Ryan Driver

Ryan Driver is a singer, songwriter, and improvising musician based in Toronto. Besides his own projects, he has sung and/or played guitar, piano, flute, analogue synth, melodica, and/or his simple homemade instruments (thumb-reeds and streetsweeper bristle bass) with Eric Chenaux, Sandro Perri, Jennifer Castle, Baby Dee, Doug Tielli, Alex Lukashevsky, Devon Sproule, Kim Barlow, Thom Gill, Michelle McAdorey, John Southworth, Mary Margaret O'Hara, and many others. Since 1999 he has also led The Ryan Driver Quartet / Quintet / Sextet, playing monthly performances in Toronto. Favouring the ballads of the American Jazz Era, as well as most recently those of composer and songwriter Stephen Parkinson, Ryan plays piano and sings in this group featuring some of Toronto's  most accomplished and most experimental musicians (Martin Arnold, Brodie West, Rob Clutton, Nick Fraser, and Michael Davidson).

Ryan always sounds like he has come a long way to sing you a song. His voice contains vast North American distances, long cold winters, the endless ugly monotony of the country, which can be broken and dissipated only by beer, love and music. He is always arriving too late or too early, and what he sings about is always to be found somewhere else, somewhere where he's not. Even when he sings jazz standards, the music isn't nostalgic or pessimistic, in fact you can't tell whether he's talking about the past or the future. Soft, sad, determined … the fact that he's here now, singing these songs is, for those that need such things, a sign of great hope.

- Marcus Boon

Ryan's Driver on his upcoming record The Ryan Driver Quintet Plays The Stephen Parkinson Songbook:

"The Ryan Driver Quintet Plays The Stephen Parkinson Songbook is the first official release by The Ryan Driver Quintet on Tin Angel Records, a peculiar lounge-jazz group that has been performing monthly in Toronto for 14 years. The goal of this group has always been to breathe a new kind of life into popular ballads from the 1930’s, 40’s, and 50’s. We play only the slow songs, which we fill with odd improvisational meanderings, tenderness, and doorways into other worlds. The members of the group have much experience playing experimental jazz and improvised music in many contexts but together we make a point of bringing the focus back to the essence of song form and infusing it with exciting strangeness and fire. So many exciting things have, of course, been done in the past with this particular repertoire but the five of us do all know a little something about that history and we do each have ideas as to how we might stretch things further still and in different directions. The members of the quintet are, individually and collectively, true adventurers, deeply curious and ready to jump wholeheartedly into unfamiliar territory when the time is right, or uncertain, or even "wrong", all the while maintaining a steadfast grip on deep love and respect for the genre.
It is also the first release representing a new(!) collection of songs by contemporary Canadian composer Stephen Parkinson. This body of work marks a significant divergence from his previous musical endeavours, which have been mostly academic contemporary, electronic, or freely improvisational. Indeed, it is hard to trace any logical musical thread that could have instigated this apparent detour until one realizes his tendency toward music rich in simplicity and elegance. Stephen's new songs were written especially for The Ryan Driver Quintet. It's worth noting that, as with the quintet, Stephen holds the opinion that this form, due to its immense history of treatment and re-treatment in different styles and contexts over the ages and phases of jazz, increasingly offers more boundless potential for creative exploration while retaining those special familiar characteristics that make music palatable to a wide cross-section of the population. He extends full interpretive license to the quintet, knowing full well and even delighting in the fact that we might happily watch a tune dissolve in the middle of a phrase or intentionally lose ourselves in a single gesture for too long, etc., etc. We take many whimsical liberties for the sake of life and joy. We honour music deeply, as well as the social and psychological means through which it comes to exist, evolve, affect, and transmute, and I am sure that this is evident in our performances. Without any background information, there would be no way of knowing that Stephen's songs weren't written 70 years ago. The melodies, chord progressions, and lyrics are fully in keeping with the style and are as lovely as any of the standards that have stood the test of time."

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Tin Angel Releases

The Ryan Driver Quintet Plays The Stephen Parkinson Songbook
The Ryan Driver Quintet
Plays The Stephen Parkinson Songbook

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