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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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Jazzmania Takes Over Thornbury This Weekend

Music will be everywhere you turn in Thornbury this weekend as they celebrate their 26th Annual Jazzmania.  Adding to the venues that can regularly be relied upon to provide live music, there are others who will be featuring music in order to be part of this little local festival.

Bruce Wine Bar can be relied upon to consistently provide live music every week, with their open mic night on Wednesdays, and their dinner shows on Friday and Saturday, always with the emphasis on original music.  Normally they have two shows from the same artist, one through the dinner hour and one later in the evening, but this Friday, in order to contribute to the variety offered by Jazzmania, they will feature two different bands in one night.

The seven o’clock show will feature Josh Norling and The Rhythm Section, which is a subset of Frank Deresti and the Lake Effect.  Normally Josh plays sax and other instruments in Frank’s band but this time Frank will be playing upright bass for Josh, joined by Lindsay Pugh on guitar.  In keeping with Bruce Wine Bar’s all-original policy, the emphasis will be on original jazz compositions.

Later that same evening, the ten o’clock show at Bruce Wine Bar will feature the Alan Zemaitis Organ Trio, with Nichol Robertson and Lowell Whitty. Organist Alan Zemaitis’ background is in blues and soul music. Nichol Robertson is an accomplished Toronto-based guitarist and banjoist, known for his numerous and eclectic musical endeavors that include bluegrass and country. Lowell Whitty has been a busy drummer in Toronto’s vibrant jazz scene for many years, with a leaning toward a New Orleans style.  Blending these three styles into one trio should make for an interesting hybrid jazz.

Some shows are selling advance tickets, some ask for donations with no cover, and some include dinner with the price of a ticket.

The other venue that can be counted on to bring live music to Thornbury on a regular basis is The Corner Café, right across the street from Bruce Wine Bar.  This place comes alive every Thursday night when David J. Russell hosts his open mic.  Next Sunday afternoon, they will be contributing to Jazzmania with Brian Miessner and friends from 1pm to 3pm.  While they are more in the progressive pop vein than jazz, Brian’s many years of experience as a performer and songwriter guarantees a good show.