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Seven Reasons to Support the Ross Taggart Kickstarter Campaign

February 17, 2014 Comments off

As I write 155 people from the west coast jazz community and beyond have pledged their support for the project on Kickstarter that will see ten Ross Taggart compositions arranged and recorded by the Jill Townsend Big Band in Vancouver. With 8 days to go they are doing well, having reached nearly 75% of their goal.

It would be a shame if they fell short now.

For those who haven’t pledged – fans and musicians alike – here are seven reasons to consider doing so.

1. It’s a good cause. Ross Taggart was a beloved member of the west coast jazz community and this project will honour his name.

2. Under the Kickstarter crowd-funding model, the campaign must be 100% funded to succeed. Otherwise the project will receive nothing.

3. This is the first major Kickstarter Canadian west coast jazz campaign that I’m aware of. If it succeeds it could set a precedent for future campaigns that would see other local musicians receive funding for their special projects.

4. It won’t cost you much; you can pledge as little as a dollar (although I would hope you would pledge a little more than that :-).

5. Our provincial and federal governments do little for the arts (particularly jazz) compared to European countries like Norway; this is a way for you to support directly an art form that is starved of funding.

6. For musicians: it may seem odd or inappropriate to pledge money to your colleagues when you work so hard yourself to be part of this community and to raise funds for your own projects. But consider this: by adding your name to the list, you help create a groundswell that will see this and other jazz projects succeed under the crowd-funding model. (The list of contributors can be viewed on the Kickstarter site and your name will carry a lot of weight.)

7. For fans: if you pledge at least ten dollars, you’ll receive a wonderful recording of some great tunes and help keep not only jazz but big band jazz alive on the Canadian west coast. What better way to spend the equivalent of two fancy coffees at Starbucks?

I wish them success. You can pledge here.

Note: if you have concerns about the security of the Kickstarter site, read the security notice they issued following the news that they had been hacked recently. It may reassure you.

Allison Piano Hosts New York Trio

January 28, 2013 1 comment

J100The good folks at Allison Piano are carrying on their legacy of hosting great jazz pianists in Victoria.

This Friday, February 1st at 7:30 pm they welcome Toronto native Jamie Reynolds on a Canada-wide tour in support of his debut album Time With People.

Bassist Gary Wang and drummer Eric Doob, also rising young talents on the New York scene, will join Reynolds.

Reynolds’ album  features a dozen original compositions that have already received strong reviews in Downbeat Magazine and All About Jazz.

A listen on Reynold’s website reveals melodic, reflective, and deeply personal material, somewhat reminiscent of Keith Jarrett, that should suit the intimate Allison Piano venue perfectly.

A number of the compositions, including “Ideas of North” and “Locks” are inspired by Reynold’s memories of growing up in Canada.

The album, by the way, is released on Fresh Sound, the Spanish label responsible for recordings by Kurt Rosenwinkel, Seamus Blake, and a host of other young jazz stars, as well as reissues of classic albums from the 40s, 50s and 60s.

It’s going to be a tough call on Friday night with a gypsy jazz tribute featuring Quinn Bachand, Richard Moody, Joey Smith, and Reuben Weir heating up Hermann’s at 8pm, but based on what I’ve been hearing on Reynolds’ website, I think I’m heading for the show at Allison’s.

If you are torn, you can always catch Reynolds for the first set and then head over to Hermann’s later. The tickets are reasonable for both shows and are available at the usual outlets.

Ian McDougall Pays Tribute to Ross Taggart (1967-2013) as Remembrances Pour in from across the Country

January 9, 2013 3 comments

20080816021530_dsc_6640_2Trombonist Ian McDougall spoke for hundreds of jazz musicians and thousands of fans on Vancouver Island and across the country this afternoon when he said, “We lost a fantastic man,” referring to the death in Vancouver early this morning of beloved saxophonist and pianist Ross Taggart.

He was speaking on CBC Victoria’s local afternoon radio show All Points West.

Holding back tears, McDougall said Taggart was “one of the greatest human beings I’ve ever met in my life,” noting that he was a kind and good man with a wonderful sense of humour he kept even as he was dying of cancer.

“He was one of the greatest human beings I’ve ever met in my life.”

McDougall first met Taggart in 1986 when Taggart, about to graduate from Claremont High School in Victoria, came to his house to audition for a big band McDougall was launching at UBC in Vancouver. He recalled Taggart pulling out his tenor sax and blowing a beautiful Coleman Hawkins solo that showed not only his incredible playing skill at a young age but also his deep respect for jazz tradition. “I’ve never forgotten that moment,” said McDougall.

