Sunday, June 26, 2011

Calgary Jazz "Festival" Shows - Part 3

Yesterday's Calgary Jazz experience took me to the Ironwood Stage & Grill in Inglewood to catch the Prime Time Big Band with special guest, alto saxophonist P.J. Perry. Under the direction of Dave Jones this band has been playing a regular Saturday afternoon concert series at the Ironwood for eight seasons now. The band includes a number of musicians who are no strangers to Calgary's Jazz community including the likes of saxophonists Pat Belliveau, Rich Harding, trombonist Brian Walley, guitarist Keith Smith, drummer John DeWaal, pianist (and sometimes tubist!) Derek Stoll and trumpeter Al "Oop" Muirhead.

The band opened with Don Menza's classic chart "Groovin' Hard" originally written for the Buddy RIch big band and really set the pace for the afternoon ahead by featuring a dynamite saxophone soli that even had P.J. Perry frantically running out from backstage to cheer on and applaud the band.

P.J. was in fine form throughout and proved once again why he is truly one of Canada's greatest and a real living Canadian Jazz legend. In particular his solos on Rick Wilkin's arrangements of "They Way You Look Tonight" and "Round Midnight" were outstanding. Perry's soloing and mastery of the bebop language is impressive to say the least and his lines and phrasing are always full of surprises and contain a melodic and rhythmic intensity that SWINGS with every note. P.J. also shined with a lyrical interpretation on the ballad "Loverman" and played the Juan Tizol/Duke Ellington feature "Caravan" with such authority and conviction that you'd swear he wrote it himself ! The influence of such alto players such as Charlie Parker, Sonny Stitt and Art Pepper is quite evident in his refined style and I have a great deal of respect for his mastery and devotion to playing on such a high creative (and swinging!) level.

I was disappointed that I missed P.J. a month ago while he was touring with Kevin Dean, Mark Eisenman, Neil Swainson and Andre White so I'm glad that I had the opportunity to hear him play with the big band. From what I understand P.J. is soon to leave on an 18 month tour with the show "Come Fly Away" so be sure to catch this master while you can!

Overall, I felt that everyone in that band rose to the occasion on Saturday afternoon and everyone sounded great. Assembling and presenting a big band on even a semi-regular basis is no easy feat so Dave Jones and his crew are to be congratulated for such dedication and perseverance to keeping the big band flame alive in Calgary.

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