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La Scena Musicale - Vol. 19, No. 3

Jazz: Orchestras at the Forefront

by Marc Chénard / November 1, 2013

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The fall jazz season has come to Montreal in big band style. In September, the “Orchestre National de Jazz, Montréal” (ONJM) launched its concert season with a solid performance, covering with much conviction and skill a repertoire of Thad Jones works and original pieces by trombonist Jean-Nicolas Trottier, a composer and arranger with undeniable talent.

Just ten days later, at the Off Festival de Jazz Off de Montréal, it was Christine Jensen’s turn to launch her second orchestral offering on record, Habitat. Before a packed house she showed her musical craftsmanship, displaying her knowledge of orchestral jazz in elaborate, strongly harmonious compositions. The contribution of the soloists, including tenor saxophonists Chet Doxas and Joel Miller, the latter in tandem with Trottier, was among the highlights of the concert.

To finish the Off Festival in style, pianist John Roney presented his suite World Colours with Effendi Jazz Lab. The octet included two special guests: on harmonica Lévis Bourbonnais, and New-York violinist Mark Feldman for the second part of the evening. All in all, a nice highlight for this year’s festival, which will return next year for its fifteenth anniversary.

But there’s more big band fare in the offing. Just before this issue comes out, Joe Sullivan’s orchestra will have performed at McGill on Halloween. The ONJ, for its part, will return December 13 for a Christmas special with the almost obligatory rendition of Duke Ellington’s take on the Nutcracker Suite.

Preceding that, the Altsys Jazz Orchestra, one of the most enduring mini-big bands of our city, will have performed no less than two concerts, the first on October 20 with its repertoire of John Coltrane works, including his suite A Love Supreme. Three weeks later, on November 8, it will be heard again, this time in a program of compositions by the late American baritone saxophonist Pepper Adams (1930-1986). The band’s co-directors, trumpeter Bill Mahar and his wife, saxophonist Jennifer Bell, will play arrangements by British drummer Tony Falkner, who will be in town with Adams’ biographer Gary Carner, invited to give a talk on the saxophonist (see info below).

The orchestra performs in the evening at L’Espace 64, in Old Montreal. This event is part of the author and arranger’s North-American tour, after which they’ll travel on to Toronto and New York, where all of the music will be recorded for a future release. And just as Adams was the anchor of the saxophone section of the Thad Jones and Mel Lewis orchestra at the legendary Village Vanguard, this last show connects nicely with the first event discussed in this article.

Altsys Jazz Orchestra and L’Espace 64 present:
Tribute to Pepper Adams and Len Dobbin
Music for Tentette
Compositions by Pepper Adams
Arrangements by Tony Falkner
November 8, 8:00 PM, Espace 64, 64, rue Prince. Information and Tickets: 514-397-0430 / info[at]lespace64.com

Gary Carner, author of Pepper Adams’ Joy Road, gives a lecture at 2:00 PM at the Music Faculty of Concordia University. Information: (514) 848-2424, extension 4555 or 4559

Translated by Joshua Lesk

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