Bebop, Horns, and Groove: Jazz East Celebrates a Swingin’ 20 years

Bebop, groove, horns, and swing probably aren’t what you think of when you hear “Newfoundland music.” Jazz East is hoping to diminish that perception. The group will be celebrating their entry into their roaring 20s this Saturday, May 5 at the Holy Heart Theatre.

Bebop, groove, horns, and swing probably aren’t what you think of when you hear “Newfoundland music.” Jazz East is hoping to diminish that perception. The group will be celebrating their entry into their roaring 20s this Saturday, May 5 at the D.F. Cook Recital Hall.

We’re more than just one genre of music. A “big galoot” of culture, says Dr. Patrick Boyle – professor, trumpeter, composer, and guest artist for this weekend’s performance. “With so much going on, it can be hard to take in all the amazing art that this small island has produced. There are literally hundreds of professional musicians from here who have made a significant contribution to jazz and improvised music.”

Jazz has more of a history here than most would probably think.  The prominence of radio and the introduction of American military bases throughout the province brought with it a cultural explosion. Radios were blaring American jazz and rock and roll, and clubs were filled with the swingin’ sounds of the touring Yankee bands.

This boom sparked a musical explosion in Newfoundland and Labrador. “The history of jazz in Newfoundland does indeed have a lot to do with people from away coming here, and we are all better for it,” says Boyle. Many of the musicians who came here, including trumpeter Leo Sandoval and pianist Ralph Walker, chose to stay and forever augmented our music scene. It didn’t take long after for the first ever recording of original Newfoundland jazz music, “Trinity” from influential pianist Jeff Johnston, in 1989.

Less than a decade later, Jazz East Big Band was born.  The group was started by high school teacher David Smith, who wanted to provide students the opportunity to keep playing jazz and keep up their chops after graduation and throughout their adult lives. Since its conception in 1997, the group has evolved into an impressive mix of professional musicians, community members, and music students. A group through which “…new music is explored, young musicians are mentored, and classics are celebrated.” says Boyle.

Back in the days of the American bases, “…jazz music or indeed “music for dancing” was in serious demand. It still is, but in the days before cable and VCRs, a proper night out was essential.” Now led by the incomparable Bill Brennan, Jazz East is celebrating its 20 years by bringing back the excitement of a proper night out to celebrate all that jazz (East).

Tickets for the Anniversary Concert are available at www.holyhearttheatre.com.

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