Another review brought over from Suite101. Jason Graham, Stefano Valdo, Gavin Sorochan and Steve Fletcher delivered impressive performances at the BeatNiq on February 4 & 5, 2011.
Another concert review moved over from Suite101.com to here. The Calgary Jazz Orchestra performed big band versions of Christmas classics and Frank Sinatra hits to a full house December 18, 2011 at River Park Church.
Performing music by R&B and soul jazz band Earth, Wind & Fire, Jocelyn Alice and The Runaway Five wowed a full house at The BeatNiq (now the Wine-O's) December 30, 2011. Another article brought over from Suite101.
The final concert in the Calgary Jazz Orchestra's 2012/13 concert season featured two World Premieres, jazzy pop-rock, vivid soundscapes and lots of laughter.
Driving, funky jazz versions of video game music were on tap when The Runaway Five performed in concert in Calgary, Alberta at the National Musical Centre Saturday, April 6, 2013. It was the jazz group's first "all ages" show.
This concert featured Johnny Summers on trumpet and flugelhorn, Shane Statz on tenor sax, Sheldon Zandboer on piano, Brendan McElroy on bass and Karl Schwonik on drums. It was the group's first performance in a quintet configuration.
Jazz Arrangements of Classic Video Game Themes Played by the Runaway Five
The quintet opened the first half with two songs from the SNES game Earthbound (AKA "MOTHER 1+2"): "Sound Stone" and "Threed". This particular arrangement of the "Sound Stone" melody was quite lively, complete with stride piano. It featured solos by Shane, Johnny and and Sheldon.
In contrast, "Threed" was a laid back bossa nova. One of the neat moments in this arrangement was the transition between the flugelhorn and tenor sax solos. There was a lovely dialogue between the two instruments, which weaved and bobbed like someone floating aimlessly in the pool or ocean. I could have sworn I heard a "quote" from "Rainy Days and Mondays" by The Carpenters for a fraction of a second.
Next game on the set list was SimCity 3000, which is known for its jazz and new age soundtrack. "Updown Town" was a toe-tapping medium upswing. The trumpet solo began in the lower registered with shots that gradually led the listeners higher and higher. This was followed by an extremely chromatic piano solo, complete with rapid-fire blues riffs and shakes. After a very catchy vamp, the tenor sax solo gradually built up higher and higher, like a skyscraper.
"Into the Darkness" from Final Fantasy IV was a lazy jazz waltz. The ensemble played upon the rhythmic ostinato from the introduction, working it into their solos. The flugelhorn solo was soft and mournful. In contrast, the tenor sax rose and fell like waves. The piano solo had punchy riffs and crunchy chords, while the bass solo played upon the theme, leading the audience deeper and deeper, lower and lower into blackness.
Another highlight from the first set was "Love Song" from BioWare's Dragon Age. This slow jazz waltz featured a beautiful duet between the flugelhorn and tenor sax. The sax solo began simply, who lush long tones, but the rhythm grew in complexity, building the tension. In contrast, the piano solo featured tender chords that rose and fell like a sigh. It too gradually grew in intensity with crunchier harmonies. The gradual deconstruction of the theme was a neat effect, just before leading the audience back to the head.
Three more video game themes were performed in the first set. "Buy Something Will Ya" (Earthbound) was a moderate swing number. "Zelda's Lullaby" (Zelda), which showcased the flugelhorn and piano. The Runaway Five closed the first set with the "Overworld Theme" from Super Mario Bros 2.
Soul Jazz, Ragtime and Swing Video Game Music in The Runaway Five's All Ages Concert
The Runaway Five did their best to make the audience forget the miserable weather outside with "Koopa Troopa Beach" from Super Mario Kart 64. Was I the only one pretending to drive my Mario Kart around the beach during the performance? I hope not.
The tenor sax solo was wavy, with splashes up into the higher register. The flugelhorn solo kept the mood high and bright, not just with playing in the higher register, but with the introduction of a different rhythm. The piano took that rhythm and changed it even more. When the head returned to lead us back to the finish line, it was a nostalgic moment.
