Thursday, April 25, 2013

South Delta Jazz Workshop 10th Anniversary Edition

The South Delta Jazz Festival and Jazz Workshop celebrates its 10th anniversary this year!  This year's event runs July 2-6.

The Workshop is a summer music program focused on jazz improvisation and small ensemble playing. The Festival provides a variety of jazz concerts and events centred around and easily accessible to the community that supports us. Students learn to play jazz through intensive small ensemble rehearsals, daily faculty concerts, masterclasses, ear training and improvisation classes in a fun and friendly environment that nurtures our student’s unique talents and abilities. Both audience members and students get a chance to develop relationships with our amazing group of teachers and performers from Vancouver, the US and the UK. The teaching component of SDJW and many of our concert events take place in and around the very relaxed riverside community of Ladner Village.
The Workshop is open to players of any instrument and singers age 12 and up, but jazz camp isn’t just for kids! Adults are very welcome at SDJW and we always have a strong contingent of mature and semi-pro players around. For many of our students, SDJW is a great opportunity to take a week off from their regular jobs and just focus on music. Musicians of all levels from beginner through college and university are welcome. We provide a fun and friendly environment that nurtures each student’s unique talents and abilities. 
Registration is open now and early-bird discounts are available no until May 30.
In addition to our usual amazing international faculty, this year we will have percussionist Curtis Andrews as a special guest faculty member.  Curtis will be teaching us West African music on a daily basis and we will incorporate what we learn into our jazz playing.  I'm really looking forward to playing with and learning from Curtis.
I must say that there were many times when I never thought we'd never get here.  It has been a lot of fun, but also a lot of work. The best thing about staying around for 10 years is the community of friends, students, faculty, and audience that has developed.  

Monday, April 22, 2013

Performance with Daniela Elza, April 24

I'm playing this week with members of the Vancouver Improvisers Orchestra and acclaimed poet, Daniela Elza.  Musicians will be Clyde Reed (bass), Emma Postl (voice), Duncan Maunders (alto sax), Stephen Robb (clarinet), Rory Hislop (trumpet) and me (guitar).

Clyde Reed and I have collaborated with Daniela and other poets on several occasions and I really enjoy it.  We don't usually read the poetry beforehand, but focus on reacting musically to what we are hearing. To get an idea of how this works, have a look at the clip below from the 2012 Words and Music series at the Prophouse Cafe.

Hope to see some of you there!

Wednesday, April 24
Presentation House Studio
333 Chesterfield, North Vancouver
$10 at the door
Free tea and cookies

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Concert Review: Dave Liebman at Capilano University

Last night at Capilano University our students had the wonderful opportunity to perform with saxophone legend, Dave Liebman.  Liebman performed with Capilano's top large ensembles, the A Band jazz orchestra and the vocal jazz ensemble, Nitecap.  I had the pleasure of playing some tunes with Liebman and his band  (with Phil Markowitz and Jamey Haddad) when I was a graduate student in Oregon many years ago and his playing and personality made quite an impression on me.  Indeed many of the things I learned in that short but intense exchange have stayed with me as central aspects of my playing and approach to music.  He is one of the true masters of the music today and a living link to the great musicians he has worked with including Elvin Jones and Miles Davis.

Of peripheral interest to last night's show was the fact that Liebman had been stuck in Chicago for more than 24 hours waiting for a flight to Vancouver and was unable to make the scheduled rehearsal times with the student ensembles the day before the show.  In fact, our Capilano ensembles had only an hour or so each to rehearse a concert of very challenging music - and all of this in the middle of exam week!  I was so impressed by the level of musicianship that our students displayed in taking on this huge musical task.  Also part of the back-story to this gig is that Liebman's horn was broken when he arrived and he was rushed over to the fine fellows at Massulo Music  to have it repaired just before he concert.  I'm surprised he had the time to eat and change his clothes - there was certainly no time for sleep or rest of any kind after grueling days stuck in an airport.

None of these trials seemed to have affected Liebman's playing.  He is obviously a true road-warrior of the old school.  His complete mastery of the soprano saxophone and the power of his unique improvisational language were truly awe-inspiring. I can't remember having seen or heard anyone play any instrument like that for several years.  He certainly didn't hold back because he was playing with student ensembles and the students responded by pushing themselves to the utmost.   His compositions were equally impressive in scope and originality.  The A Band portion of the show featured excellent arrangements of his music by Jim McNeely and Vince Mendoza and the band was ably directed by my friend, Brad Turner.  I know Brad is a big fan of Liebman's music and seemed just as excited as the students to be sharing the stage with the great man.   Brad's incredible talents as a player give him a unique insight and intuition as a director that is a pleasure to see and hear.  All the students played really well and managed to navigate some very tricky charts with great energy and creativity.

