Archive for the ‘Sierra Music Publications’ Category

Ellington Sacred Music Concert #4

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Here we are almost a year later, all set to perform another concert of Duke Ellington’s Sacred Music. We had previously performed the concert in Vancouver in 2009, 2010 and 2011. The 2012 concert is being held in Victoria at the Alix Goolden Hall on Saturday, November 10, 2012. The concert, as with our previous versions, includes vocal soloists Dee Daniels and Marcus Mosely, the Fred Stride Jazz Orchestra, The Sacred Music Gospel Choir, and tap dancer, Alex Dugdale.

You can read about Dee, Marcus, Alex and the Sacred Music Choir on last years post. However, the band this time out is a mixture of Vancouver and Victoria musicians. Coming with me are lead trumpet player Derry Byrne; Mike Braverman, clarinet/tenor saxophone; Chad Makela - baritone saxophone; Leo Bae, piano, Andre Lachance, bass; and Bernie Arai, drums. The Victoria musicians are Tom Ackerman, alto saxophone/clarinet; Gordon Clements, alto saxophone; Phil Dwyer, tenor saxophone; Bruce Hurn, trumpet; Dave Flello, trumpet; Alfons Fear, trumpet and 3 great Victoria trombone players - Ian McDougall, Mark Wilson and Matt McConchie. I’m really looking forward to the concert and sharing this great music with a new audience.

All proceeds from ticket sales will benefit the work of Our Place Society with Victoria’s homeless and people living in poverty. Find out more about the work of Our Place and how you can help at: OurPlaceSociety.com

This concert has sold out each year so order your tickets early!

CONCERT TICKETS: www.eventbrite.com, Lyles Place at 250-382-8422, and Ditch Records & CDs, 250-386-5874, all in Victoria.

Here is Dee Daniels performing Tell Me It’s The Truth at our 2009 concert.

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Of course this concert would not happen without the generous support of:

Our Place Society, the Victoria Jazz Society and:

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Stan Kenton: A Centennial Celebration

Stan Kenton!

It seems there are 2 camps of people with opinions about Stan Kenton and his music - you love it or hate it. I belong to the former.

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I first got to know Stan Kenton’s music via the double lp Stan Kenton Today. I simply loved what I heard. Unlike other kids born in the early 1950s, I grew up with the sounds of the big band era - Benny Goodman, Harry James, Count Basie and Duke Ellington. As a young trumpet player the new-to-me sound of Kenton’s brass section was an absolute thrill, unlike any of the other big bands I had heard up to that time. I also found the compositions and arrangements interesting, and this was before I had ever written a note of music.  The lp, released on the Decca/London Records Phase 4 Stereo series, was lean on information about the players in the band as well as the arrangers. One of the arrangements really jumped out at me - Yesterdays, which featured Richard Torres on tenor. For a while I wondered who wrote that wonderful arrangement. Another arrangement I really enjoyed was Malaguena. Talk about exciting! I eventually found out that someone named Bill Holman wrote both of those arrangements. Bill Holman quickly came to the top of my list of favourite arrangers as I found other recordings featuring his outstanding writing. When I started to write Holman became a major influence on my own work and he continues to be an important influence on my own work today. This double lp soon led me to other Kenton lps, some recorded by his then current band and some reissues, all released on Stan Kenton’s Creative World label. What an interesting variety of sounds Kenton recorded! The early 1940s Luncefordesque rhythmic style, the emphasis on the saxophones in his earliest recordings, the increasing size of the brass section, the upward direction in range of the trumpet players, the sometimes almost classical, sometimes non-swinging, but engaging music of the mid to late 1940s, the Innovations Orchestra of 1950-51, the New Concepts of Artistry in Rhythm band full of top notch soloists, Cuban Fire, the mellophonium band of the early 1960s, the LA Neophonic Orchestra and his last bands of the 1970s. I love it all!

