Monday, March 21, 2011

UConn Jazz Combos

All five University of Connecticut jazz combos will perform next week on the von der Mehden stage.  Based on what I heard at the Jazz Showcase concert in February, this show will have plenty of variety ---- ranging from traditional jazz performed by Bill Reynolds' combo, "the Savoy Syncopaters" to modern selections by Chris Cheek or Kurt Rosenwinkel, performed by Gregg August's group "The UConn Jazz Quintet".  I coach a combo of freshmen who have been focusing on memorizing standard repertoire.  Their group name, "Raising Standards" not only reflects the memorization project, but their work ethic as well.  I hope you will join us.  Monday, March 28th at 8 p.m.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

A Musical Bumper Crop

This week a writer from McGill News, the alumni news magazine for McGill University, interviewed me for an article he was writing about the 20+ alumni who have been nominated for Juno Awards this year. Here is a link to the article. As the interview unfolded, it dawned on me how remarkable it is that so many of my undergraduate classmates from the early 90s are not only still active in music, but have successful careers as jazz musicians (that’s an oxymoron if I ever heard one!). With apologies to anyone I may have missed, here is a partial list of my jazz classmates during my four years at McGill, and where they are now based, in no particular order:

*Kelly Jefferson – tenor sax (Toronto) 
*Christine Jensen – alto sax / big band arranger (Montreal)
*Maury LaFoy – bass (Toronto) 
Brian O’Kane – trumpet (Toronto) 
Joel Miller – tenor sax (Montreal) 
Kelsley Grant – trombone (Toronto) 
Tilden Webb – piano (Vancouver) 
Denzal Sinclaire – vocal, piano, drums (Vancouver) 
Karen Crowe – vocal (Calgary) 
Joel Haynes – drums (Toronto)
Paul Johnston - bass (Montreal)
Ted Warren – drums (Toronto) 
Dean McNeill – trumpet (Saskatoon) 
Mike Rudd – guitar (Montreal) 
Dan Skakun – drums (Edmonton)
John Stetch – piano (Ithaca, NY) 
Jim Head – guitar (Edmonton) 
Ken Bibace – guitar (Montreal) 
Mike Downes – bass (Toronto) 
Dave Laing – drums (Montreal)
Jules Estrin – trombone (Toronto) 
Andy Wulf – tenor sax (Japan) 
Jocelyn Couture – trumpet (Montreal) 
Dave Robbins – drums (Vancouver) 
Dylan Van Der Schyff – drums (Vancouver) 
Duncan Hopkins – bass (Toronto)
Steve Kaldestad - tenor sax (Vancouver / London, England)
Kevin Coady – drums (Toronto)
Gerry Shatford - piano (Toronto)
Aaron Doyle - trumpet (Montreal)
Jason Hunter - tenor sax (Kincardine, ON / Boston)
Koen Nys - tenor sax
Greg Amirault - guitar (Montreal)
Adam James - vocal (New York)

* 2011 Juno nominees 

Maybe I’m biased, but to my eyes (and ears!) this list includes many of the leading players on the Canadian jazz scene today. Although I know McGill continues to produce many great jazz musicians, I speculate that 1988–92 represented a true “bumper crop” at McGill, the likes of which they, and most schools don't often see. I wonder if other schools (Canadian or American) can boast of similar lists? --- not just of successful alumni over a long period of time, but of jazz majors of a similar quality and quantity, from a four year period, who have “stayed the course” as jazz musicians, and have gone on to make their mark as creative artists. My opinion is that this was a truly special time, and I consider myself very fortunate to have played and studies along side such tremendously talented, and now accomplished individuals.