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Julie McGregor

jazz vocalist

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My Jazz Story

Jazz speaks to my soul. Jazz may be considered a relic by some people and a hundred years old by our time construct, but that's very young for a new art form. Jazz can be as hip today as it was in it's hey day. There is nothing cooler then the sound of a walking bass line bellowing out deep low notes with the laid back swing of soft brushes caressing a snare drum and the melodic piano laying down some dissent cords with a saxophone pouring it's heart out with rich, vibrant tones and exciting rhythms while going off the map and back again. Jazz is a very individual thing including many styles of jazz but it's structured in a way that allows for personal creative freedom of expression and spiritual connection to a group of like-minded musicians and audiences. It's a musical language all on it's own. Take this quote from Ernest Holmes who spoke about the soul’s organic freedom, "The divine plan is one of freedom. The inherent nature of man is ever-seeking to express itself through freedom because freedom is the birthright of every living soul." Jazz is just one of those vehicles to freedom, creativity, self expression and being in the now moment. Jazz is our heritage. In a nutshell, was seeded by planting the blues of the American south into European influenced music. Jazz brought the 1930's swinging out of the depression and blossomed with Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald. It's popularity swept like wild fire across North America and by Europeans who embraced it in high regard. The Big Band Era grew into it's own in the 1940's and was known for exceptional band leader's like Count Basie and Duke Ellington, to name a few. Ellington often collaborated with other composers and wrote more than one thousand compositions; his extensive body of work is the largest recorded personal jazz legacy, with many of his works having become standards. Together with Billy Strayhdorn wrote their band's most famous theme song "Take The A Train". The great and hip Charlie Parker, known as "Bird", was a techincal master of improvisation and helped make the modern jazz we know today. He recorded many songs from his BeBop original "Moose The Mooche" to one of my favourite ballad recordings, written by Gershwin, "Embraceable You" with Miles Davis. Miles Davis cultivated is own voice and experimented, taking jazz into all new directions with his piercing, lingering trumpet sounds. Both artists had that undeniable originality and genius, expressing themselves with their soul's organic freedom. The "Hey Day of Jazz" in the 1940s, 1950s and early 60's was when the original Bluenote existed in NYC showcasing all the jazz masters. From that exciting time, they laid down the blueprint for modern jazz today. Jazz may have seemed to disappear from the scene in the 70's, settled into the background for awhile but not for Miles Davis who played concert stages with his Jazz Fusion. Back then jazz musicians kept the art alive in a smattering of jazz houses, bars and festivals; while Motown, R&B and 70's Rock took centre stage. Many great standards were originally written for Hollywood films and Broadway plays by some of the most remarkable jazz composers. Many of these timeless songs were haphazardly discarded by the movie business execs, only to be discovered and saved by discerning jazz musicians who lifted them off the cutting room floor. Enduring songs like "You Don't Know What Love Is" were brought back to life. These standards were crafted to be ageless and played forever. So many times I have heard people say, "I don't like jazz" like it was a bad taste in their mouth. And I'd like to ask, "Well what kind of jazz are you talking about? You must have heard songs from Charlie Brown's Christmas (Vince Guaraldi​) like "Skating", "Linus and Lucy" and "Christmas Time Is Here"? What about "Take Five" (Dave Brubeck)? Or "All Blues" by Miles Davis? "I'm A Fool To Want You" written by Frank Sinatra?" The list goes on and on, thousands of immortalized songs that are constantly being reinvented by today's creative jazz artists. Funny, how we get in our heads we don't like something, like broccoli or Brussel sprouts (which I happen to like) and it becomes a concrete belief. We close our minds to something that could expand your world. It's like our society has been fed a lot of sugar and ignored the natural raw and good food stuff. If our divine path is one of freedom, then we are here to create and share our gifts. Jazz is one of those godly creative gifts. Jazz just is and needs no defending. Jazz is substance, thoughtfulness and flow. It's a music that's breathing and evolving. It's a colourful language and art form created by artists to express their love, pain, joy, sadness and the human condition. It's the coolest flame that has been past on to the next generation. Jazz remains to burn brightly and the flame will definitely not go out any time soon. Have a listen to Coleman Hawkins' 'Body and Soul', just a taste of what I'm talking about. Blog Post by Julie McGregor Vocalist/Songwriter ​/Leader of The Kensie Jazz Band

My House Concert Story

Singer's Jazz Series Wholenote Magazine In the press: Wholenote Magazine Multi-talented Julie McGregor is an exquisite painter who, about a decade ago, turned her focus to singing jazz. More recently, McGregor has begun producing The Singer’s Jazz Series, which features, alongside herself, a variety of Torontonian talent on vocals, with the venerable Norman Amadio on piano. Ironically, it’s the accompanist who’s at the heart of this singer’s series. “I was inspired by pianist Norman Amadio, one of Canada’s greatest jazz talents and sadly it seems, most under-appreciated,” says McGregor. “I wanted everyone to hear Norm play. At 84, he still plays great...he loves accompanying and really is one of the most giving, humble and kind musicians I have ever met.” Indeed, Amadio’s modesty belies his legendary status as jazz pianist, piano teacher, music coach, composer, arranger, session player, band leader and accompanist, dating back to the 1940s. At 17, the precociously gifted Norm left his hometown of Timmins to study with Boris Berlin at the Royal Conservatory, and soon thereafter became influential in starting the bebop scene in Toronto. Amadio became one of the country’s most in-demand players, headlining at New York’s Birdland in 1956 opposite Duke Ellington, and collaborating with far too many jazz giants to mention in this wee column. At the “September’s Song” installment of The Singer’s Jazz Series, Amadio, along with the wondrous Neil Swainson on bass, will provide the ultimate accompaniment for featured vocalists Sophia Perlman, Vincent Wolfe and Julie McGregor, and jazz poet Chris Hercules. Reservations are recommended for this event, taking place at Hugh’s Room on Sunday, September 16.

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