This December 15 marks the 100th year since Kenton’s birth and many big bands around the world are presenting Kenton concerts. As the director of the University of British Columbia Jazz Ensemble I, I felt I too wanted to do a program of Kenton’s music. I also felt it was important to expose my students to the Kenton sound and style through playing some of the music recorded by his bands and this centennial provided the perfect opportunity. For a concert program I thought that I would try to give the audience a cross section of the music he made with his bands - from the early 1940s to the end of an era in 1979. Choosing this program was overwhelming to say the least. I needed some help, or a way to deal with all the charts he recorded. Of course I started with those arrangements and compositions that are readily available through Sierra Music Publications. I then loaded my numerous Kenton cds into itunes, created a playlist and started listening. Some charts jumped out as being iconic Kenton material - Artistry in Rhythm (Stan Kenton), Opus In Pastels (Stan Kenton), Malaguena (arranged by Bill Holman) and Intermission Riff. But I thought we should also work on some of his less performed music - Improvisation (Bill Russo), Portrait of A Count (Bill Russo), Machito (Pete Rugolo) and Three Thoughts (Dee Barton). To round out the program I thought we should play something by the audacious Bob Graettinger so we are working on Modern Opus. Johnny Richards is represented by Artemis and Apollo, Recuerdos and El Congo Valiente. Bill Holman is represented by Bags, Malguena and his deconstruction of What’s New?. We are even working on Pete Rugolo’s Fugue For Rhythm Section.

I also decided I wanted UBC Jazz Ensemble II, directed by Dennis Esson, involved. This allowed a greater range of music to be played without killing off all the brass players. Listening to, and rehearsing, this music has created some keen interest and curiosity in many of the students. They have learned quite a bit about Count Basie and Duke Ellington over the years, but many were unaware, or were only vaguely aware, of Stan Kenton and his musical legacy. They also did not know he was a pioneer in jazz education, the very thing that helped create the opportunity to study and perform big band jazz.

Even though I am very familiar with all these Kenton recordings I have to say it has been an immense pleasure to wallow in Kentonia for the past 3 or 4 weeks.

UBC Jazz I will present a short mixed program, which will include several pieces recorded by Stan Kenton, at noon on Monday, November 14, 2011 at the Robson Square Theatre in downtown Vancouver. UBC Jazz I will then play a 1 hour program of Kenton material at noon on Thursday, December 1 in the Roy Barnett Recital Hall at UBC. Finally, both UBC Jazz Ensembles will present a full evening program of Kentonia at 8:00pm on Monday, December 5th, also in the Roy Barnett Recital Hall. All concerts are free.

Here is a list of the pieces the UBC Jazz Ensembles are working on:

El Congo Valiente - Johnny Richards
Portrait of a Count - Bill Russo
Modern Opus - Bob Graettinger
What’s New? - arranged by Bill Holman
Three Thoughts - Dee Barton
Artemis and Apollo - Johnny Richards
Rise and Fall of a Short Fugue - Bob Curnow
Decoupage - Hank Levy
Intermission Riff - Ray Wetzel
But Beautiful
- arranged by Lennie Niehaus
Improvisation
- Bill Russo
Artistry in Rhythm
- Stan Kenton
Machito - Pete Rugolo
Willow Weep For Me - arranged by Bill Mathieu
Malaguena - arranged by Bill Holman
Young Blood - Gerry Mulligan
Opus In Pastels - Stan Kenton
Fugue For Rhythm Section - Pete Rugolo
Bags - Bill Holman
Elegy for Alto - Pete Rugolo
Kingfish - Bill Holman
The Blues Story - Gene Roland
Recuerdos - Johnny Richards
Whatever Lola Wants - arranged by Lennie Niehaus
Unison Riff - Pete Rugolo
Reed Rapture [aka Reed Rhapsody] - Stan Kenton
Southern Scandal - Stan Kenton

Of course the is no way, short of playing a 4 hour concert, that we could play all these on our next concerts but those that get dropped from this concert series will be scheduled for a performance on one of the concerts in the new year. At UBC we will be celebrating Stan Kenton for the entire school year. For more information on the UBC Jazz Ensembles go to <http://www.music.ubc.ca/student-ensembles/jazz.html>

A Concert of Duke Ellington’s Sacred Music

Duke Ellington 1965

Duke Ellington 1965

Here were are once again, having the great fortune to be able to perform some of Duke Ellington’s Sacred Music. This will be our 3rd time performing this great music in an effort to support the First United Church and their mission to help the homeless on the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver. This concert has started to become a yearly highlight for me and I’m sure it is the same for all the other performers and organizers.

