The Capital Youth Jazz Orchestras (CYJO) will present their final feature concert of the season on Sunday, April 1: a Latin extravaganza which will combine the huge acoustic energies of the 20-piece CYJO band, and La Garza, the 26-piece Crane Latin Ensemble from Potsdam, New York, where they will jointly perform the previous night.
For many listeners, the show will be a welcome and too-infrequent opportunity to hear big band and Latin music at a time of year when people generally like more heat on their notes. For the CYJO student musicians, the show will be the culmination of their third season of hard work, many rehearsals, several public performances, and much learning. And for a significant number of musicians, this will be their final feature performance before retiring from the band, which is an important educational opportunity for student musicians in the Ottawa area.
Trumpeter Nicholas Dyson has been CYJO's director since it started in 2009. He was introduced to La Garza when he and the Capital Brassworks played with them a few years ago.
“They blew me away,” Dyson said.
Dyson started talking right away with La Garza's founding director, Dr. Marsh Baxter, about putting the joint CYJO show together. But the collaboration took a few years to be realized, given students' conflicting schedules.
La Garza is one of the premiere performing ensembles of the Crane School of Music. It reflects the diverse musical life at Crane – strings, brass, percussion, piano, woodwinds and voice. The ensemble's music is a blend of classical and contemporary salsa, Latin jazz, and hip salsa hybrids.
For this concert, CYJO will perform traditional songs by Tito Puente and Ray Santos, and will also feature big band and Latin fusions as performed and recorded by Duke Ellington and Frank Mantooth. Canadian composers will also be visible, with music by Rob McConnell and Mark Ferguson being featured. Ferguson, co-leader of the popular local Latin band Los Gringos, contributed his own tunes which he has rescored for big band. He will also be the featured soloist, on trombone.
An expected highlight of this show will be both groups jointly playing music by Paquito D'Rivera and Eddie Palmieri: 46 voices in total.
“I'm so excited for this show. It's a true Latin ensemble,” said Megan Jutting, 22, one of CYJO's retiring trumpeters, at their rehearsal one week before the show.
“One of the things I liked about the music in this band is that it is very diverse: music that is incredibly difficult, and music that's fun, and vocal music and big band charts... the Capital Vox Beatlemania show that was totally different than anything else we have done. It's neat playing all the different kinds of music.”
Jutting is hoping to pursue university studies in the fall at Humber College, which has a Latin ensemble.
“Playing music for this show has opened my eyes to liking that kind of music.”
CYJO Director Nicholas Dyson has programmed and presented a wide variety of music with his student musicians. Their February concert, with guest soloist Patrick Breiner, gave them an opportunity to play Richard Peaslee's “Mulligan Concerto”. Last November, they performed with the Capital Vox Jazz Choir to present Beatlemania (Beatles tunes). They've also presented music by a wide variety of composers, including Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Wayne Shorter, Charles Mingus, Billy Strayhorn, Freddie Hubbard, John Clayton (Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra), Paquito D'Rivera, Gordon Goodwin (Big Phat Band) .
Dyson has actively featured music by Canadian and local composers from their first concert. Local trumpeter and composer Craig Pedersen arranged one of his pieces, "The Baron", for CYJO's February show, and Souljazz Orchestra's keyboardist/composer Pierre Chretien contributed his composition “Consecration”. At their inaugural concert, CYJO performed a composition by Montreal composer, big band leader and saxophonist Christine Jensen.
Ottawa audiences don't often get the opportunity to hear live jazz music that requires this many musicians to perform. CYJO's concerts may even make audiences become aware of some music they might not know about but would enjoy.
“If you aren't exposed to the music at some point, how do you find out you like it in the first place?” asks Dyson.
On Sunday, it will be painless for listeners to find out if they like CYJO, La Garza, and the assortment of Latin music they will play. Admission is simply by donation. According to Dyson, voluntary donations from listeners for the free concerts have been steadily increasing, leading one to the conclusion that listeners are happy about the choice of big band music that CYJO is playing and how they are performing it.
“This is very much my passion. I love big band music and have been involved with it for a whole lot of years. It's really my pleasure to work with the students and help them along and impart that knowledge and hear them kick butt.”
For learning how to “kick butt”, CYJO is the the only big band for university students (and advanced high school students) in the region to play in, according to Dyson. Neither of the local university music departments have enough students to make a jazz big band by themselves. CYJO brings them all together.
But the idea for CYJO originated with the students. Dyson got involved because the students needed a coach.
“The band needed a band leader,” as he says. “These are students that are playing for all intents and purposes [at] very nearly a professional level. We can help them with the details. Their playing is excellent,” Dyson adds.
Megan Jutting has played in CYJO for two years, but like a number of other CYJO musicians (which includes the complete current trumpet section and three-quarters of the rhythm section) this will be her final year, as the young musicians move forward in their student careers. She was attracted to CYJO after she was no longer eligible to play in the high-school based Nepean All-City Jazz Band due to her age.
“I still wanted to continue with music and so I looked for the next level up.”
She said she has learned “a lot about professionalism” and the need for self-responsibility in CYJO.
“It's trial by fire,” Dyson said. “Learning how to blend within a section, how to articulate as a section, how to listen across the band and determine where your part fits in. If you are sitting with five friends, no matter how keen they are, how great players they are, you don't get the feeling of sitting in a band with twenty people.”
Trombonist Daniel Desgroseillers, who is one of the young CYJO members and a student at Merivale High School, has played with CYJO for 1.5 years. He is planning to attend the University of Ottawa to study music next year, and was attracted by the opportunity to play with a group of older, more mature musicians.
“This has been a really talented group that was really pushing my level, and fun to play with. Rehearsal is always a good time. Being with someone of that calibre [Patrick Breiner] is just really exciting,” Desgroseillers said.
“This concert is going to be my favourite one. Mark Ferguson is a very good trombone player... listening to him play and hearing his style and his interpretation is a really inspiring thing to me.”
Ferguson has left a positive impression not only with Desgroseillers, but also other members of CYJO, Dyson said. “For Mark to come in - a local Ottawa guy - and blow everybody [the other composers whose works have been played] out of the water, it's really a great thing.”
Perhaps this is not totally surprising to Ottawa listeners, who have been filling concerts since Ferguson restarted Los Gringos in 2009.
Dyson says Sunday's concert will not only be “crowd-pleasing” but “crowd-dominating.”
“It's going to be loud,” he said laughing.
It may be one of those terrific concerts where you want to arrive early so you don't get a front row seat.
– Brett Delmage