photo by Elizabeth Shaw
photo by Elizabeth Shaw

In La La Land, Sebastian Wilder (played by Ryan Gosling) declared that “Jazz is dead” as he endeavoured to live a life similar to the underappreciated and hardship-ridden lives of the jazz icons he idolizes so much. But, contrary to this belief that jazz has to come from a life of darkness, swing vocalist Tia Brazda shows that contemporary jazz is alive and well. Rather than being preoccupied with repeating the past (like Wilder), Brazda’s latest album, Daydream, comes from a place of light, depicting an entirely new form of jazz for “these modern times”.

The album release concert was held at the Glenn Gould Studio, and was filled with lighthearted stories and cheerful music, echoing Brazda’s charismatic and friendly personality. The album launched to #1 on the iTunes jazz chart and brought her previous album Bandshell back into the top 10 again. Brazda began by thanking the audience for all of their support and dedication before launching into “Right on Time”, the album’s opening song, which is about embracing your current place in the world rather than getting bogged down in where you’re supposed to be.

Brazda embodies the “old-fashioned” elements of jazz, using a 10-piece band to back up her more positive tracks. Set highlights include “Shine” and “Cabin Fever”,  songs that helped establish her career as a contemporary jazz artist in between the hits off of her new album. Each Daydream song came with a brief description of what inspired Brazda to write it. Inspirations included a good bubble bath (“Moondust Baby”), the natural beauty of the Fraser River, (“Perfect Distraction”), or a love song which came to her head during two friends’ wedding (“Irreplaceable”). Daydream is a departure from Brazda’s previously self-dubbed “hyper” sound (though I would argue it’s more dixieland than anything), and her exploration into slower jazz paid off with the soul bossa of eponymous track “Daydream”.

In her breaks between tracks, Brazda’s stories about growing up downwind of the Molson Brewery in New Westminster, British Columbia, and working as an usher at Koerner Hall after moving to Toronto help further the idea that jazz musicians can come from any background. Brazda’s own introduction to jazz came from a high school teacher who identified that the grittiness of her voice was similar to jazz artists like Ella Fitzgerald, Dinah Washington, and Billie Holiday. Now, Brazda has the potential to become a similarly revered jazz singer, albeit from a different era. But despite embracing contemporary sounds and themes within her songs, Brazda is closely connected to the ideals of  “Old-Fashioned Love” — simplistic, technology-free meet-cutes with a vintage aesthetic. She refers to albums as records and dresses her hair in a way that wouldn’t be out of place in the 1940s.

This balance of new and old is what gives Brazda’s contemporary jazz such a unique combination of nostalgia and modernity. Daydream clearly shows a more exposed sound, one which flatters her vocals and caters to her emotional songs, a style that evokes the jazz singers Brazda aspires to emulate. Onstage, she is luminous as she carries on the tradition of jazz artists before her while remaining unique. Throughout the concert, regardless of whether you liked the music or not, it’s obvious that all Brazda can do is “Shine”.

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