Duke Ellington described this music: “This music is the most important thing I’ve ever done, or am ever likely to do. This is personal, not career. Now I can say out loud to all the world what I have been saying to myself for years on my knees.” While the centre of this music is the spirituality, it never feels overtly so. Nor does the singing take over, with the jazz orchestra taking a strict accompaniment role. Every performer is integral to the music. This was always one of Duke’s striking compositional traits, everyone contributed to the sound of the music in a deep, meaningful way. The great big band in our concerts, which is made up of some of the finest jazz performers in Vancouver, which in addition to a superb accompaniment role, shines on two instrumental features and provides a generous amount of solo statements throughout the evening. This is a total jazz experience.

For our 2011 concert presentation we are adding, or rather changing around, a few songs for this third performance. New this year are Is God A Three Letter Word For Love and Ain’t Nobody Nowhere Nothin’ Without God, both from Duke’s Third Sacred Concert and Meditation from the Second Sacred Concert. Also on the program are Come Sunday, Praise God and Dance, The Lord’s Prayer, It’s Freedom, Don’t Get Down on Your Knees To Pray, David Danced Before the Lord, In The Beginning (which won the 1966 Grammy award for best jazz composition), Tell Me It’s The Truth, The Shepherd, Ninety-Nine Percent and The Biggest and Busiest Intersection, which is an all out jazz tour-de force for the band.

It was singer Dee Daniels who really got the ball rolling on performing this wonderful music. We had done a concert for Festival Vancouver in 2008 titled Duke, Dee and Me. Dee sang some Ellington songs at the concert, one of which was Tell Me It’s The Truth, from one of Ellington’s Sacred Concerts. In her little preamble before we performed the tune she put forth to the audience how great it would be to perform Duke’s Sacred Music in Vancouver. Someone in the audience contacted her and away we all went. A partnership with First United Church, supporting their mission helping the homeless on the Downtown Eastside, was the final result.

What superlatives can I write about Dee Daniels that hasn’t already been said? I guess all I really need to say is that working with Dee is always a great pleasure. Not only is she a great singer, but she is a very warm person who cares deeply about every single aspect of the concert. For more on Dee click here

Last year was the first time I had ever worked with Marcus Mosely. I had seen him perform a few times over the years and I do remember meeting him briefly at a concert that we were involved with up at Whistler a few years ago. Marcus, like Dee, is also very warm and professional. And man, can he sing! For more on Marcus click here

Tap dancer Alex Dugale joined us for the first time last year. Alex is originally from Seattle and is currently finishing his music degree in saxophone performance at the Eastman School of Music. Alex’s tap techinque, impeccable time and imagination are fantastic to behold. He plays jazz with his feet!

The 12 voice Sacred Music Gospel Choir is comprised of some top level professional singers and they are also great nice to work with. The first year we had the wonderful Phoenix Choir but their busy schedule did not allow them to continue for a second year. However, a few members of that choir, along with other interested and skillful singers, wanted to continue to be a part of the performance. The choir which is managed by Mike Angell and Rob Hollins is: Corlynn Hanney, Crystal Hicks, Erin Hollins, Gregory Ferrugia, Matthew Smith, Miles Ramsay, Mike Angell, Patti Fletcher, Phil Jenion, Rob Hollins, Sara Ramsay, Siri Olesen.

This year we are being joined by the gospel group The Sojourners. The Sojouners are Marcus Mosely, Will Sanders and Khari McClelland. For more on the group  click here

Finally, the orchestra, or rather big band, is made up of some of my favourite Vancouver musicians. Their passion for making music and their individual and collective skill sets are truly world class. I always feel I have the best seat in the house when I stand in front of them.

