Tag Archives: Randy Brecker

It’s A Jazz Weekend For Local Fans

by Bill Monahan

With the annual Jazzmania series of concerts happening in Thornbury and a special jazz concert by Patricia Wheeler in Meaford, it’s a special treat for jazz fans this weekend.

Start the weekend early at Bruce Wine Bar with the hot jazz of Toronto based iSpy Trio.  Led by singer-songwriter  Rebecca Everett, the band plays a style inspired by the 1940’s gypsy jazz of Quintette du Hot Club de France, with a mix of vintage and original tunes.  Lead guitarist Tak Arikushi is well known for his virtuosity and trademark Django licks.  The trio is rounded out by Chris Kettlewell, an accomplished double bass player and Humber Jazz College alumni who has performed with  jazz ensembles such as The Rachelle Courtney Quartet and The Cam Britton Collective and has toured extensively in Canada, Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

There are two dinner shows, one at 6:45 and the second at 9 pm.  Reservations are recommended.

Down the street at the harbour, well-known Simcoe county musician and educator Louis Lefaive performs at Maiolos, starting at 7:30 pm.  In addition to gigs with his family band performing Celtic and French folk music, Louis has performed in a Beatles cover band and a band that features original French music.  An accomplished composer, arranger, singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, he has numerous albums to his credit and has his own recording studio.

Also starting at 7:30 on Friday, The Mike Grace Quintet will be performing in the small hall at the Beaver Valley Community Centre.  In addition to being a director at Southampton’s Summer Music Camp, Mike has played around the world, from Texas road houses to world tours and has played with many jazz greats, including Dave Brubeck, Dizzy Gillespie, Peter Appleyard and Randy Brecker.  He is also a highly respected educator, recipient of the University of Michigan Musical Society’s Educator Of The Year.  The quintet will be performing classic jazz standards, including tunes to dance to.

Things really get swinging on Saturday with a pair of big bands playing at the Beaver Valley Community Centre.

In the afternoon, starting at two, it’s the Georgian Sound Big Band.  This is the band that started it all in Thornbury, way back in 1998 when it was formed by the late Bob Cringan.

“Bob Cringan was an incredible music educator,” says Tony Bauer, “He moved up from Toronto to Meaford and we started the Georgian Sound Big Band. 

“He did so much for music.  He put on concerts, and Bob had the idea to start a Big Band festival and we ran it for twenty years and it was very successful.  We brought five big bands up here.  I was very much involved with it and when he died we still ran it.

 “We added Jazzmania. In the heyday we had three day festivals, with bands in the restaurants in Thornbury.  We had two shows on Saturday and we had a big jazz brunch on Sunday”

The band, currently under the leadership of trumpeter Don Doner and conducted by trombonist Brad Crawford, covers numbers from the swing era to the present and includes a wide variety of danceable music including waltz, tango, and Latin rhythms using many of Bob’s original arrangements.

After a dinner break, head back to the Community Centre for another big band treat.  The Skyliners Big Band, formed in 1993, performs the big band era favourites by Miller, Shaw, Herman, Basie, Ellington, Kenton as well as more contemporary hits.  The band features the inspired vocals of Maria Branje.

There’s still more jazz in store if you head over to Meaford on Sunday where Christ Church Anglican is presenting the first in a series of monthly concerts.  This concert features the Patricia Wheeler Quartet with jazz interpretations of both standards and popular songs form catalogues as diverse as Henry Mancini, Simon and Garfunkel and The Beatles.

The concert is something of a homecoming for Patricia, who got her start in music attending Grade 7 at Meaford Elementary School.  The music teacher at Georgian Bay Secondary School, Charlie Strimas, is now the musical director at the church and it was at his request that she agreed to come to Meaford for this special concert.

The Patricia Wheeler  concert runs from 3 to 5 on Sunday afternoon, with wine and cheese served at intermission.

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Carson Freeman Cooks Up Great Sax at The Red Door

This Friday, The Red Door Grille and Pub will feature an appearance by award-winning saxophonist Carson Freeman.  A busy and successful jazz player who has just joined Andy Kim’s band for an upcoming show at Casino Rama, Carson is coming to Meaford at the behest of his friend Chris Scerri.  He’s been here before to play at The Leeky Canoe and sees it as something of a weekend getaway.  “Meaford’s such a great town,” he says, “nice people.  A lot of times I’ll be in some small town and find people there putting it down, asking why I would bother to come there, but it seems people in Meaford love where they live.”  It’s true, and we are lucky in this town that living in such an attractive place allows us to bring in talent that might otherwise be too big to bother with us.

