Leaning over her upright bass, her long brown hair draping her face, Jodi Proznick, guest of the Amanda Tosoff trio's regular Wednesday night gig at The Libra Room on The Drive, swings with a joyful feeling and aplomb through "You and the Night and the Music." Between sets, the venue's publicist, Joée, introduces us and, stepping out onto the sidewalk into the cool air, I ask why she chose Foundations, released on Cellar Live last October, as the title of her first album as leader.
"First of all, because the bass is the foundation of any ensemble, it made sense for a bass player's album to be called Foundations. My husband's on the album, pianist Tilden Webb, and the drummer I've been playing with for — my goodness probably 14 years — Jesse Cahill. We went through university together, and he also is my sister's partner and boyfriend- — and then the tenor saxophone player Steve Kaldestad has been Tilden's best friend since they were in high school. So it's also relationships with people, and we're all coming from the bebop tradition of playing music. It's foundational, but that's the springboard to fresh and new music-making — our own writing and taking tunes that meant something to me, i.e., the Joni Mitchell tune and the Peter Gabriel tune, and doing something kind of new but ultimately our approach is coming from the foundations of jazz, of the tradition."
Jodi was raised in White Rock. "Music was very much a part of our house. It was just what we did. We put on albums and danced around and played piano and sang in the car. My father was a music teacher my high school music teacher, actually. My sister, my brother and I, we all went through his music program out in South Surrey. And my mom, she was the one, when we were young, singing with us and dancing with us and encouraging us to enjoy the art-making, enjoy movement and enjoy our voices. We're all musicians so, obviously, we got the bug early."
Proznick studied under Michel Donato and others at McGill University and returned with her new husband to Vancouver in 2000, lured by the beautiful sounds of the Vancouver bands they saw passing through. She's now on faculty at Capilano College. "I love my students up there," she says, and her enthusiasm spills out of the classroom. "We're all in this together. We all just want to make beauty in the world. I think more people should be out there making art, whatever it is. Let's invite more people in rather than exclude them." It's a philosophy embodied by jazz greats. "They invite you to the music. That's what Ray Brown did for me when I was 13. That's also what Scott LaFaro did when I listened to him play "Autumn Leaves" with Bill Evans for the first time. As a listener, no matter who you are, when you're witnessing that, you know it's happening."
On the bandstand, she says, "You're doing what you can to serve the music, trying to figure out the moment the best. If I'm playing a swing tune, I'm just trying to swing as hard as I can. It's not about me — ever. As a bassist, you're an accompanist most of the time. That's how I feel. A bass can be a unique voice and have a leading role, which is a wonderful way to write for the bass, but I think that, for me, I like walking. I like playing four quarter notes in a row, and there's a lot of joy in that for me and it led to all this other stuff. But that's my personality, too."
Proznick won the General Motors Award of Excellence in 1993 and the Galaxie Rising Star at the Vancouver festival in 2004. This July, she says, "We're going to Montreal to win another GM and another Galaxie, hopefully." The group has planned tentatively to embark on a 17-date cross-Canada tour in November, and, after teaching at the Comox Valley Youth Music Centre's Pacific Jazz Workshop July 3 13 with a final concert on the 14th, Jodi Proznick will return home to spread a little joy in our neighbourhood.
Article originally appeared in VLM: Vancouver's Lifestyle Magazine, July 2007.
Gary Barclay is a Vancouver-based jazz writer and broadcaster. His On The Town column appears monthly in VLM: Vancouver's Lifestyle Magazine. For a free print subscription to VLM log on to vlmag.ca.