Orchestra Personnel:

Conductor/Director: Fred Stride
Saxophones: Jens Christiansen, Aaron Hardie, Bill Runge, Mike Braverman, Chad Makela
Trumpets: Derry Byrne, Kent Wallace, Tom Shorthouse, Chris Davis
Trombones: Dennis Esson, Rod Murray, Jeremy Berkman
Piano: Ross Taggart
Bass: Andre Lachance
Drums: Bernie Arai

Our host, as for the past 2 years, is CBC’s Rick Cluff. Rick, like everyone else connected with this production, is also great to work with. He is warm and knowledgeable and a genuine fan of both the music and performers. Since this concert does not take place in a formal concert hall, but in a large church, Dee and I felt that the experience needed a little “help.” Amplification, or microphones are used only on the solo singers, choir and instrumental soloists, while the band is heard acoustically. Staging is also brought in to elevate the performers above floor level, giving us a stage. Finally, the concert is filmed and shown on a giant screen behind the performers, greatly adding the concert experience.

I hope you can join us for this great evening of music and dance and The Sacred Music of Duke Ellington.

For more on First United Church and their great work click here

Purchase tickets through www.eventbrite.com click here

Event: Sacred Music of Duke Ellington

Date: Friday, November 18, 2011 at 8:00 PM (doors open at 7:00)

Location: St. Andrew’s-Wesley United Church 1012 Nelson Street (Corner of Burrard & Nelson) Vancouver, British Columbia

The Sacred Music of Duke Ellington concert is a fundraising event for the work of First United Church, a place of refuge for people who are homeless on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. For more information, please visit www.firstunited.ca.

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UBC Summer Music Institute 2011 - The Jazz Bands

It has taken me a while to get around to writing and posting this blog, but here goes.

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We recently wrapped up UBC Summer Music Institute #19. It seems like yesterday that my old UBC associate Marty Berinbaum (now retired) began the camp. We’ve had many talented kids go through the program over the years and this year was no different. And, as always, my job was directing jazz ensembles.

Week 1 - Intermediate Jazz Band

The first week I worked with younger students in the intermediate jazz band (big band). This year we had students ranging in age from 12 to 17, with 14 probably being the average age.

Interestingly, the numbers were down this year in the saxophone section (go figure that one!). I ended up with 1 alto (a real mystery), 2 tenors and a bari. There were 4 trumpets, 3 trombones, 1 guitar, 1 bass and 2 drummers (no piano). I also had some junior counselors (senior high school students) helping out and filling in some of the holes in the sections (alto 2 and piano).

As I always like to do, we read through a few charts on Sunday afternoon and again on Monday morning before I decided on a final concert program. The first week of the camp goes very quickly so there is not much time to spend on reading, although I feel strongly that this needs to be done.

Tuesday afternoon was the faculty recital with some of the jazz faculty ending the concert. I played piano, which is something I’ve been pursuing with a little more intensity in the past couple of years. Joining me were Adam Jones (bass), Alex Flock (guitar) and Bernie Arai (drums), who became a dad for the second time the very next day. Congratulations to Bernie!

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Stan Kenton

To help give this years camp a stronger musical focus, we celebrated Stan Kenton’s 100th birthday (December 15, 1911) by listening to a few recordings and reading through some pieces associated with his bands.

Since the music performed by Kenton’s band was beyond the technical capabilities of such young musicians, we worked from my new junior band arrangements of Artistry in Rhythm and Intermission Riff. Also on the concert program were Work In Progress by Gordon Goodwin, Paul Murtha’s arrangement of What Is Hip?, Winter Poem by Sammy Nestico and Michael Sweeney’s arrangement of Mas Que Nada.

The final concert was a great success with the band really peaking on What Is Hip?. It’s great to hear such young players concentrating on the details and still bringing substantial energy and fun to the performance. The Intermediate Jazz Band was then followed by the Intermediate Concert Band, directed by Bryan Knapp, another original UBC Summer Music Institute faculty member. Bryan is a marvelous conductor and he can really get the younger musicians following his every move. To use a little “jazz speak” - “they were very tight.”

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Week 2 - Senior Jazz Band

Week 2 was with the older students, with a wide range in age, from 14 to 69. And, because the enrollment was up this year for senior jazz, we ended up having 2 bands. My colleague Dennis Esson directed the “other band.”

