Tag Archives: Galaxy All-star Orchestra

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.

Benny Goodman Tribute At Meaford Hall Highlights History

Coming Saturday night to Meaford Hall, Ross Wooldridge and his seven piece band bring the music of The King of Swing to life!

Almost everyone recognizes Benny Goodman as the name of the clarinet-playing bandleader who was popular during the second world war, but many may not be aware that he, like Elvis and The Beatles, was an entertainer who made a permanent change in pop music and in the process created a new genre that dominated musical style enough to be given its own term: “the swing era”.  Even the exact date, Aug. 21st, 1935, can be pinpointed as the day the music was born.

The King of Swing

As a young classically trained clarinet player, Benny Goodman was something of a prodigy, capable of impressive virtuoso performances.  He developed his own band at a young age with the help of his brother-in-law, John Hammond, and independently wealthy young jazz fan who pursued recording and writing about the new music motivated by his love of the sounds and by his personal conviction that there was something very special happening within the African-American music scene.  Fletcher Henderson was a particular favourite of Hammond with a unique energetic style built in to the rhythm of his arrangements.  Henderson, a black man, didn’t sit easy with the racism that severely restricted opportunities for artists like himself and his career was faltering when Hammond introduced him to Goodman.  Hammond believed that combining Henderson’s unique musical stylings with Goodman’s exceptional playing was a winning combination.  Fletcher Henderson became the arranger for the Benny Goodman orchestra.

Goodman had a regular Friday night radio show out of New York called “Let’s Dance”, where he featured this new “hot” jazz.  While this late-night show caught on with a few young people it didn’t go over well with the older generation who considered it far too loose and amoral for white people to be playing.  The advantage of a radio show, though, was that a live performance was broadcast right across the country through the radio networks.  When Goodman and the band started off on a summer tour from New York to the west coast, they played to lukewarm audiences but every show reached a larger radio audience.

History At The Palomar Ballroom

It was a discouraging tour.  Like Christopher Columbus, hero of what would soon become Goodman’s first big hit song, the band was sailing toward uncharted territory and there was no guarantee of a safe landfall.  But in August they finally played the Palomar Ballroom in Los Angeles and on that night everything changed. A huge crowd of young people turned out jumping with enthusiasm, having developed a love for the band by listening to their broadcasts as they traversed the country.  The Swing Era was born that night and from then until big band music faded after the Second World War, there were officially two categories: Sweet, as played by the likes of Guy Lombardo and Paul Whiteman and swing a la Henderson and Goodman, who became known as The King Of Swing.

For a band to reproduce the excitement and energy of this band, they have to not only bring along a tight ensemble of energetic players but they need a leader who can really play the clarinet. Ross Woolridge has an impressive history as a jazz player, multi-instrumentalist, arranger and composer.  In addition to contributing to jazz recordings he is the leader of Toronto’s Galaxy All-star Orchestra and producer of shows that highlight tributes to the Big Band Era.

For this performance, Woolridge has his critically acclaimed Tribute to Benny Goodman Sextet. This group was featured at a sold out concert presented by JazzFM and The Sound of Toronto Jazz Series in 2005, and they have been in demand ever since. They have released to excellent reviews a new CD for 2012, recorded at a concert performance.  The band performing on Saturday at Meaford Hall includes Michael Davidson (vibes), Danny McErlain (piano) Phil Disera (guitar), Lew Mele (bass), Glenn Anderson (drums) and Alex Pangman (vocals).

This concert will be, along with a jumping lively musical experience, a brief encounter with pop music history.

Showtime is 8pm Saturday January 14, tickets are $40 and available online at www.mefordhall.ca, by calling 1.877.538.0463 or stop by 12 Nelson St E in historic downtown Meaford.

Here’s a sample of Ross’s Galaxy Orchestra in a show where he blended the music of Benny Goodman with that of Artie Shaw.:

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