concert review

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

Another migration. The Calgary Jazz Orchestra wrapped up its concert season April 10, 2011 by performing big band jazz by Duke Ellington and Harry Connick Jr. to a full house.

Review of Johnny Summers – Piano Sessions Vol. 1 CD Release Concert

Calgary multi-instrumentalist Johnny Summers and friends delivered an intimate and passionate performance on Saturday, March 16, 2013 at the University of Calgary's Rozsa Centre. The event was a CD Release Party to introduce Summers’ third jazz album, Piano Sessions Vol. 1.

Calgary Jazz Orchestra Plays Mingus and Peterson Concert Review

The Calgary Jazz Orchestra launched its 2010-11 season with The Music of Charles Mingus and Oscar Peterson on September 26, 2010. Originally published on .

Concert Review of CJO's Romance Concert

The Calgary Jazz Orchestra and special guests presented a delightful jazz concert on Sunday, February 10, 2013 at the River Park Church in Calgary, Alberta.

Concert Review: Calgary Jazz Orchestra Plays Brubeck and the Adderley Brothers

Lively music and exciting solos were on the programme at the Calgary Jazz Orchestra's first concert for the 2012/13 season. This concert took place on Sunday, October 21, 2012  at the River Park Church in Calgary, Alberta. The William Aberhart Jazz Ensemble, directed by Kevin Willms took to the stage first, performing three numbers. The first was "Hay Burner" by composer and big band arranger, Sammy Nestico, a mid-tempo number.

The William Aberhart Jazz Ensemble Plays at the Calgary Jazz Orchestra concert. Photo by R-M Arca.

This was followed up with Duke Ellington's "Pyramid", which is a medium, Latin-influenced number. This featured some lovely solos on trombone, clarinet, tenor sax, trumpet and bari sax.

The jazz band wrapped up with "Groovin' Hard" by Don Menza. This upbeat swing number featured solos on drums, tenor sax, piano and guitar.

The Calgary Jazz Orchestra Performs the Music of the Adderley Brothers

The first half of the CJO's program featured some hard bop by trumpeter and composer Nat Adderley and his brother, alto saxophonist Julian "Cannonball" Adderley.

The jazz ensemble opened the first set with "Hayseed". This lively number featured solos by Gerry Hebert on saxophone, Kim Beachum on trumpet, Egor Ukoloff on piano and Brian Walley on trombone. A highlight was when Jeremy Brown (saxophone) and Greg Baker (drums) were trading fours.

Another highlight wasn't listed on the programme. The late addition was "Tenderly", arranged by pianist Egor Ukoloff. It was performed by Egor Ukoloff, Jeremy Brown, Johnny Summers, Kodi Hutchinson and Greg Baker.

Egor Ukoloff opened with a Gershwin-esque introduction, complete with rolls and waves of blues chords and arpeggiated patterns. A sensitive presentation of the "head" was delivered by Johnny Summers on trumpet and Jeremy Brown. Jeremy's lines were quite varied, one moment, lyrical and wavy and the next, marcato as the melody grew.

In contrast, Johnny's lines were softer with tender motifs that mimicked the murmurings between lovers. This gradually ave way to a more rhythmic part as the rhythm section led the transition to the piano solo.

Egor's featured rhythmic motives and sequences. Truly, the architecture of their solos was simply sublime.

Five other songs were included in the first set. They were: “Work Song”, “Unit Seven”, “Sermonette”, “Jackleg” and “ Spectacular”.

The CJO Performs West Coast Jazz by Paul Desmond & Dave Brubeck

I must come clean, I am a huge Brubeck fan. I guess that makes me a West Coast jazz fan as well. The second half is what I had eagerly anticipated for months! Well, ever since the Calgary Jazz Orchestra announced its 2012/13 season. The CJO performed the music of the Adderley brothers and Dave Brubeck. Photo by R-M Arca.

The CJO performed the music of the Adderley brothers and Dave Brubeck. Photo by R-M Arca.

Director Johnny Summers shared the story behind his arrangement of “Take Five”. He asked a visiting musician for ideas on how to approach arranging this iconic tune. He was told “Don't bother.”

