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Paul Tynan sees different big band styles on each side of the border

Trumpeter Paul Tynan has seen big band music from both the Canadian and American sides of the border – and the styles aren't always the same.

Paul Tynan plays at a Carleton University Jazz camp concert. ©Brett Delmage, 2013“There's a lot of different influences in Canada than you find in the States,” he said, such as Canadians Rob McConnell (who led and composed and arranged for his legendary Boss Brass in Toronto for decades), and Kenny Wheeler (who rewrote big band music in the 70s into a much more harmonically dense and richly textured form).

“You don't see a lot of those influences heavily in the States.”

Instead, he said, there's the tradition of the Count Basie Band, as well as the influence of Bob Brookmeyer, and a lot of outgrowth of the music of Gil Evans. “Even though he is a Canadian, I don't hear much influence of Gil Evans on a lot of the Canadian composers living in Canada as you do with the American composers or the ex-pats.”

“I guess [Canadian big band music] has got a unique sound to it, a truly Canadian sound.”

You can judge where Tynan himself fits in tonight, when the faculty big band band at the Carleton University Jazz Camp will play a concert of Tynan's big band compositions.

He describes his own influences as including more modern composers: Wheeler, Brookmeyer, Django Bates, and Carla Bley. He also admires the work of Toronto trumpeter and big band composer John MacLeod. As well, he said he learned a great deal about writing and composing from two professors at the University of North Texas (UNT): Neil Slater and Paris Rutherford.

Born in Ontario, Tynan studied jazz in the States: first at SUNY Potsdam's Crane School of Music in New York state, and then his masters degree at UNT, where he was a member of the 20-piece, Grammy-nominated One O’Clock Lab Band. He has been teaching jazz trumpet, jazz history, and arranging at St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia since 2001.

He has also played with a wide variety of American and Canadian musicians, including Chris Potter, Django Bates, Michael and Randy Brecker, Jerry Bergonzi, Clark Terry, Bob Brookmeyer, The Dallas jazz orchestra, David Braid, and Matt Wilson. He has performed on more than 50 recordings, and released seven albums as a leader.

Under the name Bicoastal Collective, Tynan also has released a series of albums with San Francisco-area baritone saxophonist Aaron Lington, one of which includes improvised music inspired by the England’s eastern coast folk melodies and their treatment in composer Ralph Vaughn Williams’ early 20th-century works.

Big band music is “one of my outlets, my mediums, if you will, for playing and creating music,” Tynan said, and he has written commissions for bands in Canada, the U.S., and Europe.

The material for Friday's concert will come from several sources, he said. Some are commissions: for example, a chart called “Wishful Thinking” written for a big band at the University of Saskatchewan. Some will be small group tunes that he has expanded into larger ensemble pieces, as well as several pieces he wrote for the first Bicoastal Collective record (which featured a 10-piece band).

The pieces are in “various styles, everything from fast, aggressive stuff to lighter, more esoteric, floaty type stuff. I guess you could say it's pretty modern. It's not Count Basie, that's for sure.”

On one ballad he wrote for the Boise State University Big Band, he and saxophonist Joel Frahm will be soloing, and “I'm really excited about that. Obviously I'm a huge fan of his playing, so it's very exciting.”

While Tynan has regularly worked with the Capital Region Music festival, he said his last notable public appearance in Ottawa was at the National Arts Centre's Atlantic Scene festival back in 2003. He said he was glad to be teaching at the Carleton University Jazz Camp: “It's nice to work with the young people and I get to look at the future of Canadian jazz right here in the face.”

    – Alayne McGregor

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