BRANDON, MB — Next Saturday evening, three members of Brandon University’s jazz faculty—saxophonist Greg Gatien, bassist Gilles Fournier and drummer Eric Platz—will collaborate in an unprecedented concert event. Six other musicians from Winnipeg and Saskatoon will be joining them to revive the music that launched a whole new approach to jazz.
Between January 1949 and March 1950, several young musicians recorded an album of music composed for an unusual ensemble of trumpet, alto sax, baritone sax, trombone, French horn, tuba, piano, bass and drums. The compositions were strikingly original, blending jazz harmonies and rhythms with classically inspired counterpoint. Several of the player/composers went on to become household names among jazz followers, including Miles Davis, Gerry Mulligan and Gil Evans. The album, called The Complete Birth of the Cool, was released in 1957, and the title reflects the consensus that these recordings marked the beginning of the post-bebop trend in jazz that prevailed through the 1950’s, known as the “Cool School”.
In spite of the vast influence of this recording, the ensemble itself, with its marvelous colours and possibilities, was extremely short lived (aside from the recording sessions, they only performed one two-night stand at a club in New York) and rarely duplicated. This tragic neglect has now been rectified by “The Complete Rebirth of the Cool” project.
“Miles Davis’s “Birth of the Cool” recording is one of the classics in the history of jazz music—a marker of a new style and approach to jazz-ensemble playing. Every member of this project, as a musician and educator, has been inspired in some way by Miles and this recording,” said Platz. “This project serves as both a tribute to the music of those legendary recording sessions and as a catalyst for new creative works by members of the ensemble.”
Under the direction of Winnipeg trombonist and composer, Jeff Presslaff, “The Complete Rebirth of the Cool” recreates many of the conditions of that original burst of creativity: A team of probing musical thinkers and the means to compose and perform their new ideas.
The music reflects to a large degree the sensibilities of the original recording, but the goal is emphatically to make new pieces that reflect the musicians’ personal experiences, as well as the changes in the musical landscape over the past 60 years. There is a greater variety of grooves and much influence from modern composition techniques and the music of other cultures.
“In performance, the repertoire of this project will include a few arrangements of music from the original “Birth of the Cool” recording along with compositions written specifically for this project by some of Western Canada’s leading contemporary jazz composers,” Platz said. “It’s an exciting combination of old and new, traditional and contemporary, that I don’t think you get to hear presented all that often in jazz.”
Presslaff has a strong track record of successfully coordinating collaborative composition projects, including the Jazz Composers Ensemble, All Winds, Papa Mambo and the Winnipeg Jazz Orchestra.
This newly formed ensemble will be drawing on the formidable instrumental abilities of both the composers and highly regarded players from the region. Presslaff will be joined by some of the leading lights of Western Canada’s creative jazz community, including the already eminent Dean McNeil on trumpet (Saskatoon) and Ken Gold on baritone sax (Winnipeg), as well as composers Will Bonness (also on piano), Jonathan Stevens, Chuck McClelland and Danielle Baert. Also in the lineup will be Irene Sas on French horn (Winnipeg) and Steve Oberheu on tuba (Winnipeg).
“Personally, the reward of being involved in this project is the chance to make a connection to an important part of the jazz tradition in the context of a contemporary community of modern improviser/composers. For me, music making is about community—expressing and strengthening community,” said Platz.
This concert will take place Saturday, May 5 at 8 p.m., at The Music Studio, 940 Rosser Avenue. Admission is $10 for students and seniors and $15 for adults.