Another highlight from the second half of the show was "Muscle Soul" from Battlefield Bad Company 2 Vietnam (Hill 137). This isn't a game I'd normally play, so hearing this theme was my introduction to the music of Anders Lewen.
This number opened with the bass and drums vamping on that opening riff until one by one, the rest of the company stepped in. The trumpet solo traversed a wide range, like a unit marching to their next mission. The sax solo was as soulful as the original recording. The piano solo had a little Motown, a little funk and a hint of disco.
The Runaway Five closed the show with "Air Platform - The Athletic Rag" from Super Mario World. The quintet had fun playing around with the two main themes from this classic video game. The trumpet solo used the A theme as a springboard to new riffs.
The tenor sax took the last rhythms played by the trumpet and then improvised on the B theme, then back to the A theme before tossing it to the piano, where we heard a chromatic treatment of the B theme, complete with zippy runs. The drum solo was playful, exploring different rhythmic and timbre combinations.
Three more VG themes were featured in the second set, including the "Figaro Castle Theme" from Final Fantasy III (VI), "Green Hill Zone" from Sonic the Hedgehog 2 opened with the drums and music from Street Fighter.
About The Runaway Five
Founded by Brendan McElroy, the Runaway Five performs jazz music arrangements of classic video games, including Super Mario Bros., Final Fantasy and Zelda. In 2008 and 2009, the group performed at Massey Hall in Toronto during the Video Games Live tour. The ensemble members change, increasing or decreasing depending upon the needs of the show.
The Runaway Five performed an intimate concert open to all ages on Saturday, April 6, 2013 at the National Music Centre. The interplay between the musicians was a delight to hear, while the themes left the audience feeling nostalgic about games past and present.
If you missed the show, you can check out some of group's earlier performances on their Youtube Channel. The Runaway Five will perform later this year. Details to follow.
Johnny Summers' third album, Piano Sessions Volume 1, showcases his versatility as a musician and presents a diverse mix of musical genres. From swing to ballad and from honky-tonk to blues, there is something for every music aficionado to enjoy.
The Calgary Jazz Orchestra performed a sold-out concert at River Park Church in Calgary, Alberta on Sunday, December 23, 2012. From “You Don't Know Me” to “Frosty the Snowman”, the CJO presented varied palette of big band jazz, Frank Sinatra standards and Christmas favourites. The warm up act for this Christmas show was the University of Calgary Jazz Orchestra, directed by Dr. Jeremy Brown. The jazz group performed Fred Sturm's arrangement of Radiohead's “Bodysnatchers”, Bobby Watson's “Fuller Love” (Arr. Dan Keberle) and Jerry Nowak's “Frosty the Snowman”.
Christmas Classics and Sinatra Standards at CJO's Christmas Concert
The emcee for the 2012 edition of “A Perfectly Frank Christmas” was CJO bassist Kodi Hutchinson. In addition to playing for various ensembles, Kodi is the host of “A Time for Jazz” on CKUA Radio.
The jazz band performed seven songs in the first set: “O Tanenbaum”, Harry Connick Jr.'s “It Must've Been Old Santa Claus”, Cole Porter's “I've Got You Under My Skin”, Frank Loesser's “Baby It's Cold Outside”, Jay Livingson & Ray Evans' “Silver Bells”, Jerry Herman's “We Need a Little Christmas”, Eddy Arnold & Cindy Walker's “You Don't Know Me” and Jule Styne & Sammy Cahn's “The Christmas Waltz”.
One highlight was Desiree Arthur's and Johnny Summers singing “Baby It's Cold Outside”. Their voices blended together very well, weaving and soaring. Dr. Jeremy Brown on sax and Al Muirhead on trumpet, danced and intertwined during the interlude. Desiree is from New West Symphony & Chorus.
Another focal point was crowd favourite, Hazel Proctor. The 2007 Senior Star Competition Winner simply shone with “Silver Bells”. Her rich, warm tone drew cheers and whistles throughout her performance. Egor Ukoloff's piano solo traversed the keyboard with crunchy chords and sparkly runs. Al's trumpet solo started with a simple melody which became more embellished with each pass, while Dean Yeat's trombone solo created waves that started gently but grew in intensity.
