Music by The Duke and Harry Connick Jr., A CJO Concert Review

Soulful sounds and funky grooves marked the CJO's final jazz concert of the 2010/11 season. The Calgary Jazz Orchestra played to a full house when members took to the stage Sunday, April 10, 2011 at River Park Church.

The first half of the programme featured the music of Duke Ellington, an American arranger, band leader, jazz composer and pianist from the Cotton Club era. The music of New Orleans actor, composer and jazz vocalist, Harry Connick Jr. comprised the second half. Connick Jr. burst onto the music scene with his soundtrack to When Harry Met Sally.

Opening Act Dr. E.P. Scarlett High School Jazz Band

The Jazz Band from Dr. E.P. Scarlett High School in Calgary, Alberta warmed up the audience with three numbers. They performed “Idiom '59 Part II” by Duke Ellington, “Blue Serge” by Mercer Ellington and “Orange Colored Sky” by Milton DeLugg and Willie Stein.

Under the direction of Jonathan Bell, the E.P. Scarlett Jazz Band has performed at various festivals and competitions in Alberta. Most recently, they received the top award at the the 2011 Alberta National Band Festival.

Classic Duke Ellington Featured in the CJO's First Set

The CJO a wide variety of music - done in a big band jazz style. Photo by R-M Arca.

Drummer Greg Baker encouraged the audience to help set the tempo for the first number while the rest of the Calgary Jazz Orchestra members were getting ready. The group opened with “Play the Blues and Go”. This upbeat number featured solos by Gerry Hebert on clarinet, Shane Statz on tenor sax, Al Muirhead on trumpet, Dave Reid on trombone, Rich Harding on alto sax and Kodi Hutchinson on bass.

Special guest, jazz vocalist Hazel Proctor received a warm welcome. She came on stage to sing “Mood Indigo”. Proctor performed with the CJO at the December “A Perfectly Frank Christmas” concert. She sings with the Dixie Boppers in Calgary, Alberta and has performed at Dixieland jazz festivals throughout Canada and the US.

One of the highlights from the first half was “It Don't Mean a Thing”. This toe-tapping number featured many stunning solos. Shane Statz presented a weaving solo, while Kim Beachum delivered a fast and furious solo on trumpet. The fingers of each member of the rhythm section were a blur during their respective solos. Rich Harding's solo showcased his superb sense of phrasing. The song accelerated dramatically to the double bar line.

Other songs featured in the first set included “In a Mellow Tone”, “Solitude” and Ellington's arrangement of “In the Hall of the Mountain King” from Edvard Grieg's Peer Gynt Suite. “Solitude” put the spotlight on Gerry Hebert on soprano saxophone and multi-instrumentalist Dave Reid on euphonium.

Sultry Jazz, Witty Quips and the Music of Harry Connick Jr. Mark the Second Half

The CJO kicked off the second half with “Blue Light Red Light”, a medium tempo number which featured director Johnny Summers on vocals. While the second number was being introduced, a cell phone rang in the audience. “Go ahead and get it,” quipped Summers. “Buy low, sell high,” he added, which garnered a few laughs. Summers really shone in “Jill”. This number featured the rhythm section, as well as Shane Statz.

The programme wrapped up with a New Orleans funk number, “Mind on the Matter”. Special guest Spencer Cheyne joined Greg Baker on drums. Dave Reid's solo included a musical quote of “In the Hall of the Mountain King”. Pianist Egor Ukolloff delivered his funky solo with impressive technical fluency. Johnny Summers sang and later performed a solo on trumpet. Baker and Cheyne traded two's with the rest of the band. Bakers also added his vocals during the head. Other performed included “Last Payday”, “Spot” and “It Had to Be You”, which Connick Jr. sang on the When Harry Met Sally soundtrack.

There was a pregnant pause after the final round of applause at the end of the programme. It was if the audience was waiting for Summers to say something else, or for drummer Greg Baker to yell “Encore!” as he did at the ENTERTAINMENT! Concert.

“Now what?” asked Summers. Turning back to the band, he added that although the programme was done, no one was moving. Only then did members of the audience ask for an encore. “This is the freakiest encore ever,” Summers added. The CJO obliged by performing “Come By Me”. The audience rose to its feet in a standing ovation for several minutes afterward.

Calgary Jazz Orchestra Unveils Its 2011/2012 Concert Season

The CJO divulged its 2011/2012 concert season. Upcoming concerts will feature the music of Chet Baker, Billie Holliday and Frank Sinatra. It will also showcase music from Cuba.

Subscribers can buy season tickets on the Calgary Jazz Orchestra website for $85 prior to August 1, 2011. Subscriptions will go up to $90 after August 1. Single tickets will be available for $25 each.

About the Calgary Jazz Orchestra

The CJO was founded by director Johnny Summers in 2004. This concert featured Gerry Hebert, Rich Harding, Dr. Jeremy Brown, Shane Statz and Sarah Matheson on the saxophone. Hebert, Harding and Brown also played the clarinet on selected numbers. The trumpet section is comprised of Johnny Summers, Kim Beachum, Gordon Wilhelm and Al Muirhead. Brian Walley, Jim Scott, Mike Thomson and Dave Reid make up the trombone section, while Egor Ukolloff (piano), Kodi Hutchinson (bass) and Greg Baker (drums) form the rhythm section.

The Calgary Jazz Orchestra ended its 2010/2011 concert season by performing to a full-capacity audience on Sunday, April 10, 2011 at River Park Church. The concert featured big band jazz arrangements of music by the “Cotton Club King”, Duke Ellington, as well as New Orleans crooner Harry Connick Jr. The CJO's 2010/11 season has been an entertaining ride, with varied programming, well-played jazz and plenty of laughs.

Originally published on Suite101.com on April 13, 2011. Updated August 7, 2013.