Octet opening doors to international stages
Wednesday, Jun 11, 2014 06:00 am
Nearly two years ago at a Carnegie Hall performance, Obsessions Octet swept jazz-savvy New Yorkers off their feet.
And now, the Edmonton-based jazz ensemble led by saxophonist Kent Sangster is packing their instruments once again for a three-week tour to Greece, Poland and the Czech Republic.
The trip has taken 18 exciting months of planning, negotiating, organizing and fundraising, but it is a go. The July tour has 12 planned concerts in Europe.
Local jazz lovers also receive a top-notch sendoff concert for Hit the Road to Europe on Saturday, June 14 at the Edmonton Petroleum Club.
“We had another invitation to go to London. But it didn’t line up with our plans. With tears in our eyes and broken hearts we had to say no. But we’ve put our foot in the door,” says violinist Joanna Ciapka-Sangster.
Rounding out the ensemble are three St. Albert musicians: Neda Yamach (violin), Ronda Metszies (cello) and John Taylor (double bass) as well as Leanne Maitland (viola), Chris Andrew (piano) and Owen Howard (drums).
For Obsessions Octet, the invitations to Europe are quite a coup.
“Europe is a hard market to get into. There are lots of musicians, and musicians travel from country to country. And secondly there is such big competition. If you don’t have a big name, you have a difficult time. But mostly is the high number of musicians,” Ciapka-Sangster says.
Peter Tiboris, music director and conductor of the Manhattan Philharmonic, extended the original invitation to perform in Greece at the International Festival of the Aegean Hermoupolis. Tiboris founded the Greek music festival in 2000 and is the present artistic director.
The internationally lauded musical celebrity was absent from Carnegie Hall when Obsessions Octet performed in October 2012. However, upon his return, staff at Carnegie raved about the ensemble’s performance.
“Three or four days after we came back, he phoned and asked if we were as good as our CD and invited us to the festival on Syros.”
What Tiboris heard was an uncanny blend that is part classical, part tango, part jazz and part City of Champions hustle. Its uniqueness lies not only in each member’s technique, originality and sensitivity, but in Kent Sangster’s directing and arranging abilities.
He has a knack for creating originals and reworking standards into a wide palette that fits a solid rhythm section without being too heavy. In essence, he puts the music in context, sets it up and generally makes the elite eight sound better.
After obtaining a grant from the Alberta Foundation for the Arts, Ciapka-Sangster contacted musicians from her native Poland and set up the tour to also include Prague.
In Poland, Obsessions will visit Warsaw, Kielce, Lodz, Cracow, Gdynia and Gdansk on the Baltic Sea, also Ciapka-Sangster’s hometown. Along the way, they hope to pay tribute to Krzysztof Komeda, the godfather of Polish jazz. He is widely known in North American for composing the score for Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby.
As for the Saturday concert, the word is, “We’re going to have a few surprises and we’re going to talk about the tour.”