Bands and Projects

So many ensembles… where to start? Well, in the beginning there was one…

Dylan Bell Solo                    The One-Man Show

Solo piano? Solo a cappella? Folk guitar? Jazz? Contemporary improvisation? Take your pick… Dylan does them all. Fluent on multiple instruments and multiple styles, Dylan can create a program that crosses boundaries without missing a beat. Variety is the spice of life, and Dylan’s performances effortlessly combine elements of jazz, pop, world music and contemporary improvisation, from Bach to Bird to the Beatles. As engaging as he is versatile, Dylan gives the audience an entertaining and exciting experience.

 

And then there were two:

FreePlay Duo                        Inspired Eclecticism                         www.freeplayduo.com

Dylan joins forces with the multitalented Suba Sankaran to create the FreePlay Duo.  Described as “inspired eclecticism”, Dylan and Suba will take you from the concert halls of Europe, to the jazz clubs of Manhattan, to the temples of India, and back to the cultural mosaic of Toronto… all without leaving your seat.

Both vocalists and multi-instrumentalists, Dylan and Suba combine and re-combine styles and configurations to give a sound far larger than two people might suggest. A wide-ranging repertoire and a genuine desire to connect with people mean that the FreePlay Duo can create a program to engage any type of audience.

 

Autorickshaw                        Indo-Jazz Fusion                                www.autorickshaw.ca

Autorickshaw’s music lies on the cultural cutting edge, as contemporary jazz and funk easily rub shoulders with the classical music of India. Dylan plays multiple roles in this band depending on the lineup: sometimes six-string bass, keyboards (sometimes simultaneously!), and vocal percussion.

 

 

 

Retrocity                               1980s-Top 40 a cappella                    www.retrocity.ca

For pure acappellatude, look no further than Retrocity. Eight totally rad singers electric boogaloo their way through your favourite tunes from the 80s and beyond, without a Casio or drum machine in sight. You haven’t lived till you’ve heard “One Night In Bangkok” or a shreddin’ guitar solo a cappella. Dylan sings tenor/alto/vocal percussion and secretly dreams of being Stuart Copeland… or Ferris Bueller.

 

Bollywood Rewind                ’70s Bollywood Music                  www.autorickshaw.ca

From the creative minds of Autorickshaw, Bollywood Rewind takes you back to the heyday of Hindi films, when the gangsters were really gangsterish, the heroines incandescently fabulous and the music completely over the top. Dylan is the “octopus man”, covering massive horns, shrieking strings, creepy organs, wacky synths and the occasional surf guitar, all with 88 keys and 10 fingers.

 

 

Hampton Four                       Sophisticated Vocal Jazz                 www.hamptonavenue.com

Dylan sings tenor in this SATB a cappella quartet. A spinoff of the award-winning Hampton Avenue, HA4 specializes in swinging big-band style jazz, and the luscious sounds of vocal groups like Singers Unlimited and Take 6.

Other Bands

There’s an awful lot of them! To see who else I play (or have played) with, check out my C.V. (the stuff about other bands is on page 3).

Bass

In the string department, I started high and ended up low. I held the illustrious chair of “special violin” in my youth orchestra at age ten. I was quickly removed to the cello, before settling on the bass at age 17. I played upright bass as a student at York University — and still have the blisters to prove it.

I now play electric basses, including the six-string and the ever-feared fretless — and yes, I play it in tune. Early years spent “in the trenches” as a cruise-ship pit orchestra player gave me a strong foundation in multiple music styles, sightreading, on-the-spot flexibility, and a lifelong aversion to white pants and deck shoes.

As a bassist, I’ve played jazz with the FreePlay Duo, world fusion with autorickshaw and Kobena Aquaa-Harrison, R+B/Soul with the Soul Foundation and guitar-based roots music with Ray Montford. Performance highlights include the Stockholm International Jazz Festival, an Irish Yoga retreat, and a former Rajah’s Palace in Jaipur, India.

Piano/Keyboards

If instruments are languages, then the piano is my mother tongue. Originally classically-trained, I joined the Dark Side when I found my Dad’s copy of Miles Davis’ Kind Of Blue and became hooked on jazz. I eventually found myself studying jazz and contemporary improvisation at York University, and wound up with a Specialized Honours degree.

But it didn’t stop there: my curious ears and hunger for musical knowledge keep my playing style wide-open. I’ve played with all sorts of people in all sorts of styles: straight-ahead jazz (solo, FreePlay Duo), R+B/soul (the Soul Foundation), world fusion (Autorickshaw , Kobena Aaqua Harrison), contemporary free improvisation, classical-meets-electronica (Lara St. John), rock (Honeymoon Suite)… and just about anything else in between.

I probably wouldn’t win any prizes for speed or technical athleticism: I’m about trying to be a sensitive, communicative player,  bringing a unique voice to the table while remaining open and faithful to the music and the moment.

Voice /A Cappella

According to my grandmother, I made my performance debut at age three, singing “O Danny Boy” to strangers at the doctor’s office. I kept a slightly-lower profile until age 16, when I made my stage debut as the Major-General in a high school production of “Pirates of Penzance”.

Throughout university, I sang in and directed Wibijazz’n’, the York University contemporary chorus, where I developed my jazz chops and my love for a cappella singing. I’ve been singing professionally, a cappella and otherwise, nonstop ever since.

On Stage

From 2003-2006, I toured around the world as first tenor for Canada’s premiere a cappella vocal band Cadence . I also sing with the pan-stylistic FreePlay Duo, the 1980s top-40 a cappella band Retrocity, vocal-jazz quartet Hampton Four, and sang with the Nathaniel Dett Chorale. Performance highlights include:

  • Impromptu performances with vocal maestro Bobby McFerrin
  • Performances for Nelson Mandela, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and Oscar Peterson
  • Jamming onstage with music legend Les Paul
  • Performing at the Canadian Embassy in Washington for the inauguration of President Obama

In The Studio

I often work as a session singer, and have sung on Hollywood film soundtracks, radio and television jingles, and major-label albums. I love session-singing, and this is what I bring to the studio:

  • perfect pitch
  • extended vocal range
  • strong sightreading skills
  • multistylistic, from classical to rock
  • exceptional knowledge of complex harmony (no hand-holding required, producers!)
  • ability to create “on the fly” vocal arrangements and scores

Over the years I have developed an extensive network of fantastic singers, and also work as a vocal contractor. As a producer, arranger and performer, I am familiar with all angles of production. I understand what you need, and I know who can deliver.

I also enjoy mimic/voice character work, and will do most of the character voices from “The Simpsons”, whether you like it or not. {audio}Homer and Burns|DylanBell_INTRODUCTION.mp3{/audio}