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Closing Weekend: The Jazz Connection Big Band & Scenic November 4th & 5th

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The Jazz Connection Big Band performing at the 2015 Steel City Jazz Festival

Those of you who have followed the development of the festival over the past few years may have noticed two threads connecting each iteration to the other. The first might be the Jazz Connection Big Band, who opened the very fist Steel City Jazz Festival with an amazing performance at the Hamilton waterfront back-dropped by a gorgeous August sunset. They have played every festival since then, and this year is no different: they perform at the Pearl Company on Friday, November 4th. Their performances are always a festival highlight and always pack a punch; no matter how many times I see them they never fail to have a few surprises in store. As an extra incentive to join us on the fourth (as if that’s necessary), they’re joined this year by vocalist Aubrey Wilson.

Another thread would be the inclusion of musicians from Mohawk College. Honestly the connections between Steel City Jazz Festival performers and Mohawk are are so numerous that I don’t have a chance of going through them all here, but for starters our 2016 Smordin Law Artist-in-Residence, Mike Malone, taught at Mohawk College for 25 years; last year’s Artist-in-Residence, Adrean Farrugia, was a student of Mike’s at Mohawk! It’s always a pleasure for me to present not only graduates or faculty members from the Mohawk music program but current students, and so I’m very pleased that to close out this year’s festival on November 5th we’ll be featuring The Scenics, a group of graduating Mohawk students playing music from the Great American Songbook. The Scenics are Stephanie Sloss, Aoife Doyle, Summer Mortimer, Chanille Blair, Leah Korkowski, Chris Power and Alyssa Giammaria singing, backed up by  Ian Brown, Keegan Larose, Nigel Stewart, Zakk Benn in the band.

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The Scenics

I’m happy these two performances ended up falling on the closing weekend of the festival, since I think they represent two goals that we try to hold closely to: just like in jazz music, we always want to be looking forward while remembering where we came from. The 2016 Steel City Jazz Festival is just a few days away now, and I hope you will join us for another year of celebrating the Hamilton jazz community!

The Jazz Connection Big Band perform November 4th and The Scenics perform November 5th, both shows at the Pearl Company starting at 8pm (16 Steven St). Online tickets are available now.

The Jazz Connection Big Band Devil’s Night Bonanza October 30th

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Don’t mess with Steve. Photo courtesy Bob Hatcher.

I’d say that Halloween is the holiday most associated with getting up to no good (although St Patrick’s day might give it a run for its money), so I think it makes sense to throw a Jazz Connection Big Band show on Devil’s Night. The Jazz Connection could come out on the right side of a little bit of trouble. I’m not accusing them of any shady business here, I’m just saying that the Jazz Connection are not a band to be messed with. This is music with some punch to it, it’s powerful stuff; you’ve gotta hold on tight once they get going full swing. But trust me, hearing the Jazz Connection Big Band up close and personal is a whole lot better than a bag of candy!

This is the third year the Jazz Connection have played at the Steel City Jazz Festival and I couldn’t be happier to welcome them back again. They were one of the first acts on board for the inaugural year of the festival and they haven’t stopped impressing me since. Their performance at the Pearl Company last year was one of the highlights of the festival. You can check out a clip from that show below and get a taste of what’s in store this Friday:

In the year since they’ve continued to expand their repertoire (which now includes some Janelle Monae, fingers crossed Tightrope makes an appearance on Friday) and bring their brand of serious Hamilton big-band grit all over Ontario. If you’ve seen them before, you know you’re in for something special. If you haven’t experienced the Jazz Connection Big Band yet, now is the perfect time to start. Don’t be scared, just bring a costume and come get to know the baddest Big Band around.

Opening Show Announcement: The Jazz Connection Big Band

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Photo Credit: Alex Sears

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.

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