Calgary Jazz Orchestra's 2013 Pop! Concert Review

The Calgary Jazz Orchestra wrapped up its 2012/13 season on Sunday, May 5, 2013 at Riverpark Church. Pop! featured big band jazz arrangements of pop and rock classics, as well as two world premieres.

Directed by Judy Wishloff, Churchill's Blue Jazz Band opened for the CJO by performing two numbers. The jazz band first performed A Blues for Dave by Doug Beach, which featured trombone and guitar solos.

Mike Tomaro's arrangement of I Mean You (Thelonious Monk) opened with an upbeat piano solo. It showcased the trombone, trumpet, soprano sax, piano and drums.

The Beatles, Jesus Jones and the World Premiere of Calgary Suite at the CJO

The first half of the programme featured big band arrangements and compositions by Greg Baker, while the second half showcased Johnny Summers' arrangements. Jammin' (Bob Marley) began brightly in the trumpets, while the saxophones painted a groovin' night scene. The trombones cruised steadily towards the solos. Jammin' featured solos by Gerry Hebert on alto saxophone, Dave Reid on trombone and André Wickenheiser on trumpet.

The CJO presented the world premiere performance of Greg Baker's Calgary Suite ("Ten Days in July", "Rockies" and "Waiting for the Chinook"). Due to time constraints, "Rockies" was omitted.

Ten Days in July" conjured up sound pictures of Cowtown. The trombones played a recurring accented hoedown-eque motif. The saxophones and trumpets circled around like a chuckwagon race.

The solos maintained the festive mood. Johnny Summers' trumpet danced and bounced like carnival lights and bells. In contrast, Shane Statz's tenor sax looped around like a sheepdog herding sheep. Egor Ukoloff (piano) and Greg steadily built up the intensity, punctuated by shots from the band. Sarah Matheson's bari sax solo spun like the Tornado ride, while Gerry's solo rang out like casino slot machines.

"Waiting for the Chinook" began as a ballad, later becoming bright swing. The varied layers were a delight to listen to, for example, flugelhorns with trombones and muted trumpets with piano. It featured solos by Rich Harding on alto sax, Egor, Kodi, Shane, Paul Ashwell on trombone and Greg on drums. There was a lovely dialogue between Johnny on the flugelhorn and Dean Yeats on trombone.

The CJO performed two more numbers in the first set. There was an easy swing version of Right Here Right Now (Mike Edwards) and a medium swing arrangement of Help (John Lennon & Paul McCartney).

CJO Premieres The Wonderment Suite by Johnny Summers

CJO Director Johnny Summers recounted a conversation he had with a patron during intermission. She inquired about what the band plays and the arrangements. Johnny responded by describing the elements of music as a musician's palette of colours, which is used to paint a picture musically, while the form of the piece provides a road map to follow. Jazz musicians must stay within the confines of the form while improvising.

Johnny Summers' The Wonderment Suite was premiered in the second set. Each movement captured a mood: "Awakening", "Stability", "Thrill", "Confidence", "Adventure", "Sweetness" and "Wonderment". The final number was cut from the programme due to time constraints.

"Awakening" eased the audience in, opening with a sleepy melody on soprano sax by Gerry Hebert, while the trombones played sustained tones. The rest of the sections joined in one by one. It featured solos by Gerry, as well as Gordon Wilhelm on trumpet.

"Thrill" opened with a tremendous amount of energy. Like a child searching for hidden Christmas presents before Christmas, the solos captured a building sense of excitement and the thrill of discovery using meandering lines and playful rhythms. It featured solos by Sean Craig on tenor sax and Paul on euphonium, along with Egor and Sarah. There were chatty tenor sax exchanges between Shane and Sean.

The trombone section oozed with "Confidence", with a swaggering recurring motif and later, by taking over the stage. Shane's solo featured driving lines that traversed up and down the musical road. Meanwhile, members of the trombone section provided comic relief by standing and sitting like Whac-a-Moles because one of them rose up to play early.

Brian Walley's trombone solo soared and leaped playfully, while Johnny's trumpet spun and shot out a brilliant spray of notes.

The music faded away, at which point, the trombone section stood up one by one, delighting everyone onstage and in the house with a cutting contest. Who could play the slowest? Lowest? Loudest?

Adele's Skyfall closed the second set. This gritty ballad opened with a unison chord that waxed and waned into the night. Then the piano came in, joined by the bass, trombones, clarinets and flugelhorns. Johnny successfully handled that challenging, disjunct vocal melody.

The CJO also performed Michael Jackson's The Way You Make Me Feel, a crowd favourite from a couple of seasons back. For an encore, the band played Johnny Cash's Folsom Blues. Everyone went all out for their final solo of the season. Of special note, André's soft solo whispered and fluttered like a hummingbird. The audience was rapt with attention. Folsom Blues brought the house down and the audience to its feet for the second time that night.

For more information about the Calgary Jazz Orchestra's upcoming summer jazz concert, young jazz musician's competition and to buy 2013/14 concert season tickets, please visit the CJO's website.

The Calgary Jazz Orchestra entertained and delighted with its Pop! Concert in Calgary, Alberta on May 5, 2013. The jazz group was successful at painting a vivid soundscape colourful playing. This jazz concert was a fabulous way to end the 2012/13 concert season.