Jazz season is finally here with sounds across the spectrum


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As musicians of all stripes struggle to find performance opportunities, three of the city’s most accomplished saxophonist conductors have cooked up some great options for jazz and blues fans.


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Jazz blues

It’s no surprise that Dave Babcock is currently straddling two different bands and sounds.

“I’m excited about both possibilities,” he says, “and just being able to play live again means so much when you couldn’t. This shared experience is the real reward.

There’s a new weekly jazz matinee Saturday at the Spotlight Cabaret that sees the reedman singer in front of a trio of jumps with Chris Andrew on keys, Rubim de Toledo on bass and Jamie Cooper on drums. They play two sets on site, 8217 104 St., reservation tickets are $ 12 at projectorcabaret.ca .

It’s a continuation of the concept of a jumping orchestra that Babcock conceived over 20 years ago with a repertoire that spans retro jazz classics with that bouncy jumping spirit, occasional ballads and originals too.


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Babcock then rekindles a blues angle with The Nightkeepers – together on and off over the past decade, the group taps into classic rhythm and blues, leaning towards vintage Texas and jumping grooves, and adding more original tunes. Fellow Rockin ‘Highliners Alex Herriot picks up guitar alongside David Aide aka Rooster Davis on keyboards, bassist Harry Gregg and again Cooper’s drums. Babcock is a versatile player but the saxophonist excels in jazz blues and the Nightkeepers are a great inspiration for that.

Nightkeepers shows are virtual only in accordance with Yardbird’s current policy and both ensembles run from 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., with $ 10 and $ 8 tickets for students / seniors at yardbirdsuite.com .

Like so many others, Babcock faced a new realization of the precariousness of a musical career during the pandemic period.


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“The music business has never been easy, but I didn’t have a plan B,” he explains, “so it’s a struggle not being able to do what you love to do and a quadruple hard blow: you can’t play, can’t earn a living, can’t see fellow musicians and friends, or audience. You can practice, write, or record, but you have to get out. There is a form of training and a form of play, engaging with an audience, getting back into the mix.

Babcock has contributed to new recordings for Dana Wylie and Sammy Volkeov, and has sorted through his personal archives built up over some four decades. Meditating helped him get through the dark days and inevitable downtime of the past few months. Eventually he reached a new awareness.


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“In the future, I want to focus more on the music I want to play, with the people I want to play with, the more creative and music-oriented shows,” he says. “The more you are there, the more you realize that this is a precious thing, and you make it a priority.”

Big band jazz

Talk to Don Berner and you will quickly realize how much he loves big band music. In addition to her serious artistry as a saxophonist, her studious knowledge of the genre suggests that the second season of the Don Berner Big Band will really be something to hear when it debuts on October 16 in a concert called Back With Basie.

This is William “Count” Basie (1904-1984) for the uninitiated, one of the greatest conductors of the golden age of big jazz bands.

“The Basie group basically created modern rhythmic concepts in jazz,” says Berner. “One of the reasons they made you feel so good is because they came up with the contemporary idea of ​​swing. They’ve been going for 40 or 50 years, so there are different ideas of the Basie sound, but I’m trying to represent every part of that spectrum.


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He notes that popular audiences are more familiar with the band Basie on Frank Sinatra’s live album Sinatra At The Sands and that some of that repertoire will be included in the setlist, like Fly Me To The Moon, alongside the clips. Basie’s instrumental songs like One O’Clock Jump. .

At the height of the Basie formation, group number 17 for this concert with five saxophones including Berner and Ray Baril on the viola and Jim Brenan on the tenor, three trombones, four trumpets including Joel Gray and the brother of the leader Doug Berner, a expert rhythm section, and singer Kelly Alanna.

The Saturday show will be at 7:30 p.m. at Ottewell United Church, 6611 93A Ave. Tickets cost $ 31.50 and $ 26 for tixonthesquare.ca students. Tickets for the entire season of three Berner Big Band concerts are $ 115, which includes the Sinatra Tribute Christmas Show with singer Johnny Summers (December 18) and The First Ladies Of Jazz on March 19, 2019. where four singers (Shelley Jones, Natalie B., Renee Suchy, Kelly Alana) pay tribute to Ella Fitzgerald, Doris Day, Dinah Washington and the Andrews Sisters.


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Berner started his first big band season with two popular shows just months before the pandemic and couldn’t finish until things closed. He practiced a lot, read a lot of books and got married in the summer of 2020 while taking care of everything to prepare for this comeback.

Saxophonist Don Berner stands and leads his big band in a new season of concerts, paying homage to Count Basie on October 16.
Saxophonist Don Berner stands and leads his big band in a new season of concerts, paying homage to Count Basie on October 16. Photo by provided /Postmedia

His vast experience includes gigs in the Tommy Banks Big Band and pretty much every other type of ensemble. I wondered where he saw the big band audience today.

“I’m trying to tap into a new generation of big band audiences, but it’s a tough time for live music,” Berner admits. “Big band music is important because it’s fun and flashy. It gives the audience a point of access to the density of contemporary jazz in small groups. It’s rooted in dance music but there are always elements of jazz that I love, improvisation and swing, and I want it to be as accessible as possible.

Simply good jazz

Finally, this treasure of the Canadian jazz scene, veteran saxophonist PJ Perry spends time in his own weekly residence every Wednesday from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Rigoletto’s Cafe, 10305 100 Ave.

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