As a first order of business, Dennis and I had to divide up the students to create 2 big bands of equal ability. To help us recognize the abilities of the students we had them read through two of Sammy Nestico’s great charts - A Little Blues Please and The Blues Doctor. Both charts are relatively easy to play, with just enough reading challenges to help us gauge their skill level and with the flexibility to be opened up for solos. Because we had 8 alto saxophone players, we had them play in pairs and in various combinations. The other instruments switched off, sometimes returning in a different combination. Helping us with this task were my RA (rehearsal assistant) Adam Gough (saxophone) and guitar instructor Alex Flock. After hearing all the students play we chose 2 lead altos, 2 lead trumpets and 2 lead trombones. We then filled in each section making sure to spread out the soloists. We did not want to have any band ranking, no #1 and #2 band.

Dennis’ group ended up with 4 altos, 3 tenors, 1 bari, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, 2 guitars, 1 piano, 2 basses, 1 drummer. My group had 4 altos, 2 tenors, 1 bari, 3 trumpets, 4 trombones, 2 guitars, 1 piano, 2 basses, 2 drummers and 1 mallet player (vibes, marimba with some latin percussion). We were a little lean on trumpets this year, but all 6 six were excellent players topped by 2 very superior lead players. BTW - all the performers dressed in blue shirts in the photos below are councilors who function as camp assistants. Their help contributes greatly to the success of the camp.

Each band then set off to their respective rehearsal spaces to spend the remainder of the first day reading through various charts. Rather than start working right away on the music for the Saturday concert I prefer to read (as does Dennis). By doing this the students become exposed to many more writers than they would in their school bands. This also has the added benefit of helping them work on their reading skills, which can be a serious issue for many high school students. Another benefit is I can really get to know their skill sets, including who likes to solo and how well they might be able to solo. There is no point in choosing repertoire that has solo sections beyond the capabilities of the available soloists.

On Monday and Tuesday mornings Dennis and I worked with our own groups and after lunch we changed places. I felt this was important to all the students and would go a fair ways to help eliminate the inevitable perspective of an A band and B band. We preferred Dennis’ band and Fred’s band, although the office used red and blue.

This year only Monday and Friday afternoons were set aside for 3:00-5:00 recreational activities. The Tuesday rec. period was given over to the faculty concert, which was composed of solo pieces and assorted small ensembles performing an eclectic mix of classical music and jazz. The faculty jazz band was made up of myself at the piano, Adam Jones on bass, Alex Flock on guitar, and stepping in on drums, for an absent Bernie Arai (a new father), was current UBC student Jeremy Lawi. Our front line was Dennis Esson on trombone and Mike Braverman on tenor sax. I had a great time playing with the guys and hearing their great solo work. Mike, as always, set the room on fire with one of his solos.

Wednesday afternoon was set aside for master classes for all instruments. I was in charge of all the rhythm section instruments. Perhaps playing would have been nicer, but we ended up talking about practicing, music education, life and many other things both musical and non-musical. Recreation period on Thursday had sessions for flutes and brass, with the brass session being a mouthpiece manufacturer demonstration and tryout. Most days ended at either 3:00pm or 5:00 pm, but Monday and Friday were long days beginning at 9:00am running until noon, then another 2 hour rehearsal from 1:00-3:00. We would then meet again at 7:00pm and finish at 9:30. Still, I always felt good at the end of each day. The kids were great to work with, both serious and willing.

With my group we read through various charts on the first 3 days of the camp including: Machito (Pete Rugolo), Artistry In Metal (Artistry In Rhythm) (Stan Kenton arr. Fred Stride), Groovemeister (Les Hooper), Artistry in Rhythm (Stan Kenton), Big Dipper (Thad Jones), Time Waits For No One (Sammy Nestico), Street of Dreams (Victor Young arr. Stan Kenton), Chunga’s Revenge (Frank Zappa, arr. Fred Stride), Black Nightgown (Johnny Mandel), Shadrack (McGimsey arr. Bill Holman), Dancing Nightly (Bill Holman), Rompin’ At The Reno (Benny Carter), Riba (Duke Ellington arr. Ron Collier), Bags (Bill Holman), Intermission Riff (Ray Wetzel/Stan Kenton), Blues Express (Shorty Rogers), Michelangelo (Astor Piazzolla arr. Fred Sturm), and Pacific Swing which was composed by our lead trombone player, Jared Richardson.