“You Don't Know Me” gave the audience a preview of Johnny's upcoming jazz CD release, entitled “Piano Sessions”. A very soulful, intimate mood was set by his vocals and the rhythm section. This was soon followed by the saxophones playing a slow gospel riff against runs up and down the piano.
Egor's solo created a myriad of colours. He began with easygoing chords played against a dancing melodic line. Chords, shakes and glissandos helped to build the intensity. This number showcased Johnny's wide dynamic and vocal range – from soft and intimate to powerful and impassioned.
The CJO closed with a “The Christmas Waltz”, which opened with the saxes before leading into Johnny on vocals with the rhythm section. The muted trumpets gave way to arpeggiated chords in the piano. Shane Statz's sax solo set an easygoing pace, weaving a meandering line before the ensemble swelled to a fortissimo, followed by silence. Kodi and Johnny led the Waltz's transition to a faster tempo. The changes in the texture made this an enjoyable arrangement to listen to.
Heebee-Jeebees, Toe Tappin' Swing and More Christmas Hits Performed by the CJO
The Heebee Jeebees, a Calgary-based a cappella group, opened up the second set of The Calgary Jazz Orchestra's “A Perfectly 'Frank' Christmas”. The group opened with an upbeat version “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”.
The CARA Award winning quartet continued with a Flintstones inspired rendition of “Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree”. Johnny Summers joined the quartet in singing “I Pray on Christmas” as Egor Ukoloff played along to this medium gospel number.
The Calgary Jazz Orchestra performed five songs in the second set, including Harry Connick Jr.'s “Frosty the Snowman” and “Song for the Hopeful”. This was followed by Sammy Cahn's “Come Fly with Me”, Hugh Martin's “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and Jack Fox's “Zat You, Santa Claus?” Desiree Arthur returned to the stage for “Song for the Hopeful” while Toe Tappin' Swing moved fluidly along the floor in time to “Come Fly with Me”.
One highlight was Al Muirhead's arrangement of “Frosty”. Greg Baker laid down a fast Latin groove on the drums, accented by “squeals” from Johnny's trumpet, which soon gave way to his vocals. Dean Yeats played a really funky countermelody against Johnny's embellished solo. The entire jazz orchestra joined in to chant “Thumpity-thump-thump”.
Another fun number was “Come Fly with Me”. The entire ensemble cast a playful and nostalgic mood with this medium swing number. Matthew Isenor and Robin Nunnally of Toe Tappin' Swing cut the rug with their nimble footwork and twirls.
Before the final number, the audience learned about “Call a Tune”, which members of the CJO sometimes play at the end of a gig. One musician calls out a tune. They choose a key and a tempo, then everyone present plays or sings along. This led to impromptu performances of “Happy Birthday”, “Jingle Bells” and “White Christmas” involving the audience.
The Calgary Jazz Orchestra closed with “Zat You, Santa Claus?” This medium swing tune showcased catchy lyrics. It featured Johnny Summers on vocals and trumpet, Brian Walley on trombone and Kodi Hutchinson on bass.
The Calgary Jazz Orchestra received a standing ovation, complete with cheers, whistles and shouts for an encore. The CJO complied, performing “O Holy Night”.
The next CJO performance is on February 23, 2013 at 18 Degrees of Jazz Gala for Big Brothers & Big Sisters. For more information on the Calgary Jazz Orchestra, visit the CJO's website. Tickets may be purchased online or in person at Anacrusis Music.
The Calgary Jazz Orchestra performed to a packed house on Sunday, December 23, 2012 at River Park Church in Calgary. Big band arrangements were done by Al Muirhead, Paul Ashwell, Greg Baker and Johnny Summers. Guests included the UofC Jazz Orchestra, Desiree Arthur, Hazel Proctor, the Heebee Jeebees and Toe Tappin' Swing.
This Christmas show, packed with stock Sinatra songs and Christmas music, was extremely entertaining, diverse and well played. Most, if not all members of the audience, were singing, tapping and cheering for more.