Carson with Gino Vanelli

Carson Freeman is devoted to the saxophone, and has been since he discovered the music of Michael Brecker when he was in high school.  “Michael Brecker changed my life,” he told Teen Jazz Magazine, “When I heard him play I wanted to pursue a career as a saxophonist.”  His dedication has always been intense and focused.  From his initiation to the instrument in Grade 9, he spent several hours each day practising and his quest for the perfect tone continues to this day.  “Playing the sax is a lifelong developmental journey,” he said in that same interview with Teen Jazz, “There are always new sounds and techniques to explore as well as great artists to learn from.”  He went on to advise his young interviewer, “Practice everyday for at least one hour. When you’re not practicing, listen to music, study music theories, read music publications, watch music videos, and hang out with other musicians. Understand what you are working on, why it’s important, and how it is developing your musical style.”

If you peruse his website, you’ll see how he has applied his own advice.  Although he’s not a teacher (except for a short stint teaching culinary arts, but that’s another story) his website includes detailed coaching tips on saxophone techniques and his personal analysis of the playing styles of some of his heroes.

His dedication has allowed him to make a good living at his art despite being relatively unknown outside of the musical community.  He and his opera singer wife own their own home and are raising two small children, able to support themselves on income from their music alone.

As a side man he has played with some big names in the jazz world.  In college he studied with jazz saxophonist Pat Labarbera who had played with several famous jazz musicians including Buddy Rich, and Elvin Jones.  Heralded as the 2010 Canadian Smooth Jazz Wind Instrumentalist of the Year opened up opportunities that showcased his musical art alongside Grammy Award Winners;  Michael Bublé, M.C. Hammer, David Sanborn, (Guitarist/Producer) Paul Brown, Guitarist Larry Carlton, trumpeter Randy Brecker, and  Jazz Singer/Pianist Diana Krall.  He’s played with Gino Vanelli and now this latest gig teams him up with the legendary Andy Kim, whose successes in the 60’s included the hit “Sugar Sugar”, providing the music for the TV series The Archies, and recording under the moniker Baron Longfellow.  Carson plays with his band every Wednesday night at Shore Grill & Grotto in Port Credit, a listening room with a loyal audience and regular drop-ins from local jazz players.  On Thursday nights he’s at the Thompson Hotel.  And this Friday he’ll be traversing the beautiful Beaver Valley to visit us here in Meaford.

Carson hosts dinner on “Come Dine With Me”

As with many an artistic personality, Carson has developed another passion besides his music.  Having played, along with corporate gigs where he sampled some great food, some high end eating establishments, he came to appreciate that cooking is an art and he developed a real interest in culinary creativity.  Applying the same intense work ethic as he has to his saxophone, he studied cookbooks and tuned in constantly to The Food Network.  One of his favourite shows was the British reality series “Come Dine With Me”.   When he heard there was a Canadian version planned, he applied to be part of it and was not only accepted but was featured in five episodes of the first season and won first place for his hosting and cooking skills.  One of his current plans is to create a cookbook which he will call “The Starving Artist” in which he pairs gourmet meals with carefully chosen music.

Although his favourite music is post BeBop jazz, Carson has learned to appreciate something in all styles of saxophone music.  He understands that part of performance is giving people what they want and if they see value in musical examples that may not necessarily be his first choices he can do his best to play them, and has found that often playing them is a lot of fun.  When he plays the Red Door, he will bring along some backing tracks so that he can provide a full listening experience for the audience while still stretching out on his own playing.  As an all-round aficionado of the saxophone, he has made a constant study of its evolution, from the time of its invention by Adolphe Sax in 1846 to the present day, and he’s put together a show he calls “The History of The Saxophone” which will allow him to express the many things he’s learned about the instrument through his years of dedication.

Show up at 7 on Friday, no cover, to hear Carson Freeman at The Red Door.  Maybe if we’re lucky he’ll come back to play his new show at Meaford Hall.

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