I’m sure every jazz lover has a special spot in their heart for the first jazz music they listened to regularly. Even though Miles and Coltrane would eventually take over my ears, I have to admit that I didn’t connect with their music immediately. No, the music that first really grabbed my attention came from big bands. I’m willing to bet I’m not alone in that experience, because I can pinpoint exactly why that was the case: big band music was music I could- and did- play.
When I was in grade seven I auditioned for the Halton Junior Jazz Band and wound up playing baritone saxophone, an instrument almost as tall as me at the time. I played in big bands all through high school and beyond, and I credit the experience with instilling in me a love for jazz. Playing a piece of music forces you to get deep into the nitty-gritty of how to make it swing: you have to find all the tiny improvements that can add up to make for a better musical experience. You come out with not only a better understanding of the tune but a sense of ownership of the music as well. I’m confident that many of the thousands of other players who have played in school bands, community groups or professionally would feel the same way. And considering many peoples’ first exposure to jazz comes through these kinds of groups, I can confidently guess that I’m not the only one with a soft spot for big bands.
And let’s not forget that twenty musicians can make a sound that will simultaneously knock you off your feet and make you get back up on them to dance all night. All I’m saying is, it’s easy to like.
That brings me to an announcement that I hope you will all also find easy to like: I’m pleased to announce that the Jazz Connection Big Band, based out of Hamilton, Ontario, will be opening the Steel City Jazz Festival with a free performance on August 22nd at the Waterfront.
The Jazz Connection Big Band have played at the Rex Jazz and Blues Bar in Toronto, at the Uptown Waterloo Jazz Festival and at the former Hess Village Jazz Festival, and currently perform monthly at the Pearl Company (their next show is May 31st if August is too long to wait). Their repertoire draws from the books of jazz greats such as Buddy Rich, Count Basie, Sam Nestico, Gordon Goodwin and Phil Nimmons.
Big bands ignited my love for jazz, so it feels appropriate to kick off the Steel City Jazz Festival with a big band show. I’ve seen the Jazz Connection Big Band and can vouch for their ability to swing hard. I would also like to thank the Hamilton Waterfront Trust for providing the stage space and supporting the festival. I sincerely hope you will come out on the 22nd, experience a beautiful part of the city, and enjoy the show.
In the coming weeks we will continue to announce shows and artists for the festival, so please keep in touch on Facebook (www.facebook.com/SteelCityJazzFestival), on Twitter (@steelcityjazz) or by checking the website.