Jane Bunnett and Maqueque brought Cuban heat to GigSpace last July ©Brett Delmage, 2014
Jane Bunnett and Maqueque brought Cuban heat to GigSpace last July ©Brett Delmage, 2014
Updated March 15,  2015
Jane Bunnett
has been a tireless and enthusiastic supporter of Cuban jazz and Cuban musicians for decades. On Saturday, that support again bore fruit as she and her group Maqueque won the 2015 Juno Award for Jazz Album of the Year: Group.

The jazz and other genre music awards were handed out on Saturday, March 14, in Hamilton, Ontario. Other, mostly pop-oriented, awards were revealed on March 15.

Maqueque is an all-female group of young, energetic Cuban musicians, plus Bunnett. They released their first, self-titled, album last June to excellent reviews. Their series of four CD release concerts at GigSpace in early July were extremely warmly received by Ottawa audiences. OttawaJazzScene.ca interviewed Bunnett about Maqueque in June.

Bunnett has won four previous Junos, in 1993, 2001, 2006, and 2009. The first three were also for albums featuring Cuban-influenced jazz.

Other jazz or improvised music artists taking home Juno awards this year included:

  • veteran Toronto saxophonist Kirk MacDonald, for the second album he released in 2014, Vista Obscura. This collaboration with American hard-bop pianist Harold Mabern won Jazz Album of the Year: Solo. MacDonald has been nominated six times for a Juno, and won once before, in 1999. OttawaJazzScene.ca interviewed him about his other album, Symmetry, and reviewed his show presenting that album at the 2014 Ottawa Jazz Festival.
  • Toronto vocalist Diana Panton, won Vocal Jazz Album of the Year for Red, her sixth album. It is a collection of love songs, mostly standards. On it, she's accompanied by well-known Canadian jazz musicians (Reg Schwager on guitar, Don Thompson on piano and vibes, Phil Dwyer on sax, and Jim Vivian on bass), plus a five-person string section arranged by Thompson. This is Panton's first Juno win, although she had been nominated three other times in the last six years.
  • throat singer and improviser Tanya Tagaq was awarded Aboriginal Album of the Year for her tour-de-force album, Animism, which had already won the Polaris Prize last year. The album features jazz/improvising percussionist Jean Martin, and was produced by improvising violinist Jesse Zubot; both are long-time musical collaborators with Tagaq.
  • Update March 15: Crooner Michael Bublé was awarded the Juno Fan Choice Award.

As we reported before, non-vocal jazz albums were in new categories in 2015: solo and group. However, many of the “solo” nominees featured groups of musicians playing the lead artists' compositions, making it difficult to distinguish the categories.

    – Alayne McGregor

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