This group of students turned out to be quite decent in the reading department, which allowed us to plow through all this music. It seemed that most of the kids, in both weeks I might add, loved the reading experience and many of them told me they don’t read very much in their school band and they could feel their reading getting stronger. I think we could have easily read new charts every day. But there is a point when it is better to concentrate on a few pieces and work on conceptual and performance skills.

The final concert at the Chan Centre on Saturday afternoon began with Dennis Esson’s group performing Les Hooper’s The Residual Fire Dance, Ascending by Fred Sturm, my version of Willie Maiden’s A Little Minor Booze, Bill Holman’s Kingfish, Bob Curnow’s beautiful arrangement of Pat Metheny’s Always and Forever, poignantly played by trumpet player Thad Mai and my arrangement of Earth, Wind and Fire’s Runnin’. Dennis’ rehearsal assistant was Cam Golinsky, who also taught trombone lessons and took care of all the jazz ensemble library needs. Thanks Cam! Cam is dressed in the yellow camp shirt seated in the trombone section. My rehearsal assistant Adam Gough filled in on tenor to cover for one of the students who had to leave that same morning.

Thad Mai soloing on Always and Forever

Thad Mai soloing on Always and Forever

Dennis Esson's Jazz Band - aka Blue Band

Dennis Esson's Jazz Band - aka Blue Band

My band followed and we began our set with Ernie Wilkins’ arrangement for the Count Basie band of Moten Swing. I think there are very few greater moments in big band music than that first ff horn figure going into the bridge in the first chorus. Wow!

Ol’ Man River is Bill Holman’s rousing arrangement of Jerome Kern’s classic tune. This chart features several soloists, particularly tenor sax and drums. The drummer on this chart, Miles Wong, was in great form throughout. Holman’s independent writing can be a little disconcerting for younger players that are used to full sectional work or block-type voicings. His approach demands that everyone play with strength and conviction and not to just follow the lead player, not unlike playing Ellington or Mingus.

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Steve Owen’s new arrangement of Radiohead’s Kid A was up next. This chart is part of a new series published by Sierra Music Publications of the music of Radiohead.  The students were really into playing this one. Overall the parts aren’t too hard, but the chart does require a skillful drummer and a strong trumpet soloist. Our trumpet soloist was Alex Gambrel, a recent recipient of a Fraser MacPherson Scholarship.

Loco-Motion is my 2009 UBC Summer Institute composition (published by Sierra Music Publications). This is a straight ahead blues chart that can easily be opened up for solos. We did find that it was better to open up the the trumpet solo section, where the rhythm section can be looser and really groove. This chart was directed by my rehearsal assistant, Adam Gough, a current UBC music major and aspiring music educator. I have always tried to create opportunities for students to get their feet wet directing the big band in both rehearsal and performance settings.

Adam Gough directing the Red Jazz Band

Adam Gough directing the Red Jazz Band

My newest UBC Summer Music Institute jazz band piece is It’s Just You And Me. This chart is a slow ensemble outing based on a reharmonization of an old standard. I alternated 4 bar phrases of a rhythm section-less chorale with a Li’l Darlin’ style ensemble melody. Between each 8 bar section I inserted a 4 bar phrase, or interlude, which I had intended the piano to solo over. For our performance I had the vibes take those short solos. The second chorus consists of a 16 bar piano solo with no interludes. The final B and A sections are more alternating chorales and swing feels, but occurring in different places than in the first chorus. I was fairly pleased with this one and it didn’t require too much work from the students. The main focus in rehearsal was tuning, blend and releases. When those things happen the group really becomes a much more mature sounding ensemble.

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Johnny Richards’ El Congo Valiente from Cuban Fire concluded our portion of the concert. This arrangement was written by Richards in the early 1960s for high school bands, but it’s still a challenge and closely resembles the original. We had all the necessary percussion on this one and they really added to the performance.

