The accompanying photo, taken by Lauren Walker, shows a bunch of older horn players looking on slightly goggle-eyed while Sam Cousineau solos on John Graham’s tune, Malibu. We had all finished our solos and a good thing too. One thing we learned in preparing for Sundays Originals concert was that you don’t want to be the one soloing after Sam Cousineau.
The concert, held at the Shenkman Centre, came out of a JazzWorks project that has been going on for several years, most intensely in the last two, with the creation of extra days at jazz camp for composers. The Ontario Arts Council has given support.
In those extra days the composers work closely with faculty members, fine-tuning the songs that just need a little work, and doing major make-overs on tunes that need that. Attention is also given to arranging. Then the composers hear their tunes played by both faculty and campers. Most of the tunes played on Sunday are a product of that process. Most of them came ready to play.
Composers represented were David Miller, Roberta Huebener, Gretchen Schwarz, Ron Buckingham, Mary Moore, Nathan Corr, Doug Somers, Lance Schwerdfager, Charley Gordon, Tim Murray and John Graham. Most of them also played in the concert, with the additional help of Sam, Dave Finlayson, Alrick Huebener, Doug Jacques and Gavin McLintock.
There were 12 tunes in all. On many of them, most of which had been played at the closing concert at jazz camp last summer, members of the original groups were on hand, sometimes bolstered by extra musicians, sometimes by faculty members — John Geggie, Nancy Walker, Nick Fraser and Rémi Bolduc.
That was one big difference. It is always a thrill to have your song performed. It is more than a thrill to have Nancy Walker on it, or to hear Rémi Bolduc solo on the chord progression you weren’t sure about. Turns out that any chord progression is the right one when Rémi plays on it.
The other difference was the short rehearsal time. We got together on the night before the concert for the first run-through. Then there was a two-hour dress rehearsal on the afternoon of. Some of the musicians, a mixture of older and younger players, were sight-reading on tunes they hadn’t played before. Some of the tunes were pretty easy, some of them weren’t. Some of the charts needed fixing.
One of the best things about having the faculty members around was the reminder we constantly got from them that this was not just about reading music. It was also about finding a groove, about listening to each other, and keeping energy levels up, about soloing and supporting soloists, all the things that you can forget when you are focusing only on playing the right notes.
There was no shortage of highlights. For me, I loved the ensemble playing of the horns (Sam, Gavin and Doug) on David Miller’s tricky Motion of the Ocean. Roberta Huebener’s tunes are always pretty with nice chord progressions to play over. It was great to hear the combination of finesse and spirit that Mary Moore brings to a song. A special treat was to hear the faculty rip off an impromptu version of Invitation. Rémi Bolduc’s playing always makes me smile. And you can hear the same spirit in Sam Cousineau, who is studying with him.
The space, Richcraft Theatre at the Shenkman Centre, was nice to play in and had good sound, also a pleasant a co-operative staff. The audience (and thanks for coming!) seemed to enjoy everything and the participants did too. No reason not to do it again soon. Keep those tunes coming.
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About this blog
Tune Up won't be a calendar of events — Ottawa Jazz Happenings takes care of that. But it will discuss events and issues of interest to the JazzWorks community. Journalist, author, trumpet player and a jazz camper since 1999, Charley Gordon is a former vice-president of JazzWorks.