Toronto bassist, Rich Brown, loves his city. When asked in an interview for Active Bass by fellow musician, Chris Terry, why he doesn’t move somewhere more fitting of a music superstar he responds simply: “the fact is that I love Toronto too much to leave it.” He credits the wide range of this city’s cultures for his eclectic sound. Rich typifies the picture the rest of the world has of Canadians – he is one of the sweetest, humblest and kindest people I’ve ever met.
At the age of seventeen he moved from the guitar to bass after hearing bands like “Weather Report” and “Level 42”. A testament to his love for the sound and drive to master his instrument, Rich locked himself in the basement lifting tunes by ear, learning them and teaching himself to play. Now that Rich plays with musicians from all over the world, he always makes sure to learn something about them and their technique, their culture and approach to music. From being raised on Reggae and R&B/Funk by his Jamaican parents, to being exposed to music from Brazil, Cuba, Africa, Japan and the Middle East, Rich’s playing is uniquely multicultural – like the city he calls home.
Working at the Rex in Toronto gave me the precious opportunity to see some very special musicians and projects. Rich’s band, “Rinse the Algorithm” (with Luis Deniz, Robi Botos and Larnell Lewis), was one of my favourite bands to experience live, mainly because it combined four gifted musicians that raised the bar with every note – they managed to challenge each other resulting in an ever growing and astonishing sound.
When Rich plays there is a palpable energy amongst the crowd. High school kids and adults alike lean in tight with eyes bulging to take in every move he makes hoping to learn the secret of his gift – and it is a gift.
Rich breaks down his approach to music in an interview with Chris Tarry for Active Bass:
– “Music is a language and everyday the goal is to say something. That’s what I try to do.”
Music fans take note – Rich is releasing his brand new album “Abeng” in a few weeks, so stay tuned on his website. Rich will be in India this November with Rudresh Mahanthappa and you can catch him Toronto playing with some of the city’s best whenever he is home.
Below is the first of two instalments of my recipes inspired by Rich. I was drawn to the idea of fusing his Caribbean roots with some Japanese flavours and presenting them in the fashion of a Japanese meal. In Japanese culture they usually dislike their different foods touching in anyway – rice separate from pickle and protein – unlike other cultures serving items atop rice. There are numerous elements to this meal, yet it still comes together rather quickly. For the sake of ease in reading, I have broken this post into two parts.
The final meal is comprised of Curried Duck Breast Karaage, Fennel and Cucumber Salad, Japanese/Caribbean Duck Curry, Anise Rice, and Caribbean Three Pepper and Citrus Fire Sauce.
Disclaimer: “Downtown” is an unoffical nickname that I burted out about five years ago in St. John’s, NFLD. I was with Johnny and the guys from GHT at the jazz fest, tagging along for a little vacation. It seemed like all of the Toronto jazz community was there – a little surreal – my first time in the city and every corner I turned and every club I went in there umpteen faces I knew well. The final night of the festival, while GHT was playing, I decided to wander about and pop by a few shows. I bumped into Rich and the Rinse The Algorithm boys on the street before their show (which ended up winning them the “Galaxy Rising Star” award). As always, I was excited to see him – I had a few cocktails under my belt and shouted in the most unhip way possible, “It’s Downtown Rich Brown!” Rich laughed, probably just to be kind, but it has stuck in my mind all these years later.
CURRIED DUCK KARAAGE (FRIED DUCK)
When making anything that requires just part of a duck I suggest you get a whole duck and divide it into breasts and legs, it’s a little more work, but you’ll save money and have leftovers for another day (sometimes one duck breast can cost as much as the whole duck). If you decide to buy the breasts on their own you can usually get away with picking up one since they are typically much larger… or get 2 and make more!
I’m serving this with a Caribbean hot sauce as a dip, use a bottled one or make your own. (Stay tuned – I have a recipe coming up for a Belize Carrot and Three Pepper hot sauce).
*I have used Tamari – a Japanese soy sauce – because I like the lighter and sweeter flavour, but you can sub in regular soy sauce with no problem.
450g boneless duck breast, skin removed, cut into 1″ pieces
2 tbsp each Tamari* and Sake
1 tbsp lime juice
1 tsp sugar
2 garlic cloves, minced
a thumb sized piece of ginger, grated
1 tbsp curry powder
1 tsp ground allspice
1 star anise
1 scotch bonnet pepper, halved
1/3 cup potato starch
oil for frying
Caribbean hot sauce.
Combine all the ingredients other than potato starch, oil and hot sauce in a bowl. Let sit in the fridge for 1 hour – overnight.
When ready to fry: Heat 1″ of oil in a high sided pan to about 350F.
Add your potato starch to a small bowl. Remove the duck from the marinade and toss to coat in the potato starch.
Working in batches – carefully drop the duck pieces into the oil flipping once with a slotted spoon or spider until golden brown. Remove pieces to a paper towel lined wire rack.
Serve immediately with dipping sauce.
FENNEL AND HERB SALAD
Rich mentions loving fennel – one of the many things food-wise that we have in common. Raw fennel rarely gets showcased, but it has such a wonderful and refreshing flavour. I’ve used it in coleslaw for some time, here it is simply dressed with a Japanese inspired vinaigrette and tossed with loads of fresh herbs. Save the leafy tops from the fennel and toss in with your herbs at the end.
3 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
2 tbsp lime juice
1/2 tsp sugar
1 clove garlic, minced
salt to taste
1 fennel bulb, quartered, cored and very thinly sliced
1 small shallot, peeled and sliced lengthwise
1 small bunch each – flat leaf parsley, basil and mint, thinly sliced
Make the dressing: Combine oil, lime juice, vinegar, salt, sugar and garlic in a jar with a tight fitting lid. Shake for 1 minute very vigorously.
Make the salad: Combine the fennel, shallot and herbs in a bowl. Toss in the dressing and scrunch hard with your hands. Let sit for at least 30 minutes and up to 24 hours depending on how crunchy you like it.
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