El Congo Valiente

El Congo Valiente

For a “really big band” finale we combined both jazz bands and played Pete Rugolo’s Artistry in Percussion featuring all 3 drummers at 3 different kits. We also had all 4 basses and all 4 guitars playing with both the piano players sharing the bench. This was quite the visual and aural experience, especially the trumpet soli played by 7 trumpets and the 3 drummers.

Massed Senior Jazz Band - Artistry in Percussion

Massed Senior Jazz Band - Artistry in Percussion

The week was very successful and both jazz bands were in excellent form throughout the concert. We were followed by a concert band directed by John Van Deursen, made up of visiting students from Hong Kong and Taiwan as well as some local students. They were followed by the Senior Concert Band directed by my colleague Dr. Robert Taylor (UBC Director of Bands) and Yeh Shu Han a very fine trumpet player and conductor from Taiwan. Like the jazz bands, these groups really played well. It is always a treat to hear all the groups on the final concert.

I’m looking forward to #20.

My March 2011 visit to Toronto, Kingston and Montreal - Part 3

March 6, 2011 - Day 5 - Montreal

Sunday was my travel day to Montreal - during a heavy snowfall. Jocelyn Couture drove me, along with tenor player Chet Doxas and trombonist Taylor Donaldson. All I can say is it proved to be a bit of a white knuckle trip. Jocelyn is very good driver, but coming from the west coast where we don’t get a lot of snow, the speed of the trip took me aback. I ended the day by having dinner at my good friend Ron Di Lauro’s place. What a great cook! Jocelyn Couture and Aron Doyle joined us. It was great see to see Aron again. Aron had been a student of mine at UBC when I first started working out there over 2o years ago. Another connection with Aron is that I had worked a fair bit with his jazz pianist father Bob when I was just starting out as a working trumpet player. Bob Doyle is one those all to common unsung great musicians that exist everywhere, but go unrecorded, and often unappreciated. Bob was always very nice to me, as well as encouraging. I guess it helped that I knew more than a few old tunes.

March 7, 2011 - Day 6

My first day in Montreal was fairly light. I had the morning free to spend a little time reading the new Thelonious Monk bio by Robin Kelley. What a great read! I love the way Kelley weaves the historical-social background into Monk’s story. One of the best jazz musician biographies I have ever read. After lunch I met up with Ron Di Lauro and we made our way to McGill University for some sessions with a couple of the big bands.

Since McGill big bands 1 and 2 rehearse at the same time it was decided that I would spend about 45 minutes with each group. I started out with the schools top big band, directed by Gordon Foote. Gordon had asked me to bring 1 or 2 things with me for the band to read through. One of the pieces I brought along was The Spanish Tinge. This is an aggressive and uptempo number that shifts between 3/4 and 4/4, which at one point has the drummer playing in 4/4 while everyone else is in 3/4. What can I say about the quality of this “student” band? The band read it down like they had been working on it for weeks, or even months. I was quite impressed by their overall musicianship. This is a very professional band in both skill and attitude. There are some great players coming up. I finished off this 45 minute session talking a little about my music and answering a few questions.

I then moved across the hall to spend a little time with Ron Di Lauro’s band, McGill’s number 2 big band. This band was working on 3 student compositions/arrangements. But instead of dealing directly with the band and performance issues, I ended up giving a little critique and advice to each of the writers.

After the big band sessions I met up with the folks that are developing a new virtual music-minus-one - The Open Orchestra. My connection to this research project is through my work as an instructor at UBC, which is involved in the development of the project, and that two of my big band pieces are being used in the project - Something For Ernie and Among The Pyramids (both published by Sierra Music Publications). This is a great idea, which is still in the development stage, a 21st century version of the old “play along” recording. In this case the student sits at computer console and through the use of an additional 3 video screens is actually placed into the band. For example if the student plays first trombone they would see the director and the rest of the band from that vantage point. They would also hear the sound from the rest of the band coming at them from the same perspective - the first trumpet would be coming from behind, the drums to the right and the saxophones in front, just as in a real band. For more info go to click here and click here

The Open Orchestra - The student perspective

The Open Orchestra - The student perspective

I then went out for dinner with Ron Di Lauro, Chris Lane, my old trumpet playing friend, who drove up from Ottawa, and writer/trumpet player Joe Sullivan and his wife. I had a great time meeting Joe and discussing jazz arranging and composition. By the way Joe has a terrific new big band CD out - Joe Sullivan Big Band: Northern Ontario Suite (Perry Lake Records).

