JazzEast 20th Anniversary Concert

Big bands are more about people than music. Ellington wrote specific parts for specific sounds people made. Freddie Green played with Count Basie for 50 years. In buses, hotels, and in rehearsal, players learned to live and work together against all common sense. The twenty-two hours off stage is fuelled by the two hours on stage each night. It was a hard way to make a living.

JazzEast is a led by my good pal Bill Brennan. This group is celebrating their 20th anniversary and I am thrilled to join them for the party. That is something worth celebrating! On May 5, Jazz East will be celebrating this milestone with a concert of music written by all Canadian arrangers and composers, including a newly commissioned work by Gary Johnston. There’s music by Phil Nimmons, Andy Ballantyne, John MacLeod, Rob McConnell, Rick Wilkins, Fred Stride and more. I arranged “As Time Goes By” as a short tribute to the great pianist Ralph Walker. Our thanks to ArtsNL for their assistance in this special concert.

Jazz East Big Band was started by the great David Smith in 1997 as an outlet for Gonzaga High School graduates, who wanted to continue to play jazz as they entered their adult lives. [Gonzaga is ok, but I went to O’Donel. We are each the Shelbyville to one another’s Springfield]. Over the past two decades, the band has evolved into Newfoundland’s quintessential jazz ensemble; a mix of professionals, community members, and university students, through which new music is explored, young musicians are mentored, and classics are celebrated. Jazz East has fostered community spirit, professionalism, and musical excellence for hundreds of jazz players in St. John’s, and will continue to do so for many years to come.

Folks around the world who love big band music meet up on off nights of the year in high schools and universities, set up and break down chairs and stands, stamp music, book gigs, find subs, make posters, listen, commission, reach out, find babysitters, practice, practice and practice. These are the people who keep this music alive.

The concert is May 5, 2018, 8pm, D.F. Cook Recital Hall, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John’s NL. Admission is $18 or $13 for students or seniors (+box office surcharge), and tickets are available through the Holy Heart Box office by calling (709) 579-4424, or online at holyhearttheatre.com To celebrate Jazz East’s High School start in 1997, and to keep the tradition of jazz alive and well in our city, the band will be offering special $5 tickets to all high-school jazz band students. I encourage everyone who cares about community, great music, and laughs be there.

A final note: Paul Bendzsa is in this band. For many years he led the MUN Jazz Band, which I played in. I wrote about Paul here. His mind and music is always ahead of everyone. Truly one of THE funnest and funniest people I have ever known. Come watch us crack each other up. It WILL happen. Another final note: more than 20 years ago I played in the RC School Board District Band with Jazz East General Manager Keith Pike. A more likeable fellow you couldn’t find. We are still bangin’ away at the music, aren’t we?