Thornbury Rotary Club Brings Who’s Who of Toronto Jazz to Marsh Street

The Thornbury-Clarksburg Rotary Club has a special Christmas gift for local jazz fans this Saturday.  A group of some of the most celebrated jazz players in the country are presenting a special Christmas concert at The Marsh Street centre as a fundraiser for Beaver Valley Outreach.  Along with the concert there is a silent auction happening all week long and running through the night of the concert. (www.christmasjazz.ca).

These players have been coming together once a year since 1984 to celebrate Christmas with seasonal favourites done up in their own style.  Their names are familiar to jazz fans. Each of them has spent many years teaching students the art of jazz.

Pat LaBerbera has been on the faculty of Humber College, arguably Canada’s best music school, turning out generations of sax players, for many years.  After his studies at the Berkley College of Music, and work with luminaries like Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie and many others, he relocated to Toronto in 1974 and became one of the most influential musicians on the Toronto jazz scene.

Brian O’Kane has performed and recorded with artists such as Rob McConnell, Dave Brubeck, Barba Streisand, Aretha Franklin, Diana Krall and Paul Anka.  In addition to his jazz work, he has performed with has performed with the Toronto and Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony Orchestras, the National Arts Centre Orchestra and True North Brass.

Thornbury’s Tony Bauer, who brought these musicians to perform this special show, points out that classical music and jazz are closely parallel. “Almost any good, top jazz musician learned classical,” he says, adding that it goes both ways, “When Glenn Gould finished with a concert, he would go with some of his friends to some dive somewhere to play jazz.”

Dan Douglas of the Dixie Demons plays the trombone during a performance on Saturday at the Shops at Don Mills as part of the Toronto Jazz Festival. (June 22, 2013)

Danny Douglas on trombone performs with the Galaxy All Star Orchestra and Alex Pangman’s Alley Cats, and has been a force to be reckoned with for twenty years in the Toronto Jazz Scene.  He’s co-leader of the Dixie Demons.

Jazz guitarist Andy Harasymczuk is a founding member of the Canadian Big Band and is the owner of the Modern Academy of Music in Alliston.  As a special treat for this concert he will be bringing along Julia Hunter, an impressive14 year old student from Alliston, who will sing “The Christmas Song”, the well-known Christmas staple composed by legendary jazz singer Mel Torme.

 

Bassist Kieran Overs teaches at both Humber and Mohawk Colleges.  His thirty-four years in the business has included tours and recording with legends like Moe Koffman/Dizzy Gillespie, Carol Welsman, Zoot Sims and Chet Baker.  He’s recorded 40 CDs as leader/producer and 80 as a contributing musician.

Ted Warren, in addition to leading his own quartet, Ted’s Warren Commission, also teaches at Mohawk. He has worked with the world’s most acclaimed performers including Maynard Ferguson, Chuck Mangione, Slide Hampton, Kenny Wheeler, Gerry Bergonzi and has performed at Carnegie Hall with harpist Joanna Jordan.

These are the best of the best.

Curator Tony Bauer is an ardent jazz fan who brings in the best jazz players every year to play at Thornbury’s annual Jazz At The Library series, which just finished up this year’s season with Mary-Catherine Pazzano.  Born and raised in Vienna, he discovered American jazz at the age of fifteen.

“As a kid I played violin and then I played  piano a little bit and accordion but basically I play clarinet and saxophone.  I played with the Georgian Sound Big Band for twenty-five years [which he co-founded with Bob Cringan] and I had my own trios and quartets over the years.  I played with people who are now much better than I am.”

He has brought his musical acumen to the Rotary Club before.

“With the Rotary Club,” he says, “we started a youth festival to which we invited high school bands.  We had adjudicators, almost like the Music Fest Canada. They played only big band music, from Port Elgin, from Owen Sound, from Midland, Penetanguishine, Barrie.  But I had to let it go.  I got older and it died unfortunately.”

Youth is also a focus of the Jazz at The Library series.

“We put on eight concerts a year and we use the proceeds for music education at the local school here.

“Last year we sent eleven kids from middle school to the Southampton Summer Camp.  This is an excellent organization, they’ve been doing it for thirty years.  They have about two dozen teachers.  It’s a day camp for one week.  What they teach those kids in one week is amazing.”

And it’s not just about the kids.

“What I like to do if I can is to put some educational value in it as well.  I find that people appreciate that because they learn something at the same time.  Our goal is to provide excellence in music to the audience.  We bring in the very best.”

“What we’re trying to do with those concerts is to bring excellence in music to the audience.  All the performers we have are top notch, which is why we are successful.”

“We’ve developed an audience. It’s amazing how many people do appreciate excellence in music and in jazz, and we have people from Collingwood, from Sauble Beach, from Owen Sound, from Markdale, because we established a reputation that no matter who it is it’s good music.”

Although the concert series is called Jazz At The Library, for some shows it has outgrown the L.E. Shore library venue because of the demand.

“We love the library because it is such a beautiful room.  The acoustics are wonderful, the architecture is excellent and the ambience, the atmosphere with the paintings around – it’s a perfect setting for jazz.  But it is too small for some shows.

“I’m now 91 years old, my eyes are not what they were, my strength is not there, but I remember about ten years ago, I said ‘Let’s try Marsh Street Centre’.  We tried it and couldn’t do it, the sound was so terrible.  But meantime they did a lot of work.  They put acoustic panels on the walls, they put a huge curtain at the back.  Not bad at all, good acoustics now.”

To give the audience the best possible experience, the jazz concerts are set up with rows of seats rather than tables that are often part of the Marsh Street shows.

“We have theatre seating.  There is room for cabaret seating but the music becomes secondary.   Conversation is everything, fun is everything, laughter, dancing, music is secondary.  I’m not busting my guts to get the bests musicians I can get for you here and if they come here, if you can get them, I want you to listen to them.”

Jazz fans could ask for nothing more.

The show is on Saturday December 9th, 2017. Doors open at 7:00 pm and the show starts at 8.

Cash bar and refreshments are available. Tickets are $30 in advance, $35 at the door, at Thornbury Pharmasave, Riverside Graphics in Clarksburg and Blue Mountain Music in Collingwood or by phone 519-599-3345.

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