Posts Tagged ‘Denny Christianson’

My March 2011 visit to Toronto, Kingston and Montreal - Part 1

It has been quite a while since I posted anything on this blog. I’m finding it much harder to commit to blogging than I thought (an age thing?).

Anyway, early last summer I received an email from a Greg Runions inquiring to see if I would be interested in coming to Kingston, Ontario to perform my music with his big band. Of course I said yes. Greg successfully found some funding, particularly through the SOCAN Foundation Composer Outreach Program and the Canada Council Project Grants for Small Ensembles, and I headed east on March 1, 2011.

Since I was heading east I thought I would contact a few colleagues in Ontario and Quebec and let them know I would be in the area. Maybe I could add some teaching or performing to my dates with Greg. I ended up receiving invites to give some jazz arranging and composition master classes at Humber College in Toronto, the University of Montreal and McGill University. Trying to coordinate these various sessions with my visit to Kingston took a little time, but I eventually had it all worked out.

After taking the redeye out of Vancouver on Tuesday, March 1, I landed in Toronto very early Wednesday morning (6:00am). Overall it was a nice flight - reading, watching tv, listening to my ipod (I never have much luck trying to sleep on planes). The only downside? You know the guy across the aisle is snoring loudly when you can hear it through your headphones. Yikes!

March 2, 2011 - Day 1 - Toronto

My first stop on this trip was at Humber College. Denny Christianson, the head of the program, picked me up at the airport and we headed over to the college. Before our session was to begin Denny took me on a tour of their new recording and midi facilities. All I can say is WOW!! I wish I had those resources when I was a student.

The head of the jazz arranging department, Gord Sheard, had me give a lecture/demonstration of my master class Resonant Voicings for the Big Band. To illustrate the lecture effectively Humber was kind enough to provide me with their very fine big band, who comfortably read through all the examples. I discussed the various types of voicings the students were hearing and why certain guidelines should be considered in order to create full sounding, or resonant, voicings, particularly for the brass and the tutti. The students watching could also follow along with a rather extensive handout. The lecture/demo was followed by a short question/answer session.

At the end of the session I met up with John MacLeod and we briefly talked about writing and the importance of basic technique to help any aspiring writer realize their own musical sounds. I have met a few younger jazz writers over the past few years who seem to think that traditional big band writing techniques are no longer relevant and that they could even be a hinderance to their own creativity. Well, technique never hurt Bartok or Bob Brookmeyer. Even Maria Schneider has a solid grounding in the traditional techniques, which is one reason her music sounds so good. Learning the basics does not mean that you will be locked into the tradition, anymore than learning to play the trumpet from a classical teacher will harm any jazz aspirations. It’s what you do with that technique coupled with your own curiosity and imagination. John also laid his new big band disc on me John MacLeod and His Rex Hotel Orchestra: Our First Set. What a great band! I have long known about John’s playing skills, but his writing was new to me. He is one great writer.

John MacLeod and His Rex Hotel Orchestra

John MacLeod and His Rex Hotel Orchestra

I followed up the Humber session with a really nice visit with my old friend Paul Read, an excellent composer and arranger (as well as saxophone and piano). By the way, you should pick up Paul’s great new recording - Paul Read Orchestra: Arc-En-Ciel (Addo Jazz Recordings). Great writing and playing throughout.

PRO - Paul Read Orchestra

PRO - Paul Read Orchestra

After my visit with Paul I took the train up to Kingston, which was not an unpleasant trip, arriving around 8:30pm. By now I was exhausted - I hadn’t slept since the night before I left Vancouver. Greg Runions picked me up at the station and after a quick bite to eat I headed to my hotel room for a good nights sleep.