Joe Sullivan Big Band

Joe Sullivan Big Band


March 8, 2011 - Day 7

On Tuesday morning Ron picked me up and we made our way to the University of Montreal for a jazz composition/arranging session and a big band rehearsal. Two things concerned me about this visit - the University of Montreal is French speaking school and while I did take 5 years of French in high school like most Canadian students, I do not speak any French. I wasn’t particularly good in my high school French class and I haven’t used the language since. The other thing was they left the approach/topics up to me for the writing session. Well, I should not have been concerned, the students were wonderful and accommodated me by speaking in English. As far as a topic went I thought I might play some excerpts from a couple of my recordings. I started with a few things from my big band CD The Fred Stride Jazz Orchestra: Forward Motion. I talked about the pieces, the inspirations for the pieces and how I set about putting those ideas into a musical form. Then, while the track was playing I would point out a few things. I felt by starting the session this way I would show my creative jazz side. I followed this up by playing a few things from my CBC recording Showboat which is a jazzy orchestral disc. My main purpose in playing things from this disc was to emphasize the importance of a broad technique. I played them everything from straight up orchestral pops, an imitation of Mozart, to a blending of Robert Farnon, Ravel and Bartok in an arrangement of All The Things You Are (Showboat - CBC Records). That particular arrangement, which I originally wrote in 1985 for a CBC project with Symphony Nova Scotia, always gets a strong, positive reaction.

Showboat-2

With the University of Montreal Big Band we worked on Opposition Party and part of the commission I wrote for the 2008 SOCAN/IAJE Phil Nimmons Established Composer Award - By All Accounts: Out There… This piece was premiered at the final IAJE Conference in Toronto in January 2008 and Paul Read’s Orchestra had the “misfortune” to be chosen to play this beast. Maybe I should start writing in 4/4 again? This piece, which is not for the faint of heart, is an uptempo work that avoids II-V relationships and never settles on a particular meter for too long, even changing metre in the middle of phrases. The UofM sounded very good, and its great to see and hear bands that take your difficult music seriously and strive to play it well.

The afternoon jazz composition and arranging session at McGill was very well attended and extremely satisfying. I took the same approach here as I did at the University of Montreal earlier in the day - playing excerpts from the same cds and making comments as the music played. The session ended with a question period. Interestingly, in all 3 writing master classes (Humber, UofM, McGill) I was never asked how to voice such-and-such chord. All the questions were general in nature with a few dealing with esthetics.

March 9, 2011 - Day 8

For my final day in Montreal I met up with clarinetist/tenor saxophonist James Danderfer, who is from Vancouver and working on his master’s degree at McGill. We wandered down a very cold Saint Catharines Street slowly making our way to Old Montreal. I know, I’m a west coast wuss. I’ll take the rain over the cold. We stopped in at a nice bistro for some breakfast then made our way to a museum. I love museums and art galleries and the Pointe-à-Callière Museum of Archaeology and History did not disappoint. The museum is built on the foundations of some old structures, including the Custom’s House which my great-grandparents would have visited when they came to Canada from England in 1906. We then had lunch at another great cafe then walked back to my hotel, then it was off to the airport and home.

While this trip did cause things to pile up at home I am really glad to have visited all the various schools, to have heard some great playing, made some great music with Greg Runions and his big band in Kingston and to visit with some old, and now some new, friends. I have to do this again.

Finally, a huge thank you to Greg Runions for making this trip happen in the first place and to Denny Christianson and Gord Sheard at Humber College, Ron Di Lauro at the University of Montreal and McGill and Joe Sullivan and Gord Foote at McGill University.

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