Mark Kelso is not your typical Canadian or your typical drummer. He doesn’t follow hockey, root for The Toronto Maple Leafs, live on poutine, or eat all of his meals at Tim Hortons. However, after getting over that initial shock, you’ll find that this Toronto resident is not only a very well-rounded musician, he’s the drummer extraordinaire for the kick-ass band, The Jazz Exiles. And not only does Mark Kelso lead, play drums, and produce the band’s recordings, he also composes for the band.
The Jazz Exiles current line-up has been together for five years, so their sound is even tighter, punchier and more cohesive than on the previous two recordings (Elementals and Stealing from My Youth.) The Jazz Exiles feature the all-star talents of Canadian bass virtuoso Rich Brown, Cuban-born alto sax player Luis Deniz, guitar whiz Elmer Ferrer and Jeremy Ledbetter on piano & keyboards. These players bring Mark’s compositions to a whole new level, and bring big smiles to the faces of their fans.
On their new album, The Dragon’s Tail, you can put all of that Canadian politeness and gentility aside. Mark showcases his Afro-Cuban and Brazilian influences playing with a muscular edge complete with lightning single and double strokes, flams, and intensity. Sounding like a perennial combination of Carlos Vega, Steve Gadd and Vinnie Colaiuta. Kelso is equal part groove and fire.
The secret to Kelso and The Jazz Exiles’ success is their collective musical maturity that is sowing the seeds of musical exploration and creativity. The band has been nominated for two Juno Awards (the Canadian equivalent to the Grammy’s,) and coming out of the constrictions of the pandemic, Mark and the band expect to be mainstays of the 2023 jazz festival circuit playing the Toronto Jazz Fest, the Montreal Jazz Fest, and the Rochester Jazz Fest. Advertisement