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University of Toronto 12tet: When Day Slips Into Night (U of T Jazz)

Here’s proof that less can be more, with a range as broad as a full-blown big band yet retaining the subtleties and expanded solos of a much smaller unit. That approach works well for Terry Promane’s University of Toronto 12tet. On its latest project, the band puts a modern spin on a few jazz classics and digs into both originals and some newer pieces. Seven of the nine tracks were written or, more often, arranged by 12tet members and other undergrad and grad students in U of T’s composing/arranging segment.

Ben Edgecombe arranged Cedar Walton’s “Bolivia,” on which the sprightly piano work of Noah Franche-Nolan sets up a lush ensemble horn segment and alto sax solo from Brandon Tee. Nathaniel Jenkins’ chart for Tom Harrell’s soaring ballad “Sail Away” showcases trumpeter Michael Henley and guitarist Julius Clegg. The band’s version of “Perdido” gets a similar update, featuring tenor Kieran Murphy and trumpeter Kaelin Murply (no relation). Tenor player John Nicholson wrote and arranged “Eventide,” which has a beautiful panoramic feel. Promane arranged U of T faculty member Mike Murley’s “Extra Time” as a feature for the 12tet’s horn players, which segues into a funky piano section.

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Before & After with Dave Douglas

In the cool, blustery summer weather that is typical of Finland’s Satakunta province, Dave Douglas’ quintet-Douglas on trumpet, tenor saxophonist Jon Irabagon, pianist Matt Mitchell, bassist Linda Oh and drummer Rudy Royston, with vocalist Heather Masse-played a well-received set at the 2013 Pori Jazz festival in July. The music alternated between a loose-limbed intensity and measured melancholy-the latter in particular on the church melodies taken from Douglas’ 2012 album Be Still (Greenleaf). One of those happy, unplanned musical connections took place when the group performed the title track, sparking a rousing response from the outdoor crowd.

“I got so many questions from people here in Finland about why I played it,” Douglas, 50, explained after the set. “When my mother was very ill she gave me a list of hymns that she wanted me to play at her memorial service, and one of them was ‘Be Still, My Soul.’ It was one of her favorites, played in Protestant churches with English lyrics and a melody composed by [Finnish composer] Jean Sibelius. I don’t think she knew the melody is also called ‘Finlandia,’ but we began to play it and I quickly learned that it’s the national anthem here, more or less. It was a real honor to play it in Finland.”

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Delfeayo Marsalis: The Last Southern Gentlemen

A fine line separates old school from old hat, and Delfeayo Marsalis’ The Last Southern Gentlemen dances that line from beginning to end. The album is styled as a throwback, its languid mood and program of time-worn chestnuts meant to conjure, as the trombonist states in his liner notes, an era “when men were gentlemen.” Unfortunately, the result, despite some moments of inspiration, has an antiquated feel that warrants only a cursory listen.

The musicianship is not at issue, with the quartet members all contributing strong work. Marsalis’ rounded tone exudes wistful emotion on “Nancy (With the Laughing Face),” and his muted wah-wah effects grant the band’s take on the Sesame Street theme a wonky playfulness. Bassist John Clayton weaves pensive phrases on “I’m Confessin’,” and drummer Marvin “Smitty” Smith breaks out the bongos to give “But Beautiful” a Latin-tinged essence. Pianist Ellis Marsalis’ minor-keyed harmonics lend tension to Delfeayo’s composition “The Secret Love Affair,” and when the trombonist lays out on “If I Were a Bell,” the senior Marsalis rises to the occasion with a fast-paced take on Frank Loesser’s melody.

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Jonathan Butler: The Simple Life

Jonathan Butler’s optimistic music belies a dirt-poor childhood growing up in a South Africa segregated by apartheid. Live in South Africa, a new CD and DVD package, presents a sense of the resulting inner turmoil, mixed with dogged resolve, that paved the way to his status as an icon in his country and successful musician outside of it. Looking back, the 46-year-old Butler says today, the driving forces that led to his overcoming apartheid-the formal policy of racial separation and economic discrimination finally dismantled in 1993-were family, faith and abundant talent.

“When we were kids, our parents never talked about the ANC [African National Congress] or Nelson Mandela,” he says. Butler was raised as the youngest child in a large family. They lived in a house patched together by corrugated tin and cardboard, in the “coloreds only” township of Athlone near Cape Town. “They never talked about struggles so we never knew what was happening.”

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The Gig: Haynes, His Way

Fifty years ago, a United States Senator named John F. Kennedy delivered a speech to mark the first anniversary of a Hungarian student uprising against Communist rule. Noting ruefully that the subsequent revolution had failed, he issued an exhortation: “So let us remember the living as well as the dead.” Kennedy was paraphrasing Lincoln, a … Read More “The Gig: Haynes, His Way”

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Before & After with Warren Wolf

He’s best known as a vibraphonist, but Warren Wolf is also adept at several other instruments, including marimba, piano, and drums. Join us as Wolf takes part in a special Zoom listening session with regular JazzTimes contributor Ashley Kahn that mirrors his instrumental and stylistic diversity. Update: The live event has now ended, but a … Read More “Before & After with Warren Wolf”

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Global Music Venue Jazz Fest

The Global Music Venue Jazz Fest brings together (virtually) some of the world’s most inspiring artists while providing rich learning experiences for students interested in pursuing a career in music.

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Speakin’ My Piece with Dekel Bor – Season 1

JazzTimes, in association with Ropeadope Records, is pleased to announce the first season of Speakin’ My Piece, an online video series hosted by Israeli guitarist Dekel Bor. Premiering live weekly on Facebook and YouTube, the series features casual yet in-depth artist-to-artist conversations about music and life with some of the top names in jazz today. … Read MoreSpeakin’ My Piece with Dekel Bor – Season 1″

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