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As an improviser, I value creative music practices—opportunities to play and listen to music where the focus is on taking risks, exploring sounds, and working both within and outside of the parameters of the jazz tradition. While I play mostly straight-ahead (and/or) contemporary (and/or) originally-composed jazz, I have an affinity for freer music, and often find inspiration both through performing and listening to freely improvised music. Free improvisation, and all improvisation for that matter is always informed by what we listen to, what music traditions we practice, and the sounds around us. While spontaneous in one sense, it’s certainly not spontaneous in the sense that we bring what we know to improvisation, and use what we hear and what we’ve practiced.

Last week I had an opportunity to play a house concert with saxophonist/multi-instrumentalist Jonathan Kay. Kay travelled to Lethbridge this month as part of a project by Amandine Pras, a professor in the Digital Audio Arts program at the University of Lethbridge. Originally from Toronto, Kay has spent most of the last decade in India, where he has studied the North Indian Classical music tradition. His dedication to learning and living in a new music culture is intriguing, and his fluency in both the jazz tradition and North Indian classical tradition showcases his dedication to growing, learning and making music(s).

Our performance together was primarily freely improvised, on soprano (Kay) and tenor (me) saxophones. We share a common music tradition (we’re both jazz saxophonists by training—Jon studied at Humber, and I studied at the University of Toronto), but I have remained in this tradition, while Jon has engaged with Indian Classical music both on saxophone and traditional Indian instruments (bansuri and esraj). Before playing, I was a little apprehensive that my unfamiliarity with the music he has dedicated the last decade to would make our encounter less fruitful, but it was truly enjoyable. We met in the (free) jazz tradition, and we interweaved what we have learned into something that spoke to what each of us do.  

After playing with Kay for about an hour, he played a raga on the esraj, an uncommon Indian stringed instrument. I won’t try to describe what I heard, because the intricacies of the music he has learned are far beyond my ears. It was encapsulating and engaging and illuminated the intensity of Kay’s dedication to learning Indian music. You can read more about his journey in an article he published in the journal Critical Studies in Improvisation

One of Kay’s recent collaborators is Tony Malaby, a New York-based saxophonist I will see live with drummer Nick Fraser’s group when I visit Toronto next week. His range of expression on the saxophone is awe-inspiring, and I always gain a renewed love for creative music after hearing him play. Here’s a clip of Tony Malaby playing with Jonathan Kay’s group Kayos Theory at the Rex in Toronto:

Opportunities to play and listen to freer music are not commonplace in Lethbridge. But I’m excited about some developments in the city over the past year or so:

  • At the University of Lethbridge, Digital Audio Arts assistant professor Amandine Pras is very engaged with the free improvisation scene in New York and worldwide. She brought Jonathan Kay to Lethbridge for a variety of activities this month including a masterclass, a lecture and a screening of her documentary, A Home Away from Home
  • On a local level, the jazz scene has seen definite growth in the last year. Metrik Jazztet, a 10 piece Lethbridge-based group I help lead , plays every first Saturday of the month (from September to May) at the Owl Acoustic Lounge. I’m also in the process of putting together a free improvisation session in Lethbridge that I hope will pique the interest of fellow creative musicians, and highlight collective, participatory improvisation in a low-stakes environment (details soon)

Free improvisation can be intimidating at first, but at a basic level, it just works with what we know and hear, and gives us opportunities to expand our listening and playing. As a listener it can feel too ‘out’, but the more you listen, the more you appreciate the music, just like any other music. I know I have encountered music that at first I disliked but later found I was just not very well acquainted. Try listening to some freer music and see where it leads you—I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised and will grow as a listener and/or performer.

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Saxophonist and educator Michael Carter is a member of the Board of Directors of the Lethbridge Jazz Society. Before moving to Lethbridge, he lived in Kingston, Winnipeg, Toronto and Brandon where he performed with some of Canada’s top jazz musicians.

