It wasn't your typical concert. It wasn't even your typical jazz concert, as students in Carleton University's music program showed off their year-end accomplishments in a free concert in Patrick Cardy Studio on April 5. The double bill included free and conducted improvised music, followed by a set of roots and jazz, both played to an appreciative audience which filled the studio.

©Brett Delmage, 2016
©Brett Delmage, 2016

The first set was the final performance of professor Jesse Stewart's “Improvisation in theory and practice” class. Stewart described the performance as “music that never existed before. It will never exist again.” The first song was conducted, as was the third in a much more dramatic way, while still being improvised by the individual players. “It's structured in the course of the performance in real time by virtue of the conducting and the decisions we collectively make in the moment,” Stewart said.

The class consisted of 17 students from a wide variety of backgrounds, Stewart said. “Some people are coming from a jazz background. Others are coming from a singer-songwriter background, some are coming from a classical background, so in many ways this ensemble is very much about the negotiation of differences. That's the joy and fun of exploring those differences throughout the semester and here this evening.”

It was lights out for the third piece and ensemble's term project, where the players were conducted by light. “We talked about light replacing graphic scores during the course. We will use light almost as a moving graphic score,” Stewart said. The audience was also handed glow rods and laser pointers and encouraged to provide additional input to the performance.

2015-16 Artist-in-residence Petr Cancura directed the second set, performed by students in his Jazz and Roots ensemble.

“We combine the concept of improvising, which is commonly associated with jazz, and fuse it with roots music which is essentially folk music of different styles or areas of the world, because they both have this raw, story telling power,” Cancura said in introduction.

The ensemble included instruments not commonly heard together: banjo, tuba, tenor sax, trombone, vocals, drumset, and violin. Their five-song set started with Forró dance music from northeast Brazil, and moved to Toronto cellist Andrew Downing's “Once I was in Stockholm”. It then flew through a bluegrass tune “Clinch Mountain Backstep” and something jazzier: Hard Times, “popularized by Ray Charles... and this band.”

Carleton U Music student performances continue throughout this week. The Jazz Ensemble performs in Kailash Mital Theatre at 7:30 p.m. on April 7, The Saxophone Quartet in Patrick Cardy Studio at 7: p.m. April 8, and Capital Youth Jazz Orchestra (CYJO) in Kailash Mital Theatre at 7 pm. Sunday April 10.

    – Brett Delmage

Related: Petr Cancura and Ian Tamblyn combine jazz, folk in satisfying Crossroads concert (video)

All photos ©Brett Delmage, 2016