Local musician Danton Jay is hard to pin down.
With a taste for travel and a broad musical background, it’s no wonder his debut solo album, Morcenx, is an exercise in diversity.
The songs on Morcenx, named for a small town on the west coast of France, range in genre from folk, rock, blues and jazz to spoken word over improvisational guitar, but the message is concise — Jay is a proponent of sustainability and is using his music to both entertain and enlighten, without being preachy.
“My key theory is that it doesn’t matter who’s telling them, if people hear something they’re more likely to reflect and act on it,”Jay says. “If it’s on the radio, people will hear it and hopeful reflect on it and enjoy the music, too.”
Jay is a UVic psychology grad who researched promotional methods and sustainability. He set out on a six-month journey through Europe to see theory put into practice.
It was that adventure that inspired Jay to write the songs on Morcenx. He spent the last month of his trip in France, holed up in an apartment writing. The result is an album of expansive music and percipient lyrical content.
“This kind of music requires attention. It’s not for pre-drinking before the club,” he says.
Jay returned to Victoria, set up a recording studio in his apartment and started recording the album.
“I don’t have a dining room, I have a soundbooth,” he says.
He got permission from David Suzuki to use his essay “The fundamental failure of environmentalism” on his track Listen, which Jay reads over completely improvised guitar.
Jay is humble about his music and is all about the collective experience. He’s not quick to be centre of attention or to take all the credit. He even goes as far as listing all the session musicians on the album right on the front of the CD jacket. And it’s an impressive list of local A-listers that includes the album’s co-producer Joby Baker (Alex Cuba, The Bills, The Cowboy Junkies, Mae Moore), Adam Sutherland (Armchair Cynics) and Julia Wakal (Aidan Knight, Bucan Bucan).
Jay has assembled a six-piece band for the CD release at the Copper Owl (1900 Douglas) Wednesday, July 24 that includes Nick La Riviere on trombone, Miguelito Valdez on trumpet, Chris Van Sickle on piano, Ian McElroy on bass and Andrew Rollins on drums.
After only one rehearsal, Jay was ecstatic about how well the band was coming together. “There’s so much going on. It’s exciting to hear all the parts together live. Everyone really owns their parts. It’s so rewarding to have full confidence in the talented people behind you. … And playing live allows for extended solos.”
The show kicks off at 9 p.m. Tickets are $10 in advance online at brownpapertickets.com and $12 at the door. Jay is first up on a triple-headline bill with Van Damsel on tour from Kamloops (vandamsel.com) and Young Pacific from Vancouver (youngpacificmusic.com).
Morcenx is available at Lyle’s Place and Ditch Records or is available for download on Jay’s website dantonjay.com. Check out the video for the album’s single, The Road, while you’re there. M
by Mary Ellen Green