Uncertain if he would get a seat in the band, Taggart then told McDougall he could also play piano just in case he wasn’t good enough on saxophone. McDougall, in fact, was so blown away by his sax playing that he’d already decided to give him a seat. “He was so humble,” said McDougall, adding that he kept that quality throughout his life.

“We lost a fantastic man.”

Taggart went on to play in some of the most influential bands on the west coast, including the Hugh Fraser Quintet, VEJI, and the Ian McDougall Sextet. He studied in New York and Toronto and shared the stage with talents like Clark Terry, Slide Hampton, Bud Shank, Phil Woods, Tommy Banks, Rob McConnell, Don Thompson, and Fraser MacPherson.

He also worked with the Arts Club Theatre in productions of “Ain’t Misbehavin”, and “Five Guys Named Moe”, Colin James, the Powder Blues, the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, the Victoria Symphony Orchestra, the Vancouver Opera Orchestra, the CBC Radio Orchestra, David Foster and Raffi. He was featured on numerous recordings by other artists as well as at least four of his own as a leader. He was widely regarded as one of the best players in Canada and performed internationally many times.

“A musician we all learned from, a friend we all laughed with.”

The Ottawa Citizen’s Peter Hum reported on his jazz blog today that Taggart got into jazz after hearing an Oscar Peterson recording when he was only 14. He then sold all his rock albums and bought jazz records.

Hum also reported on the many remembrances coming from across the land, including one from Mike Herriott in Toronto that recalled Taggart as  “a musician we all learned from, a friend we all laughed with, and one of the most thoughtful people I’ve known.”

CBC music reported saxophone great Campbell Ryga saying he always recognized Taggart’s sound for its “grace, elegance and heart,” as well as his thorough command of “the history of the tenor saxophone.”

CBC’s Hot Air plans a tribute this Saturday at 5:05 (PST) on CBC Radio One and a memorial is planned for later this month in Victoria, Taggart’s hometown. Stay tuned for more info.

Seasonal Saxophones and an All-Star New Year’s Bash

December 19, 2012 Comments off

New Years 2012 smallMonik Nordine writes to say that the Barracuda! Saxophone Quartet “is back at it, and this time we’re playing seasonal music for anyone who would like to come down to the Moka House (Hillside) and enjoy a warm beverage and some saxophone music. There will be plenty of warmth and good cheer and not only that, lots of saxophones.” By donation. A box for food bank donations will be provided. Nordine, along with Tom Ackerman, Chris Watt and Rainier Roth fire up the saxes on Sunday, December 23rd from 11am -12pm. Hillside at Shellbourne.

And Kelby MacNayr is reprising his highly popular early evening New Year’s bash(dinner and music) at Hermann’s on Monday, December 31st from 5 – 8 pm with Ian McDougall, Louise Rose, Roy Styffe, and Ken Lister. $35.00/ $30 (U-Jam, VJS, advance). Seating is limited and the event sold out last year and so reservations are recommended  (250) 388-9166.

Melinda Whitaker and Phil Dwyer Produce a Winner with Lucky So and So

December 12, 2012 Comments off

CD Launch @ Cory Weeds Vacouver#1There’s lots of smoke but no mirrors in Melinda Whitaker’s Lucky So and So, a smouldering new vocal album of seven standards and two Stevie Wonder tunes produced and arranged by the great Phil Dwyer.

Whitaker, supported by an A-list of west coast players, delivers the real thing with her signature dark, husky voice that seems made for jazz.

And while that voice thins now and then under the load of these demanding tunes and arrangements, Whitaker makes up for any tonal challenges with sensitive phrasing that respects the lyrics and knows when there should be sound and and when there should be silence.

Guess I’ll Hang My Tears Out to Dry is a fine example with the gorgeous interplay between her muted trumpet voice and Dwyer’s sweet, supple sax. You’ll also hear it in My Foolish Heart as she plays off rich horn lines and Dwyer’s spare piano work.

Fact is, all the songs on this album are delivered with style, not the least of which are the Stevie Wonder tunes Overjoyed and Creepin’, well-chosen contemporary contrasts to the standards that are at the core of the album.

Speaking of Phil Dwyer, is there a better musical mind anywhere in the country? He, along with the other masterful players he’s recruited, including Brad Turner on trumpet and flugelhorn, Ian McDougall on trombone and Ken Lister on bass, has given Whitaker an expansive musical sandbox in which to play.

Just listen to the percussive fun and excitement on the opening The Song is You and you’ll know you’re in for a treat. This album is a winner vocally and instrumentally.

Note: Sadly the CD arrived too late for me to review it in time for Whitaker’s Victoria show this past weekend, but you can catch her tonight (Wednesday) at The Cellar in Vancouver at 8 pm. And the album is now available on disk or digital download through Whitaker’s website.  It would make a great Christmas gift.

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