I clearly remember the first time I heard Neil play. I was listening to a broadcast from Vancouver by Paul Horn’s group and wondering who the bass player could be. I’d heard about a great young bass player from BC but I couldn’t remember his name. All I knew was that this guy could really play. Eventually they announced his name and, of course it was Neil. Soon after that Neil moved to Toronto and we wound up playing together in countless situations. Most notable were gigs with Sonny Greenwich, Moe Koffman and a collective ensemble called JMOG. Later on we played together with George Shearing’s Quintet.
There’s a level of musicality in Neil’s playing that makes playing with him a very relaxing and enjoyable experience. He has such a complete understanding of the music it’s as though there’s nothing at all that could ever be a problem. He’s also an artist and a serious composer and Anna’s Song, which he wrote for his wife, is one of my favourites of his tunes.
I knew about Reg Schwager long before I ever got to play with him. He was pretty young when he arrived on the scene here in Toronto. He knew a lot of songs and he quickly became known for his ability to play pretty well any tune in any key.
The first time we played together was in Banff in 1984. I was teaching at the Banff Centre and Reg was one of the participants. I remember running into him after lunch one day and he said “Hey Don, want to play some tunes?” I said “sure” and we found a room with a piano and we were all set to go. I asked him what he wanted to play and he answered “One Morning in May in D”. I couldn’t believe how much stuff he had together. First of all he had a time feel that was as strong as anyone I’d ever played with and his knowledge of harmony was amazing. We played for about a half hour before classes started up again and I knew right then and there that I wanted to work with him when we got back to Toronto.
That was a long time ago and since then we’ve worked together in almost every conceivable situation from duo performances to George Shearing’s Quintet to The Hamilton Philharmonic with Diana Panton.
Reg and Neil are two of the finest musicians I know and I’m honoured to have them playing with me on this CD.