Ethan’s Ardelli’s quartet comes through Lethbridge this Friday as part of his Canadian tour, one of three notable jazz shows from away to check out this month.
Ethan Ardelli QuartetFriday Nov 9, 7pm
The Slice, $15 adults/$10 studentsArdelli’s group is made up of some of Toronto’s best jazz musicians who are making their mark on the Canadian jazz scene. Pianist Chris Donnelly performs worldwide with trio Myriad3, Luis Deniz is an exciting alto saxophonist originally from Cuba, and bassist Devon Henderson, who along with Ardelli hails from Nova Scotia, plays with many groups including Royal Wood. Ethan’s performance credits are extensive, and this group demonstrates the depth of his musicianship and his ability to bring together a stellar group of musicians. 

My history with two of these musicians dates back to 2005, as a graduate student in the jazz program at the University of Toronto. Ethan, Chris and I played in a small ensemble together, and it was clear back then that both of them were going places. Chris and I started our master’s degree at U of T together; his creativity and skill on the piano was and is awe-inspiring. Ethan’s kind demeanor and his huge ears (not literally) made him a go-to collaborator for countless musical groups, which continues today. 

Friday’s show at The Slice is a definite not-to-miss. These musicians are at the top of their game. I’m excited to hear them and re-connect with friends I haven’t seen for quite a while. 
Check out their music here.

Andrea SupersteinSunday November 11, 7pmThe Slice, $10Vocalist Andrea Superstein plays The Slice on November 11th, and while I hadn’t yet heard of her, her performance credits and musical collaborations are impressive. She is in Lethbridge as part of a BC/Alberta tour releasing her new album, Worlds Apart. This album celebrates her relationship with her current city, Vancouver, and her hometown, Montreal. Her creative approach and connection to contemporary Canadian jazz is evident, making her appearance in Lethbridge an opportunity to experience a little piece of the nation-wide jazz scene. 
Check out her music here.

Dirty Catfish Brass BandWednesday November 21, 8:30pmThe Slice, $10The third jazz group from away this month is the Dirty Catfish Brass Band, a horn-heavy group based in Winnipeg. I’ve seen them play in Winnipeg on many occasions and am eager to see them in Lethbridge as part of their western Canadian tour. 

Dirty Catfish Brass Band is made up of a few long-time friends and collaborators of mine. I’ve known a few of the musicians in this group for as many as 17 years-we studied music together at Brandon University. Andrew Littleford (trumpet) and I are frequent collaborators, co-leading the Littleford-Carter Quintet; and Kyle Wedlake (sax), Joel Green (trombone), Andrew Littleford and I all played in the Winnipeg Jazz Collective, a tentet I started in Winnipeg in 2013. 

Dirty Catfish is a lively group that has built a name across the country. While the New Orleans style is front and centre, their contemporary jazz pedigree is ever-present, delivering an exhilarating performance. 

It’s quite a month for jazz in Lethbridge. Let’s show these great out-of-town groups that Lethbridge is a destination to hit-come out and enjoy these shows at the Slice!

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Today, we are announcing the 2018 Lethbridge Jazz & Blues Festival with a great line-up including a main stage show by Holly Cole presented with ENMAX Centre. “The ENMAX Centre is proud to be one of the partners of the Lethbridge Jazz Society, and its continuing quest to bring a strong and dynamic Jazz & Blues Festival to our city” – Kim Gallucci, General Manager ENMAX Centre. The 2018 festival will continue to deliver on the experience of previous years with a great new lineup of amazing artists. “Consistently outstanding performances are the hallmark of the Lethbridge Jazz and Blues Festival. People can select any Festival event and be assured that they will have a terrific experience.” – Don Robb, President, Lethbridge Jazz Society 

Young Lions
The Young Lions Concert is a cornerstone of the Lethbridge Jazz Festival. It spotlights the amazing talent and energy of the school jazz bands in Southern Alberta. Some 250 young musicians bring their best performances for an audience. 

Papa King and the Boogiemen – Always a treat to hear
Kicking off our afternoon is veteran bluesman Papa King. For many years Papa King has been bringing terrific boogie blues to Southern Alberta. 

Paul Kype and Texas Flood – More great blues
A masterful guitarist, Paul draws upon the influences of guitar legends such as Jimi Hendrix, BB King, Eric Clapton, and Stevie Ray Vaughan, Paul has honed his skill to near perfection. He honours the songs of the greats by playing them with amazing precision while, investing them with his own intense feeling. 

