction swept over me. I left the art centre with a saturated soul.
The Ladd Quartette made playing stellar music look easy. But hey, that’s what professional, gifted musicians do best: They make it look easy. And everyone left the art centre spiritually empowered as a consequence.
PhiLiP s. SchMidT
(ed’s note: thanks to Lauri Ladd for the drummer correction. The drummer was Sandy MacKay rather than Rodney Alexander)