Hurray for Hal Hill

Late is better than never, so let’s go back to late August. The Markham (Ont.) Jazz Festival is pretty much the brainchild of Hal Hill, long-time jazz aficionado, who decided that Markham was a good spot for such an event. He started in 1998. This year, his festival was bigger and better, running for three days, drawing hefty crowds and roping in such top artists as Guido Basso, Archie Alleyne, Carol Welsman, Dave McMurdo, Jim Galloway and Roy Styfe. The Dave McMurdo Jazz Orchestra was one of the standouts of the festival — his well-rehearsed group doing justice to a variety of charts, both originals and standards.

Immediately following them was an equally impressive band headed by drummer Archie Alleyne, an elder statesman of the Toronto jazz scene. With top sidemen like pianist Norm Amadio, trombonist Russ Little and saxophonists Kirk MacDonald and Michael Stuart, plus fine vocalists Michelle White and Rudy Webb, the band paid handsome tribute to Duke Ellington’s music.

Next came the German-born pianist Michael Kaeshammer, now a B.C. resident. Kaeshammer has soaked up such styles as stride, boogie-woogie and blues and plays them with impressive authority. He is also a skled showman. What he doesn’t have yet is a distinctive style of his own. But, then, he’s only 21.

Saturday’s proceedings closed with Angel Luis and Energia Latina amply demonstrating the appeal of Cuban rhythms in North America of late.

The highlight of the festival was the Sunday afternoon concert by Peter Appleyard and his Swing Fever Band. Interpreting superbly the excellent charts of Rick Wilkins, this big band set a standard for festival finales that will be hard to beat. The miracle of Appleyard is that he is a great showman without sacrificing one iota of his fine musicianship.

Some of the artists involved also had some new (or recent) CD’s available. I was so taken with the McMurdo band — especially its version of You Stepped Out Of A Dream, neatly combined with Jim Hall’s Dream Steps — that I promptly bought the band’s double CD titled Fire and Song.

Great Grosney
The veteran Winnipeg-born trumpeter Paul Grosney admits his admiration for Harry James. A recent CD by Grosney reflects that admiration. It’s titled I’m Just Wild About Harry.

Leading a big band of stellar musicians, Grosney does all the trumpet solos — “It’s my ball so I’m gonna be the pitcher,” he quips in his album notes. Solo space is also given to Russ Little, Norm Amadio, Eugene Amaro, Michael Stuart and Bob Livingston.

Among the 19 titles are James classics Two O’clock Jump, You Made Me Love You and Music Makers. The CD is on the Leo label, located at 412 Empress Ave., Toronto, ON. M2N 3V8.

McDougall Times Two
Victoria-based trombonist Ian McDougall is well represented on a double CD titled Songs and Arias, accompanied on each only by a pianist. The two CD’s illustrate McDougall’s versatility. On the first disc, with pianist Ron Johnston providing solid, unobtrusive support, McDougall plays 11 songs including Where or When, If I Loved You, All The Things You Are and a medley from Porgy and Bess.

Big Band Update
Nice letter from Frank and Jane Golding of Seaforth, Ont. asking what ever happened to various leaders of the big band era. No space to go into all the details, but here’s the dope on some of their questions.

Artie Shaw is pushing 90, hasn’t touched his clarinet in years. Jimmy Dorsey died in 1957 only months after his brother Tommy. Sammy Kaye died in 1987, Guy Lombardo died in 1977. Red Nichols died in 1966. Sorry I can’t help much about Enoch Light and Kay Kyser. Too many reference books have this ghoulish habit of dropping the names of people who have died — as if they never existed. For shame.