Jazz: More than just elegant dinner music

The York University Jazz Ensemble, directed by York music professor and renowned jazz drummer Barry Elmes, left, will kick off the student segment of JAZZ.FM91’s 2004-2005 Sound of Toronto Jazz™ Concert Series on Feb. 7 at the Ontario Science Centre.

JAZZ.FM91 host Larry Green will take to the stage as master of ceremonies. The concert series is produced by JAZZ.FM91’s Doug Watson.

York University’s dynamic sextet features Mike Cado (guitar), Michael Davidson (vibraphone), Jeff Graville (drums), James McEleney (bass), Jason Murray (trumpet) and Patricia Wheeler (saxophone).

These talented performers will offer fresh interpretations of jazz standards plus some of their own original compositions in bouts of full-tilt ensemble playing, punctuated by soaring solo spots, guaranteed to warm the blood of any audience on a cold winter night.

“People who come to this concert are in for a wonderful night of live jazz,” Elmes said. “And it’s a great opportunity to see the next generation of jazz masters in the making.”

Guitarist Mike Cado of Richmond Hill, Ont., recently completed his MA in jazz composition and is presently working towards a PhD in ethnomusicology at York, where he also teaches jazz workshops, guitar and musicianship. He leads the tentet Nimmons ‘n’ Nine…NOW! whose performance credits include the 2003-2004 “Sound of Toronto Jazz™” series as well as clubs such as the Montreal Bistro, and which features some of Canada’s finest jazz musicians including Don Thompson, Chase Sanborn, York’s David Mott, and Terry Promane.

Vibes player Michael Davidson, also of Richmond Hill, is a fourth-year music major who at York plays in a jazz trio specializing in highly improvised music. Originally a jazz drummer/pianist and classical percussionist, Davidson discovered his affinity for vibes in York’s jazz studios. “When I arrived at York, I began to study classical percussion with John Brownell and was introduced to the vibraphone and marimba. I immediately felt a strong connection to both of these instruments,” he said. Vibists whom Davidson holds in especially high regard include Gary Burton, Milt Jackson, Bobby Hutcherson, Cal Tjader, Red Norvo, Dave Samuels and David Friedman.

Drummer Jeff Graville of Georgetown, Ont., is pursuing an MA in composition at York. His performance credits range from the Canadian Walk of Fame Awards to a three-year stint in a band with his then classmate, the “velvety crooner”, York alumnus Matt Dusk. “There was always music playing in our house and I grew up listening to a lot of New Orleans jazz,” Graville said. “I’ve always admired musicians like Gene Krupa and Quincy Jones who not only play great music, but have managed to reach a lot of people.” The multi-talented Graville also plays piano, trombone and double bass.

Bassist James McEleney of Scarborough, Ont., is a second-year York music major. He also plays with another York student ensemble focusing on jazz arrangements and Klezmer melodies. “Charles Mingus is by far my favourite jazz musician and has been my greatest influence, along with Charlie Haden,” said McEleney. “The high point of my musical career has been enrolling at York University and meeting and playing with lots of serious musicians, as well as working with amazing professors.”

Davidson, Graville and McEleney performed at the prestigious 2004 Toronto Downtown Jazz Festival as part of the York University Student Jazz Ensemble, where they impressed the audiences with their brilliant playing.

Trumpet player Jason Murray of Pickering, Ont., is a fourth-year music student. “I fell in love with the trumpet after listening to jazz greats and now seek to master it,” said Murray. “Studying music has given me an appreciation for the arts as a whole, and has helped me to improve my focus and discipline in other studies,” he added. Inspired by his high-school music teacher and band director, he would eventually like to teach music at the secondary school level.

Saxophonist Patricia Wheeler of Toronto, Ont., is pursing an MA in composition at York. She credits family and friends as early, strong influences for her choice of a career in music. Wheeler recalled, “My dad plays piano and accordion while my mother still has all the 78s she collected as a teenager. I learned how to ballroom dance at the age of 8 and knew the words to Sentimental Journey at 11. Good music was always being played in our household. As well, my closest friends have always been musicians.” Wheeler enjoys a busy freelance career performing with several bands in and around Toronto, including her own band, The Absolute Faith Orchestra, which will be releasing its second CD this year.

The York University Jazz Ensemble concert takes place Monday, Feb. 7, at 8pm at the Ontario Science Centre, 770 Don Mills Rd., Toronto. Admission is $12 and a JAZZ.FM91 member discount is available. Tickets are available through the Ontario Science Centre box office at 416-696-1000. Parking is free.

For more information about the 2004-2005 Sound of Toronto Jazz™ Concert Series, visit the JAZZ.FM91 Web site.

This year marks the 31st anniversary of the jazz program at York University, which pioneered university-level jazz studies in Canada and continues to enjoy a national reputation as one of the country’s leading jazz schools.

 This article was submitted to YFile by Mary-Lou Schagena, publicist, Faculty of Fine Arts.