The mighty Hippodrome will help you get your groove on Funk, soul, disco, rhythm and blues, blues and even some jazz are part and parcel of the repertoire of Lethbridge’s premier “rhythm and groove” band, Hippodrome. A rock solid rhythm section, coupled with a dynamite horn section, all backing a frontline of fantastic vocalists make this 11 piece group a truly exciting experience for any music lover. 

Metrik Jazz Tentet – a brand new Jazz group
This 10 piece jazz ensemble brings a new sound to our Festival — reminiscent of the legendary Miles Davis Nonette, this group has a refreshing combination of new compositions and new arrangements of jazz standards. 

The Lethbridge Big Band
Enjoy the superb, rich, big band harmonies of our own Lethbridge Big Band. Founded in the 1960s, this band has performed all over Southern Alberta, bringing the fabulous sounds big bands and crooners ranging from Tommy Dorsey, Glenn Miller and Frank Sinatra all the way up to Harry Connick Jr, and Michael Buble.  

Nobuki Takamen
Nobuki was born in Hiroshima, Japan and now resides in New York. He will bring his talented trio to Nikka Yuko Garden for a very special evening in a very special place. 

Jam Session
Join Josh Davies, trumpet, James Oldenburg, guitar; Brad Brouwer, drums, and Paul Holden, bass, for an evening of music-making and sharing. Bring your horn or your voice and help make the music – or just come in and enjoy the jazz along with terrific food and beverages.

Marcus Mosely & Sweet Inspiration Gospel Concert
We are thrilled to welcome Marcus Mosely back to Lethbridge. Marcus will lead the Sweet Inspiration Gospel Choir in an evening of high energy, inspirational Gospel music. Marcus brings a vast wealth of talent and experience that will be sure to lift your spirits. 

Johnny Summers and the Calgary Jazz Orchestra
The rich acoustic traditional Big Band sounds from four trumpets, four trombones, five saxophones and a three-piece rhythm section will delight your ears, especially when Johnny adds his rich vocals to the mix. From Frank Sinatra to Harry Connick Jr. and Michael Buble and a whole lot in between make this a “don’t miss” event. Johnny, the band and, special guests will also give a tribute to the legendary Tommy Banks. 

Jazz and More at the Food Truck Frenzy
HBO3 with Michael Carter – Straight ahead jazz. So much great music from this amazingly talented group. Enjoy the sounds of James Oldenburg on guitar, Paul Holden on Bass and Brad Brouwer on drums and their special guest Michael Carter on saxophone as they give us a terrific mix of jazz standards and original tunes. Calling All Superheroes and Princesses – Wear your costume. Hey kids!! – dress up as your favourite superhero or your favourite princess and join us for songs about all your fantasy favs – done with a touch of jazz. Steve Keenan Band – Blues at its best to kick off your weekend. Straight ahead jazz, funky jazz, bluesy jazz and lots more from this superb group of musicians. 

Mallory Chipman Quartet
Revered for her “rich, expressive voice” and hailed as “an old school jazz chanteuse with new school attitude”. Mallory Chipman is quickly becoming one of the most important names in Canadian modern and vocal jazz. 

BC Reed
An award winning singer, songwriter, BC Reed and his band bring Blues and Roots music to the Slice Enjoy a night of great music along with great friends, food and refreshments. 

Allison Au Quartet
Winner of the 2016 Juno Award for “Best Jazz Album of the Year”, Allison Au brings her fresh style of instrumental jazz to our Festival Au’s music transports you to a place where instrumentals ring bold and emotions run free. Melodies cascade and collide, highlighting Au’s gift for layering voices and rhythms. Her writing showcases the color and character of each instrument, while providing ample room for her band mates to push her compositions to new heights.

Holly Cole
Holly Cole – singer extraordinaire!! — multiple Juno Award winner, acclaimed both at home and around the world brings her music to Lethbridge for the very first time. Be sure to get your tickets to hear her perform an amazing array of music including songs from her new album called “Holly”. Please note – tickets for Holly Cole are available only through the Ticket Centre – Enmax Box Office.