Calgary Jazz Orchestra ENTERTAINMENT 2011 Concert Review

The Calgary Jazz Orchestra's annual Christmas concert is extremely popular.

“Does anyone here remember growing up?” asked CJO director Johnny Summers at the start of the jazz concert which took place in River Park Church on Sunday, January 30, 2011.

The programme for ENTERTAINMENT! was set as a musical trip down memory lane for listeners young and old. The Calgary Jazz Orchestra performed top pop songs by Billy Joel, Sting, Michael Jackson and the Beatles; along with a sampling of video game music and film soundtracks.

The Jazz Band from William Aberhart High School Warmed up the Crowd

The Jazz Band from William Aberhart High School opened the concert with two numbers: "Count Bubba", an upbeat number by Gordon Goodwin of the Big Phat Band and "The Meaning of the Blues", a sultry ballad composed by Bobby Troup.

The Jazz Band has performed in concerts, festivals and competitions throughout Alberta, such as the Vic Lewis Band Festival in Canmore. The group won several awards at the 2010 Alberta International Band Festival. William Aberhart's The Jazz Band is directed by Kevin Willms.

A Pop Culture Buffet and Impromptu Performances Mark the CJO's First Set

The Calgary Jazz Orchestra set a nostalgic theme by opening with the theme from Spiderman. This lively swing number featured toe-tapping solos by Carsten Rubeling on trombone, Shane Statz on sax and Willy Joosen on piano. Incidentally, Joosen is the organist for the Calgary Flames, a post he has held for over 22 years.

The only video game music that was officially on the programme was Koji Kondo's "Bob-omb Battlefield" from Nintendo®'s Super Mario video games. This lively arrangement was done by Brendan McElroy, a Calgary bassist who now lives and works in Toronto.

McElroy is the co-founder of The Runaway Five, a video game band that has opened for the Video Games Live concerts in Toronto. Sarah Matheson on bari sax and Greg Baker on drums performed jaw-dropping solos. Slipping in the "Underworld Theme" was a nice touch.

The impromptu moments were a stroke of genius. When asked what music is played at the Calgary Flames hockey games, Willy Joosen answered by playing several memorable themes on piano, including the "Star Trek Battle Theme" and the theme from the TV hit show The Simpsons. The audience listened in rapt silence to The Simpsons.

The Calgary Jazz Orchestra wrapped up the first set with the theme song from the popular TV show, Family Guy. This number featured solos by Kim Beachum on trumpet, Dr. Jeremy Brown on sax and Carsten Rubeling. Other songs featured in the first half included the theme from Tennessee Williams' "A Street Car Named Desire", classic pop songs "Fragile" by Sting and "Just the Way You Are" by Billy Joel.

More Movie Music and Classic Pop Songs in the CJO's Second Set

The jazz concert's second half began with a snazzy arrangement of John Williams' "Hedwig's Theme" from the Harry Potter movies. It began in an eerie fashion before moving to a lively jazz waltz. Reminisces of the “Song d'une nuit du Sabbat” from Hector Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique came to mind when Gerry Hebert played "Hedwig's Theme" in the highest register for the clarinet. This number featured solos by Gerry Hebert, Shane Statz on tenor sax and Jeremy Brown on alto sax.

The programme included one Michael Jackson hit, "The Way You Make Me Feel". This arrangement featured Johnny Summers on vocals. It started off slowly and then switched to a more upbeat tempo.

The Calgary Jazz Orchestra wrapped up the concert with a rousing Beatles medley arranged by Greg Baker. The medley included "Eight Days a Week", "All My Loving", "When I'm 64" and "Hey Jude" and featured solos by Sarah Matheson. Jeremy Brown, Kim Beachum, Carsten Rubeling, Al Muirhead on trumpet, Greg Baker and Johnny Summers on trumpet. No performance of "Hey Jude" is complete without someone waving a cell phone to the music. The cell waving began on stage and was quickly picked up by one section in the audience.

Other songs featured on the programme included Roberta Flack's "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" and the theme from the film The Man With the Golden Arm, which starred Frank Sinatra.

Will Joosen stole the show in several parts, launching in the the theme song from Wheel of Fortune in response to a dramatic “Oh!” from the audience and more VG music, this time, various themes from the Pac-Man® series.

The playing was top notch for this concert. However, there were a couple of “blips”. First, there were no printed programmes (glitch at the printers). Second, for a programme that touted music from video games, the gamer geeks in the audience wanted more than one video game song on the official programme (although Willy Joosen's musical tangents were a great touch). With the sheer volume of pop, VG music and movie music out there, the CJO will have plenty of material to draw from for upcoming concerts.

About the Calgary Jazz Orchestra

The Calgary Jazz Orchestra is a 16-piece jazz ensemble founded in 2004 by director Johnny Summers. The music for this concert was arranged by Johnny Summers, Greg Baker, Shane Statz and Brendan McElroy.

The CJO delivered a fun programme featuring mostly classic pop songs dubbed “ENTERTAINMENT!”, held Sunday, January 30, 2011. The band launched its 2010/11 season with music by Charles Mingus and Oscar Peterson and followed up with “A Perfectly Frank Christmas”, which featured music by Frank Sinatra. The ensemble's upcoming concert on April 10, 2011 will feature music by Duke Ellington and Harry Connick Jr. For concert tickets or more information, visit the Calgary Jazz Orchestra's website.

Originally published on Suite101.com on Feb 2, 2011. Updated July 23, 2013.