Concert Review of CJO's An Evening of Romance

The Calgary Jazz Orchestra performed a selection of popular love songs made famous by Billie Holiday and Chet Baker on Sunday, February 12, 2012 at River Park Church. Calgary vocalists Johanna Sillanpaa and Johnny Summers heated up the stage with their sultry vocals.
 

The E.P. Scarlett Big Band kicked things off with “Happy Go Lucky Local” (Duke Ellington), an medium swing number. This was followed by a funky number called “There's the Rub” (Gordon Goodwin). The E.P. Scarlett Big Band of Calgary is directed by Jonathan Bell.

Johanna Sillanpaa and Torch Songs Featured in CJO's Opening Set

 

 

Calgary vocalist Johanna Sillanpaa sings with the Calgary Jazz Orchestra. Photo by R-M Arca.

During his patter, director Johnny Summers, explained the inspiration for the change. Last month, the CJO had the opportunity to work with Grammy winning musician Maria Schneider. These arrangements are the first to bear the fruits of their time with Schneider. “We're just scratching the surface,” said Summers. “Stay tuned. It's gonna get crazy up here!”The CJO with two arrangements for small jazz combos. The group welcomed guest artist Johanna Sillanpaa of Calgary to the stage to bring some of Billie Holiday's memorable love songs to life. “My Man” (M. Yvain) featured Gerry Hebert on clarinet, Al Muirhead on trumpet, Sarah Matheson on bari sax and Willy Joosen on the piano. “Crazy He Calls Me” (C. Sigman), a sultry love ballad, featured  Jeremy Brown on sax, Johnny Summers on trumpet, Willy Joosen on piano, Kodi Hutchinson on bass and Greg Baker on drums. The other members of the Calgary Jazz Orchestra came on-stage for the remainder of the first set. From the opening bar of F. Andre's “Dream a Little Dream of Me”, it was apparent that something was different. The group got in to the music a little more, while the solos by Al Muirhead and Jeremy Brown were melodious and featured new licks. This number gave Sillanpaa a chance to showcase her rich, warm low register. The Brahms' “Lullaby” quote at the end was a nice touch.

“He's Funny that Way” by R. Whitting and “What a Little Moonlight Can Do” by H. Wood rounded out  the first half. Whether singing in a small combo or with the entire jazz band, Johanna Sillanpaa's strong and sultry voice projected clearly, seemingly without effort.

Billie Holiday and Chet Baker Love Songs and Surprise Guest Raffi in CJO's Second Set

The second half of “An Evening of Romance” also featured small combo arrangements before moving on to big band music. “You Go to My Head” by F. Coots, a soulful love ballad, featured Shane Statz on tenor sax, Kodi Hutchinson on bass and the vocals of Johnny Summers.

Raffi and CJO (Photo by R-M Arca)

Children's entertainer Raffi surprised the audience when he stepped up from the audience to sing “A Wonderful World”. Chuckles and cheers resounded when he sang “I see friends shaking hands, saying, 'Yo what's up?” Raffi did a quick plug for a cause close to his heart, the Centre for Child Honouring.

A nice trumpet solo opened “Let's Get Lost” (J. McHugh) before switching off to saxophone. This medium swing number featured soulful solos by Al Muirhead, Shane Statz and Willy Joosen, along with the vocal styling Johnny Summers.

The programme drew to a close with the sexiest version of “My Funny Valentine” that I have ever heard. The very sultry introduction featured Willy Joosen on piano and Al Muirhead on flugelhorn and Greg Baker using softer mallets on percussion.  One could imagine smoke wafting through a jazz club on a hot summer's night during Al Muirhead's solo.

Three more numbers rounded out the second half: “You'd Be So Nice” (Cole Porter), “The More I See You” (H. Warren) and “Isn't It Romantic” (R. Rodgers).

About the Calgary Jazz Orchestra

The Calgary Jazz Orchestra is a 17 piece big band founded by Johnny Summers in 2004. Arrangements for “An Evening of Romance” were written by Johnny Summers and Greg Baker.

The fresh arrangements and easygoing demeanour of the Calgary Jazz Orchestra members at “An Evening of Romance” left me with two impressions: 1 – I must buy some music by Maria Schneider and 2 – I can't wait to hear what the CJO is going to do next.

In September, the CJO presented a concert featuring swing, Latin and Cuban music. In December, the big band performed Christmas hits made famous by Frank Sinatra.

Jazz lovers will have two more opportunities to hear the Calgary Jazz Orchestra in the 2011/12 season. On February 25, 2012, the CJO will perform at 18 Degrees of Jazz. Proceeds from this fundraiser go to benefit the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Calgary and Area. Blues tunes and numbers written by CJO members will be featured at the May 6, 2012 concert.  You can buy concert tickets on the Calgary Jazz Orchestra website.

 
(c) Rhona-Mae Arca, Musespeak(TM), Calgary, AB. All rights reserved.