Categories: Entertainment

Big bands set for Yardbird

Saint City Big Band is by far one of the oldest and coolest groups in town. Since 1985, its bootie-shakin’ jazz grooves have lit up numerous stages, and this Saturday night they shake up the Yardbird Suite with Saints at the Gate.

“Playing in the Yardbird has such a jazz club feel. When you’re in a dark club atmosphere, it’s different from a theatre. There’s the same feel as a smoky jazz club in Chicago, but without the smoke,” chuckles Saint City Big Band music director Tom Smyth.

In this special one-off concert, the 18-piece St. Albert band shares the billing with Gateway Big Band. It’s the first time in eight years they’ve paired up.

Led by newly-appointed conductor Al Jacobson, also from St. Albert, Gateway is one of Edmonton’s premiere jazz bands, renowned for a repertoire that ranges from ballads to bebop, and swing to funk.

Saint City is also quite proud of its 27-year pedigree.

“Musically there’s been an enormous development since the beginning. The musicians are more familiar with the different styles and they’ve been introduced to music of all the big bands,” Smyth says.

Jazz speaks a universal language and Saint City has attracted musicians from young adults to seniors in their 70s.

“This wide range of ages shows that music reaches out to all ages,” Smyth adds.

The concert is slated for two hours with each band performing a 45-minute set with intermission.

One featured chart is an arrangement for the Buddy Rich Band of Love For Sale. It was a suggestion from drummer Roger Weir, whose hero is Rich.

“It’s a real driving tune,” Smyth said. “It’s very challenging for players and it’s a real good concert opener and it gives a lot of section opportunities for sections to be featured individually.”

The band segues into Blue, a ballad written for trumpeter Blue Mitchell with Evan Thompson on trumpet, and Grant Kemp on bass trombone solos in Makin’ Whoopee.

The Blue Bossa Nova offers musicians the opportunity for some quirk, offbeat and innovative improvisations. In yet a different tonal texture is That Warm Feeling, a tune Sammy Nestico wrote for the Count Basie Band.

And in a nod to the Christmas season, Smyth has included a Greg Yasinitsky arrangement of Greensleeves.

“We’re really looking forward to this concert,” Smyth said.


Saints at the Gate
Saint City Big Band
Thursday, Nov. 29 at 7:30 p.m.
Yardbird Suite
11 Tommy Banks Way
Tickets: $10 to $15

Anna Borowiecki: Anna Borowiecki joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2000. She reports on local people and events in the arts, entertainment and food industry. She also writes general news and features.