Horn in on jazz performances hosted by York’s Jazz Studies, starting today

Looking to spice up the doldrums of a grey winter? Jazz Studies at York has just the thing to get those toes tapping and those fingers snapping with a roster of January events, many of them free, starting with today’s performance at 12:30pm.

The Brubeck Braid Duo kicks off the start of this year’s Jazz at Noon series today in the Tribute Communities Recital Hall, Keele campus. Admission is free.

York PhD candidate and lecturer Matt Brubeck, a cellist, composer and the youngest son of jazz icon Dave Brubeck, who received an honorary degree from York in 2004, teams up with pianist and composer David Braid. Listen to the intimate interplay of these two like-minded musicians as they perform jazz standards, original compositions and free improvisation with fluid versatility.

Wholenote jazz reviewer Ted O’Reilly described the debut CD by the Brubeck Braid Duo as "remarkable, with drama matched by beauty matched by fun and just plain diggin’in".

Left: Brubeck Braid Duo, Dave Braid (left) and Matt Brubeck. Photo courtesy of Matt Brubeck.

The Halifax Chronicle Herald praised the duo’s performance at the 2007 Atlantic Jazz Festival, saying, "The harmonic texture delivered by Braid with his typically sensitive touch on the piano keyboard is one of the richest of any pianist since Bill Evans. Brubeck’s soaring lyricism, driving bass lines and agile bowed improvisations merge with Braid’s pianistic invention in an ideal combination".

Each term, York’s jazz program presents a series of public concerts featuring resident talent and guest artists. This month there are six jazz events to trumpet away the winter blahs.

The second jazz event is on Thursday, Jan. 17 at 7:30pm. Random Access Large Ensemble (RALE), featuring 15 of Canada’s finest jazz artists including its leader and drummer, York jazz instructor Barry Romberg, will play the Tribute Communities Recital Hall, Keele campus. Admission is $15, students $5.

The ensemble will perform jazz classics and new, original compositions. Romberg’s playing has been described as innovative, distinctive and playfully subversive. This Juno winner and five-time Juno nominee has been a major fixture on the Canadian jazz scene for over 25 years and is featured on over 60 recordings.

Right: Al Henderson

Jazz luminaries Kelly Jefferson, Kevin Turcotte, David Occhipinti and Rich Brown are just a few of the musicians performing as part of RALE Thursday night.

On Tuesday, Jan. 22 at 12:30pm, the Al Henderson Septet will play the ACE Lounge, 219 Accolade East Building, Keele campus. The concert will feature the premiere performance of Henderson’s suite Regeneration. Admission is free.

The Al Henderson Septet taps into some of York’s, as well as Toronto’s, finest jazz talent. Henderson plays bass, while Pat LaBarbera and Alex Dean are on saxophone, Richard Whiteman is on piano, Matt Brubeck and Mark Chambers are on cello and Barry Romberg is on drums.

Henderson, a York music professor, is also well known as co-leader of the band Time Warp. He is the jazz area coordinator in York’s Music Department, director of the York University Jazz Orchestra and an award-winning composer.

Right: Barry Romberg

On Thursday, Jan. 24 at 7:30pm, the Michael Marcuzzi Ensemble will perform, From Salon to Solar: A Retrospective of Cuban Music, as part of the Faculty Concert Series in the Tribute Communities Recital Hall, Keele campus. Admission is $15, students $5.

York professor and percussionist Marcuzzi is joined by special guests Juan Carlos Cárdenas, vocals and Orlando Cardoso, dance; Ruben Esguerra and Paul Ormandy, who direct two of the Cuban Music Ensembles in the world music program at York; Sacha Williamson, who teaches jazz vocals at York; the York Latin Ensemble; and graduate students in music and dance.

On Friday, Jan 25 from 7 to 9pm, at the Tribute Communities Recital Hall, Keele campus, the symposium Gospel Meets Jazz will present talks and performances by gospel and jazz artists led by York Professor Karen Burke. Admission is free.

Gospel Meets Jazz explores the relationship between these musical siblings and will feature the Joy Brown Quintet.

The final performance for January will take place on Tuesday, Jan. 29 at 12:30pm with Mike Downes’ "In the Current" Ensemble at the ACE Lounge, 219 Accolade East Building, Keele campus. Admission is free.

The ensemble has been brought together especially for this occasion and features York jazz faculty and guest artists in the world premiere of Downes’ new composition, In the Current: A Suite for 10 Jazz Instruments. Downes, working on his MA in York’s Music Department, has performed with many of Canada’s top jazz musicians, including Oliver Jones, Diana Krall and Renee Rosnes.

Right: Mike Downes. Photo by Anand Maharaj.

York pioneered university-based jazz performance studies in Canada and offers jazz courses at all levels of undergraduate study, as well as a master’s program, taught by seven full-time and 28 part-time faculty. The repertoire spans jazz standards, big band, improvisation and contemporary jazz, enriched by world music traditions, including Brazilian samba, Cuban jazz, gospel, West African drums, steelpan and Afro-American music.

Jazz performance studies in York’s Music Department centre on small ensembles, plus jazz choirs and orchestra. Currently, the program boasts 15 small ensembles led by some of Canada’s pre-eminent jazz artists.

Each term culminates in a four-day York Jazz Festival showcasing the rising young talent in the department. Some of its former students, include flautist and saxophonist Jane Bunnett, Gemini and Juno-award winning composer and pianist with the Holly Cole Trio Aaron Davis and pianist, arranger, music director and CBC broadcaster Andrew Craig.

To purchase tickets, call the box office at 416-736-5888 or visit, www.yorku.ca/perform.