In the crush of Christmas concerts coming up, the joint MacEwan-University of Alberta Big Band Winter Concert stands apart.
It’s one of the hottest jazz tickets in town and traditionally packs sellout concerts.
This coming Monday, Dec. 2, the two big bands join forces at the John L. Haar Theatre to perform an exciting cross section of jazz standards, fusion and contemporary music. They will also feature a sprinkling of holiday-themed works.
Rhiannon McLeod, 19, a second-year student at MacEwan’s jazz and contemporary pop music program, and lead alto sax player for University of Alberta Big Band, is juiced up about the concert.
“I was in the one last year and I played for the MacEwan band. They’re always a lot of fun. As much as we take the shows seriously, the teachers make it fun. And you get to hear a wide variety of really great music,” says the St. Albert resident.
McLeod moved to St. Albert in 2006 and attended Victoria School of Performing Arts before taking her music studies to MacEwan.
Under the direction of MacEwan’s Ray Baril and the University of Alberta’s Tom Dust, the program is arranged in a mix of jazz styles from the greats: Neal Hefti, Chick Corea and Bob Mintzer to Sammy Nestico, J.J. Johnson and Darcy Argue.
While Baril favours the contemporary charts, Dust leans more towards old-school jazz with swing and Latin standards such as Spain, a sizzling samba-based number.
“It’s upbeat. There’s a nice melody in the horn section and there’s some pretty neat percussion. We’re even doing one Christmas song – Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow,” adds McLeod.
She gets a turn under the spotlight in the uptempo Flight of the Foo Birds, a Count Basie chart that demands a top-tier skill level for its improvised sax solo. The energetic swing chart was popularized in Woody Allen’s 1977 movie Annie Hall.
“It’s not technically difficult. The chord changes are comparable to other pieces, but since it’s improvised, it allows me to experiment with my sound. It helps me hone my craft.”
And bluesy belter Ariana Lynne has been tapped to sing Basie’s Alright, Okay, You Win shuffle and the Jack Segal ballad When Sunny Gets the Blues, a tune recorded by musical icons such as Johnny Mathis, Nat King Cole and Judy Garland.
“We (University of Alberta) don’t have full band this year, but we really step it up. And MacEwan plays complex instrumental stuff that will keep you on the edge of your seat.”
Big Band Winter Concert
MacEwan University and University of Alberta Bands
Monday, Dec. 2 at 7:30 p.m.
John L. Haar Theatre
MacEwan Centre for the Arts and Communication
10045 – 156 St.
Tickets: $15 regular, $10 students/seniors; available at the door, call 780-420-1757 or purchase online at www.tixonthesquare.ca