Music faculty and grads score Juno nods

photo of violinist Matt Brubeck

York University music faculty and alumni are in the spotlight as nominees for Canada’s most prestigious music awards, the Junos. The 2012 edition rolls out the week of March 26, culminating in the gala Juno Awards ceremony in Ottawa on April 1.

The York nominees are York PhD candidate Matt Brubeck and the Stretch Orchestra for their self-titled CD Stretch Orchestra, The Mike Murley Septet, alumna Sue Passmore (BFA ’02) and the Good Lovelies, and York music Professor Christina Petrowska Quilico

Percussionist Jesse Stewart (MA ’00) and cellist Matt Brubeck, a contract faculty member and PhD candidate in York’s Department of Music, get a nod for the self-titled CD Stretch Orchestra, made in collaboration with guitarist Kevin Breit. The CD is nominated for Instrumental Album of the Year. The trio says the CD’s unusual name is derived from the fact their average height is a towering 6’5”, but Daniel Korn of Cadence Canada theorizes it could be their “experimental energy…constantly stretching the boundaries of their capabilities to great effect” that gave them the moniker. The photo of violinist Matt BrubeckStretch Orchestra has performed at the Atlantic and Guelph Jazz Festivals and the Ottawa Chamber Music Festival, and has been recorded live by CBC.

Matt Brubeck

“I am very pleased with the nomination,” said Brubeck. “It’s always tricky to decide how to submit something with such a range of influences from bluegrass, rock and roll, jazz and world. Turns out this instrumental category was a good fit.”

A gifted composer, performer and improviser whose primary instrument is the cello, Brubeck teaches strings and improvisation and directs the New Music Ensemble and Composer’s World Music Ensemble at York. With an eclectic background in jazz and classical music,  he is at home in multiple musical genres and has worked with a host of leading artists, including Tom Waits, Sheryl Crow, Yo-Yo Ma and his own father, jazz great Dave Brubeck. In addition to the Stretch Orchestra, he is a member of the improv trio Ugly Beauties and the jazz duo Brubeck/Braid, whose CD  twotet/deuxtet was nominated for both a Juno and a National Jazz Award in 2008.

Stewart, a percussionist, composer and instrument builder, works primarily in the areas of jazz, new music and free improvisation. He is a member of the David Mott Quintet and has performed with many other acclaimed musicians including George Lewis, Roswell Rudd, Bill Dixon and Evan Parke. He also leads his own groups and appears regularly as a soloist at festivals across the country. His recordings include a solo CD of his own compositions played on found objects and a quartet recording featuring York music professor, violinist Jacques Israelievitch.

Nationally renowned saxophonist and York music alumnus Mike Murley (BFA ‘86) and his septet are nominated for Traditional Jazz Album of the Year for their debut recording, Still Rollin’. The CD features new compositions that Murley wrote for the group, along with new arrangements of some of his earlier pieces, performed by some of Canada’s finest Mike Murleyjazz improvisers.

Mike Murley

The Mike Murley Septet features three York jazz instructors, trumpeter Kevin Turcotte, bassist Jim Vivian and saxophonist Tara Davidson. They are joined by Terry Promane on trombone, David Braid on piano and Ted Warren on drums. The entire CD was recorded in one day.

Still Rollin’ is Murley’s ninth recording as leader. He has two previous Juno wins under his belt for Murley, Bickert & Wallace: Live at the Senator (2002) and Two Sides (1991).

The Good Lovelies, a trio including York music alumna Sue Passmore (BFA ‘02), is nominated for Roots and Traditional Album of the Year (group), a category they won in 2010.  Their third full-length album, Let the Rain Fall, has earned kudos for their “divine” trademark three-part vocal harmonies, hailed by The Globe and Mail’s Brad Wheeler as “all sun, serotonin and retro radio”.

Passmore, who made her debut as a singer and songwriter at the Absinthe Pub on York’s Keele campus, now tours with the Good Lovelies. The band’s hectic schedule from March to May this year includes 26 concerts in Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom, including JUNOfest on March 30 and 31 in Ottawa.

In conjunction with JUNOfest, York music Professor Christina Petrowska Quilico receives the top billing in the Canadian Christina Petrowska QuilicoMusic Centre’s Classical Junos in Concert, a free performance taking place March 30 at 3:30pm in the main foyer of the National Arts Centre in Ottawa.

Christina Petrowska Quilico

One of Canada’s foremost pianists and recording artists, Petrowska Quilico faces a conundrum in the Juno competition: with two works in the running, she is in effect competing against herself. Among the five nominees for Classical Composition of the Year are Glass Houses No.5, a piece by the late Canadian composer Ann Southam that Petrowska Quilico recorded on her critically acclaimed CD Glass Houses Revisited, and Heather Schmidt’s Piano Concert No. 2, featured on Petrowska Quilico’s equally well-received disc Tapestries. Both recordings – her 25th and 26th respectively – are available through the Canadian Music Centre.

“All the nominated works are of high quality and extremely well-performed, and I’m proud to be among them,” said Petrowska Quilico. “A Juno nomination is a great honour. I’m gratified to receive such recognition for my work.”

These two nods bring to four the total number of nominations that Petrowska Quilico has garnered for Canadian composers. Larysa Kuzmenko’s piano concerto, which Petrowska Quilico performed with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra conducted by Jukka-Pekka Saraste and recorded on her CD 3 Concerti, was nominated last year, and Glenn Buhr’s piano concerto, recorded by Petrowska Quilico with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Maestro Bramwell Tovey for CBC Records’ release, Contemporary Piano Concerti, was a nominee in 1996.

Petrowska Quilico launched Glass Houses Revisited with a recital at the CBC’s Glenn Gould Studio in Toronto last March. The CD earned four-star reviews, with Toronto Star music critic John Terauds calling it “nothing short of miraculous.” 

Schmidt’s Piano Concert No. 2 was written for Petrowska Quilico and recorded at its 2001 premiere at the Open Ears Festival in Kitchener, Ontario, with the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony Orchestra and conductor Daniel Warren. La Scena Musicale reviewer Normand Babin wrote: “the piano is brilliant in this sparkling work.”

While Petrowska Quilico looks forward to the Junos, she won’t be attending the awards ceremony in Ottawa on April 1. That evening, she’ll be on stage at the Markham Theatre for the Performing Arts, performing works by Ann Southam for the Markham New Music Festival: Glass Houses, Rivers and Folk Dances. For details and tickets, visit the Markham Theatre online box office.