Vocalist Wichina Bastien in performance with flute player Doug McCarthy, in the Studio B band set at the Carleton University Jazz Ensembles concert ©Brett Delmage, 2019
Vocalist Wichina Bastien in performance with flute player Doug McCarthy, with the Studio B band at the Carleton University Jazz Ensembles concert ©Brett Delmage, 2019

Carleton University Jazz Ensembles
Dominion Chalmers
Thursday, March 21, 2019 – 7:30 p.m.

View photos by Brett Delmage of the Studio B band performance

View photos by Brett Delmage of the Studio A band performance

Contemporary and original was the vibe as two Carleton University student ensembles presented their end-of-term jazz concert last week.

The nine-member Studio B band and the ten-member Studio A band performed an eclectic selection of modern jazz tunes along with their own compositions and arrangements, in a fast-moving and well-received show.

Jazz ensembles director Mark Ferguson has regularly encouraged his students to contribute their own work to these concerts – as they did again this year. For the opening Studio B band, saxophonist Angelo Leo mixed Charlie Parker-style bebop with the study of angels for his piece “Angelology”. It was a sleek, bluesy number featuring wordless vocals from Wichina Bastien, swinging sax solos from Leo and Samuel Boucher, and a thumping drum solo from Christian Lascelles.

Pianist Steven Estafanos rearranged the Simon&Garfunkel version of the folksong “Scarborough Fair”, giving it a time signature of 5/4 and taking his inspiration from John Coltrane's arrangement of “My Favourite Things”. The result was an fast-moving ensemble piece with vocal, guitar, piano, and flute lines floating above.

Bastien picked one of her favourite songs, “Love You I Do” from the film Dreamgirls, and gave the R&B number a polished and emotional rendition over a powerful horn section and inflected guitar solo from Reef Downing.

The Studio A band at the first Carleton University Jazz Ensembles concert at Dominion Chalmers ©Brett Delmage, 2019
The Studio A band at the first Carleton University Jazz Ensembles concert at Dominion Chalmers ©Brett Delmage, 2019

For the Studio A band, pianist Anthony Kubelka created an understated but moving arrangement for the jazz ballad “Emily”. Vocalist Melissa Burke wrote lyrics for George Cables' instrumental “Think on Me”, which she then sang with urgency, matching the energy of the horns and the aggressive drum solo from Jennie Seaborn.

Saxophonist Matt Devost introduced his piece, “Speak”, as “a fun little rhythmic thing – just listen and enjoy”. The piece carefully blended the voices of all of the musicians, each contributing lines that echoed the others, into a smooth and powerful close.

The students' original material fit well into the selection of tunes by modern jazz composers, in styles ranging from funk to salsa to ballads, presented professionally and with considerable energy and commitment.

This was the first time the Carleton jazz ensembles had appeared at Dominion Chalmers, instead of their usual Kailash Mital Theatre at the university. In 2018, Carleton University bought Dominion Chalmers as a multi-purpose downtown performance space for students and faculty. It seats about 1,000 (more than double the size of Kailash Mital), giving more room for larger concerts and lectures.

It's certainly a more central and beautiful location, which could allow more of the public to hear the excellent performances like this one by student and faculty groups. But the limitations of the former church's aging sound system were unfortunately all too audible, despite the work of highly experienced independent audio engineer John Rosefield. The instruments mostly came through clearly, but the vocals were sometimes distinct and sometimes muffled, both during the performances and in the announcements and between-song introductions.

I hope Carleton University will be able to upgrade the sound system so that student (and other) performances here can be fully appreciated.

Set List

in order of performance

Studio B Band

  1. 500 Miles High [Chick Corea]
  2. Angelology [Angelo Leo]
  3. Love You I Do [Henry Krieger]
  4. Scarborough Fair [Paul Simon]
  5. Doin’ It Right [Hilton Ruiz]

Studio A Band

  1. Strasbourg/St. Denis [Roy Hargrove]
  2. Velejar (Sail Away) [Tom Harrell]
  3. Emily [Johnny Mandel, Johnny Mercer]
  4. Speak [Matt Devost]
  5. Think on Me [George Cables]
  6. Song for Bilbao [Pat Metheny]

Band members

Studio B Band:

  • Wichina Bastien – vocals
  • Doug McCarthy - flute
  • Angelo Leo - alto sax
  • Samuel Boucher - tenor sax
  • Nick Rivers-Moore - baritone sax
  • Reef Downing - guitar
  • Steven Estafanos - piano
  • Sean Cullum - bass
  • Christian Lascelles - drums

Studio A Band:

  • Melissa Burke - vocals
  • Laurel Ralston - trumpet and flugelhorn
  • Eric Cathcart - trombone
  • Matt Devost - alto sax and clarinet
  • Rebecca Cowal - tenor sax
  • Zac Sedlar - baritone sax
  • Dan Marano - guitar
  • Anthony Kubelka - piano
  • Evan Davis - bass
  • Jennie Seaborn - drums

Read related stories by OttawaJazzScene.ca