Cool riffs and smart vibes at first Faculty Concert on Oct. 4

photo of Al Henderson
Al Henderson

photo of Al HendersonAcclaimed jazz composer, bassist, arranger and York University music Professor Al Henderson leads an ensemble of colleagues and friends for the launch of the 2012-2013 Faculty Concert Series in York’s Music Department.

The Al Henderson Quintet brings a collection of original compositions from their new CD, Taiga, to the Tribute Communities Recital Hall at York’s Keele campus on Thursday, Oct. 4, from 7:30 to 9pm.

Al Henderson

Called “…a thinking fan’s quintet…” (The Globe & Mail), the all-star band includes York faculty members Richard Whiteman (piano) and Barry Romberg (drums) and guest artists Pat LaBarbera (saxes and flute) and Alex Dean (saxes, flute, bass clarinet).

In addition to material from Henderson’s new Cornerstone Records release, the quintet will perform several world premieres of his recent compositions inspired by the poetry of three-time US Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky.

“We played a piece called “Croaking Raven” at my Faculty Concert Series performance at York in 2010 which featured a reading of Edgar Allan Poe’s poem ‘The Raven’,” said Henderson. “After that concert, Pat [LaBarbera] suggested that I try to write something to go with Pinsky’s poetry. So I did. It’s a series of pieces that can be played as purely instrumental compositions (as we’ll be doing at our concert) or with the poet as narrator. One of the pieces, “Icicles”, appears on our Taiga CD. We’ll be premiering at least one more at our concert.”

photo of Barry Romberg (drums), Richard Whiteman (piano), Al Henderson (compers and bass), Alex Dean (saxes, flute, bass clarinet) and Pat LaBarbera (saxes and flute).Pictured from left: Barry Romberg (drums), Richard Whiteman (piano), Al Henderson (compers and bass), Alex Dean (saxes, flute, bass clarinet) and Pat LaBarbera (saxes and flute).

Henderson is known nationally both as leader of his own eponymous ensembles – a quartet, quintet and septet – and as co-leader (with his York University colleague, Professor Barry Elmes) of the influential group Time Warp. Over the years, he has also performed as sideman with many other well known jazz artists including Jane Bunnett, Arnett Cobb, Diana Krall, Hank Crawford, Slim Gaillard, Jimmy Knepper, Flip Phillips and Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson.

Henderson’s credits as composer include an extensive and distinctive repertoire of original works which have won him multiple honours, including the Jazz Report’s Composer of the Year award and the SOCAN Award for Original Jazz Taiga by Al Henderson coverComposition. In addition to CDs by his own bands, his compositions have been recorded by artists such as Don Pullen, Jane Bunnett,  Shox Johnson & the Jive Bombers, and Barry Romberg’s Random Access.

A graduate of York’s music program, Henderson has taught at his alma mater for many years, becoming a full-time professor of music in 2006.

The Faculty Concert Series spotlights faculty artists in the Department of Music at York University. Upcoming concerts will feature master percussionist Trichy Sankaran (Oct. 25), British music specialist and pianist Dorothy DeVal (Jan. 17), and jazz drummer and composer Barry Elmes (Feb. 28).

Tickets are $15, or $5 for students and seniors. For tickets, contact the Box Office at 416-736-5888.