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David Braid: Algorithms

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Pianist and composer David Braid is one of Canada’s most creative and prolific young musicians. His own compositions combine a harmonic intricacy gleaned from his study of Western classical music with the improvisational tradition of American jazz. He has recorded seven albums with five different ensembles, garnering four Juno nominations. Currently, he is focusing on composing for solo piano and is releasing a solo album in January.

Braid was born in Hamilton, Ontario, and was drawn to jazz music through an unlikely series of events. When he was 16, he heard a Mozart composition on the radio which profoundly moved and inspired him. The following day, he borrowed as many Mozart scores as he could from his local library and began to study them fervently. He recounts, “I couldn’t find a work that didn’t amaze me in how perfectly balanced all the materials of the composition were laid out—like this artist had discovered an algorithm to turn out music with the perfect ratio between tension and release.”

Although he did not have formal composition training, Braid was hooked and began to compose music daily. His high school band teacher, seeing Braid’s fascination, said “you should play jazz because you improvise in jazz—as if you’re composing on the spot.” Although he knew nothing about improvising, or indeed about jazz, his passion was ignited.

Braid’s versatility is evident in his diverse discography. In his recent recording, Spirit Dance, he pairs up with the Canadian Brass, a world-renowned classical ensemble. The album highlights Braid’s compositional depth and sensitive orchestrations, from lush soundscapes to the minimalistic counterpoint of “Prelude for Two Voices.” As a bandleader, Braid leads a sextet consisting of some Canada’s top jazz personnel: Terry Clarke, Steve Wallace, Mike Murley, John MacLeod and Gene Smith. Other collaborations include Nimmons’n’Braid, with clarinetist Phil Nimmons, the Murley/Braid Quartet, with the multi-Juno-award-winning saxophonist Mike Murley, and the genre-defying Brubeck Braid, a partnership with American cellist Matt Brubeck.

Braid’s new release, Solo, shows his musicality and inventiveness at its most intimate. In Winnipeg, he’ll be performing work from this recording, but for part of his show he’ll also be teaming up with some of this city’s favorites—George Colligan on trumpet, Jimmy Green on saxophone, Curtis Nowosad on drums, and Steve Kirby on bass.

Braid is currently on faculty at the University of Toronto, giving instruction in both piano and composition. His website ( includes a number of essays on a variety of musical topics, which would be of interest to any music student or aficionado. Braid is an insightful, concise writer, and these traits are reflected in his music.

Copyright © 2011 dig! magazine.