The result was an exciting arrangement. The punchy 5/4 rhythms prevail but the shaping was exquisite. Gerry Hebert's solo meandered, gradually leading the audience up to Shane Statz's solo on sax. It featured longer rhythms.
The middle section had a distinct “Get Smart” vibe. It also featured Rich Harding on alto sax. His solo started slowly and gradually built up the audience with trickier rhythms.
In contrast, Johnny Summers' solo built up in waves, punctuated by “splats”. Greg Baker's solo also built up in waves with punchy rhythms.
The final number on the programme was “Blue Rondo àla Turk”. Egor Ukoloff opened, followed by Greg Baker and Kodi Hutchinson. Next came the saxes, followed by the trumpets and trombones. The transitions between the swing theme and the Turkish theme was executed marvelously, gradually gaining momentum and energy.
Gerry Hebert marked the first transition to swing, followed by Rich Harding on sax in a lower register. Then, the pair traded fours, then twos, building up the excitement with faster rhythms.
Johnny Summers' solo during the “Turkish” part was slow and steady, at first, then got louder, higher and faster. This was punctuated by blasts of rapid descents to the lower register.
Egor Ukoloff's solo was blues-infused, featuring a soulful melodic line and crunchy chords. The music gained speed and continued to push towards a very energetic ending.
Other songs featured in the second set include “Charles Matthew Hallelujah”, “In Your Own Sweet Way” and “Unsquare Dance”. The CJO performed Cannonball Adderley's “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy” as an encore.

Upcoming Events with the CJO

The CJO's next performance is the annual Al Capone Charade. This cabaret features an evening of big band swing and dancing. The Calgary Jazz Orchestra is launching a new series called “CJO Small Group Series”. The opening performance, “From the Plantation to the Penitentiary” is on Thursday, November 22, 2012, and will feature the music of Wynton Marsalis.

To find out more about CJO and the jazz ensemble's upcoming events, visit the Calgary Jazz Orchestra website.

The Music of David Brubeck & the Adderley Brothers was presented by the Calgary Jazz Orchestra on Sunday, October 21, 2012 at Riverpark Church. It featured big band arrangements by Greg Baker, Shane Statz, Johnny Summers and Egor Ukoloff. This enjoyable programme showcased several pieces that had heads bopping to the music throughout the evening.

Concert Review: Calgary Jazz Orchestra's "Blues & Our Songs”

Variety, impressive licks and smart big band arrangements were on tap at the Calgary Jazz Orchestra's final concert for the 2011/12 season. This concert took place on Sunday, May 6, 2012  at the River Park Church in Calgary, Alberta.
Sir Winston Churchill High School's jazz band opened with  “Alice in Wonderland” (Bob Hilliard), an upbeat jazz waltz which featured solos on piano, electric guitar, saxophone and bari sax.
This was followed by “Pick Yourself Up” from the musical Swing Time (Jerome Kern). Director Judy L. Wishloff got the entire audience singing the refrain. This featured solos on bass, vocals, saxophone and trumpet.
Humour, Charm and Smart Arrangements Showcased in Calgary Jazz Orchestra's Own Works
The first half of the programme showcased works by Calgary Jazz Orchestra's own, a “ smorgasbord collection,” quipped CJO Director Johnny Summers. The opening number, “For PJ” (K. Hutchinson & G. Bane) was written for a colleague and friend who passed away. This upbeat work contained echoes from classic TV shows in the 1960s (e.g. Spider Man, Get Smart).

“For PJ” featured a driving bass line supported by a shuffling drum beat. The solos displayed a wonderful contrast. There was a fast and rhythmic solo by Johnny Summers on trumpet, followed by a sparkling solo on sax by Gerry Hebert in the high register. Gareth Hughes presented a soaring solo that built up to high-energy wails and shakes, while Brian Walley gave listeners a dramatic contrast with his more subdued solo on trombone. Joanna Borromeo, delivered an explosive and highly syncopated solo on piano, while guest artist Russell Broom presented a softer, yet still rhythmic solo on guitar.