For the Nitecap portion of the show, Réjean Marois, the ensemble's director, had arranged Liebman's music for SATB choir and rhythm section.  In my opinion, Réjean is the finest vocal arranger anywhere and his work for this show proved that to be true once again.   As much as I enjoyed the big band music, I must say that I thought his arrangements were a much more interesting setting for the soprano saxophone.   Liebman made special mention of the fact that he had never performed his music with a vocal ensemble before and it was a wonderful textural and timbral experience to hear his horn (and penny whistle on a couple of occasions!) blend with the high soprano voices.  Indeed, this setting seemed to emphasize the liquid, vocal quality of Liebman's playing and sound. His compositions take a comprehensive view of 20th century harmonic practices, incorporating the richness of both jazz and classical traditions. The singers did an amazing job with some of these very challenging harmonies and the rhythm section players were pushed to their limits to match the surprising twists and turns of Liebman's wild melodic inventions. I think the audiences at Cap are used to hearing Nitecap perform all this 'impossible' music so they don't really understand how unique and beautiful it is that our program supports such an amazing community of vocalists. Réjean has worked so hard to develop our Jazz Studies program over the years and has put in so much effort behind the scenes to make concerts like this happen.  It is nice to see him in situations like this, reaping the rewards of creating a tradition of hard work and high standards among the students.

I feel very lucky to be working with such dedicated and talented colleagues and students and I'm inspired by their excellence!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Gig with Rich Halley TONIGHT

I'm playing tonight at presentation House Studio with the great tenor player, Rich Halley.  Rich is based in Portland and is one of the great lights of the West Coast scene.  Bill Milkowski of the Jazz Times says, "A free rider from the Left Coast, tenor saxophonist-composer Rich Halley is a powerful player with one foot in the Coleman Hawkins-Don Byas camp and the other confidently striding into the edgier realms of such ferocious players as David S. Ware and, at his most intense, Peter Brötzmann or Albert Ayler... In New York, he’d be a star on the avant-garde scene; but for now, you have to fly to Portland to see this tenor titan perform."  Well tonight you don't even have to go to Portland because he is here playing with me, Clyde Reed (bass) and Joe Poole (drums).
Our rehearsal yesterday promises some very exciting music this evening.  Rich has an amazing sound and energy.  Above all, I would say he is a truly authentic player that plays with a lot of honesty and emotional intensity.  No canned licks, no showing off, no pretense -  just playing from the heart.  I'm really excited about this one. Clyde and Joe will be their usual wonderfully creative selves, swinging like mad and instigating all kinds of musical twists and turns. We'll do some of my tunes and some of Rich's.
Come on out and hear for yourself!

Wednesday, April 17
333 Chesterfield, North Vancouver
$10 at the door
Free tea and cookies

Monday, April 1, 2013

Gigs This Week

On Wednesday, April 3, I will be playing at Presentation House Studio with Bill Clark (trumpet), Clyde Reed (bass) and Joe Poole (drums).  This is our third gig together and I think the band is playing very well.  We have been using the music of Ornette Coleman as a springboard for group improvisation which tend to travel far afield. A few of my original tunes will make their way in this time as well.  Clyde has worked with Bill for more than 30 years and I have known and played with him since my musical infancy.  There is something magical about the level of musical trust that can only develop through this kind of long association and collaboration. The Joe/Clyde connection is relatively recent in comparison but I think they make one of the most buoyant and flexible rhythm sections ever, with a sound quite reminiscent of the Charlie Haden/Billy Higgins unit of the mid 1960s.  I'm very excite to play with these guys again and very pleased that we will be making audio and video recordings of the event.  As usual, the show starts at 8pm, 333 Chesterfield St, North Vancouver, $10 at the door gets you free tea and cookies, a great evening of music, and a wonderful social time with the jazz community that has developed around this venue.

The following night, April 4, I will be at the Kozmik Zoo with Brad Muirhead's band.  I have been playing Brad's music for many years, but this quartet is a relatively recent phenomenon with Lyle Hopkins (bass) and Bernie Arai (drums).  Brad's music is not always easy for musicians to play.  There are some tricky technical bits, but mostly it is challenging for new players in the band to understand the concepts that Brad has developed around the relationship of freedom and structure, composition and improvisation. He truly has a unique way of making music. I think Bernie and Lyle has done an amazing job of figuring that out and this is probably the most successful and musically satisfying version of the quartet that I have ever played with. Poster below has the details.