“Father's Time” was a last minute addition to the programme. Gerry Hebert wrote this when his first child was born. The shifting meter shows off his “feeling askew” combined with the excitement of fatherhood. This featured solos by Jim Brenan on saxophone, Johnny Summers on trumpet, Gerry Hebert on flute and Joanne Borromeo on piano. This catchy number is from Gerry Hebert's jazz CD, BeatNiq Sessions Volume 2: Constructive Interference.Drummer Greg Baker described “Riff Knot” as a “young Count Basie type” tune. This medium jazz-blues number featured driving repeated notes followed by catchy licks on piano. This was followed by the trombone section and then the saxes and trumpets together. Sarah Matheson's solo on bari sax created an adventurous weaving line, while Russell Broom's guitar kicked up the energy a notch. Al Muirhead's trumpet solo weaved a line that was as beautiful melodically as it was rhythmically punchy.  John Gray's energetic bass solo segued smoothly into Greg Baker's punchy solo. Shane Statz's solo brought together all the weaving and pushed the ensemble towards the climax.

Three more numbers rounded out the first half. They were “Sudafed Blues” and “Chance Charm” by Shane Statz and Greg Baker's “Just a Memory”.

CJO Performs Music Made Famous by Jimi Hendrix, B.B. King and John Mayer 

From the moment Russell Broom cut loose on his guitar for “Hey Joe”, the entire audience began to bop their heads or tap along to the beat. This arrangement by Greg Baker opened with said guitar solo, complemented by “splashes” from the trumpets, saxes and trombones. Greg Baker was on double duty for this jazz blues number, delivering gritty vocals without missing a beat on percussion. The groove switched to more of a rock flavour, with the ensemble vamping to a climax.

The soundscape leading to the climax of “Hey Joe” featured jaw-dropping guitar riffs and an equally exciting drum solo.  The rhythm section traded bars with each member of the trumpet section before the audience heard one last guitar solo.

“The Thrill is Gone” (R. Hawkins, R. Darnell) is a medium blues number made famous by B.B. King. This arrangement was done by Greg Baker. It opened with Russell Broom on guitar plus the rhythm section. Gradually, layers were added, building up until Greg Baker began to sing. Russell's guitar solo featured beautiful melodies, soulful slides and varied rhythms. This segued nicely into Shane Statz's solo on sax, which shifted the melody to the upper range. The vocals returned with the trombones before being joined by the entire ensemble. The guitar and rhythm section brought the number to a rousing close.

Calgary Jazz Orchestra's Johnny Summers (Photo by R-M Arca)
The CJO ended with a slow number that was high on soul, with a bit of blues, rock and gospel thrown in. This big band arrangement of John Mayer's “Gravity” was done by Johnny Summers. This showcased Johnny's vocal range wonderfully. It featured a dramatic solo by Russell Broom, a strong and an introspective solo by Joanna Borromeo on piano that gradually built up the excitement. The choir walking in from the back midway through the number was a delightful surprise to many.Two other numbers were performed in the second set. These were “Forty-Four Blues” (R. Sykes, H. Wolf, Arr. J. Summers) and “Pride & Joy” (S.R. Vaughan, Arr. J. Summers).


About the Calgary Jazz Orchestra

The Calgary Jazz Orchestra is a 17-piece big band founded by Johnny Summers in 2004. The CJO's “Blues & Our Songs” concert featured Gerry Hebert, Gareth Hughes, Jim Brenan, Shane Statz and Sarah Matheson on saxophones. The trumpet section was comprised by Johnny Summers, Kim Beachum, Al Muirhead and Dave Foley. Brian Walley, Tim Embree, Nathan Gingrich and Greg Robertson make up the trombone section.

The Calgary Jazz Orchestra was joined by guitarist Russell Broom. Based in Calgary, Broom has won awards from the WCMA, Junos and AMPIA and has perfrormed in many concerts in Calgary and jazz music festivals.

The rhythm section included Joanna Borromeo on piano, John Gray on bass and Greg Baker on drums. Pianist Joanna Borromeo made her debut with the Calgary Jazz Orchestra at this performance. Her strong playing incorporated a mix of R&B, jazz-blues and rock that meshed perfectly with the ensemble.

“Blues & Our Songs” concludes the Calgary Jazz Orchestra's 2011/12 season. You can buy concert tickets for the 2012/13 season on the Calgary Jazz Orchestra website.

(c) 2012 by Rhona-Mae Arca, Musespeak(TM). all rights reserved.

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.