While there may be some doubt that Ostinatocious is really a word, there's no doubt that the McGill University Jazz Orchestra from Montreal, Canada, is really a band. This is the MJO's eighth album, and to say it is up to its usual standards is the most earnest compliment one can bestow.
Ostinatocious spans the years 2002-04 with ensembles from each of those years taking part. The first five selections are performed by the 2004 orchestra, with four by the '03 group and two others from '02, including Bill Holman's mercurial "The Git, whose sprinting time is less than a minute. In each case, director Gordon Foote has his charges primed and ready, and as is always true of the MJO, there's nary a misstep, no matter how precarious the pathwhich doesn't mean the ensembles are more clinical than passionate, simply quite good at what they do.
If there's a perceptible difference between this and other recent endeavors by the MJO, it lies in the choice of material, which is on the whole more adventurous, starting with the title selection (one of four compositions and seven arrangements by former students or faculty) and including Bob Brookmeyer's lovely ballad "For Maria, Marianne Trudel's supernal "D'Hier à Aujourd'hui de St. Michel à Paris, Darcy Argue's frisky "Flux in a Box and Alexander Clements' opulent "Suite No. 4 Cycles (part 1). Trombonist Paul Tarussov is showcased on "Maria, as he is on Burton Lane/Alan Jay Lerner's "On a Clear Day. Tenor saxophonist Cameron Wallis the featured soloist on Wayne Shorter's "Infant Eyes, baritone Paul Nedzela on "I Left My Heart in San Francisco, drummer Jon McCaslin on "The Git. Pianist Jean-Marc Lafleur is outstanding on "St. Michel and "Flux. Others who raise their amicable voices include pianists Jon Day and John Roney, guitarists Steve Johnston and Jim Head, alto Colin Power, tenor Jon Stewart, trumpeter Steve McKnight, trombonist Jean-Nicolas Trottier and drummer J.D. Katz.
As I've asserted before (and am held to account in the liner notes), "no one could single [the McGill Jazz Orchestra] out as anything other than a professional working band. Ostinatocious certainly does nothing to alter that opinion. Among college-level ensembles, the MJO remains at the head of the class.
Track Listing: Malinkes Dance; On a Clear Day; Tiptoe; Ostinatocious; For Maria; DHier à Aujourdhui de St. Michel à Paris; Infant Eyes; Flux in a Box; Suite No. 4 Cycles (part 1); I Left My Heart in San Francisco; The Git (73:15).
Personnel: Gordon Foote, director. 2001-2002 -- Samuel Blais, Colin Power, Jonathan Stewart, Annie Dominique, Karl Valiaho, reeds; Christian Morissette, Oscar Martinez, Jon Mossing, Blair McNeillie, Nicolas Rossi, trumpet; Bruce Pepper, Barb Hamilton, Jean-Nicolas Trottier, Nicolas Therrien, Suzie Nadeau, trombone; John Roney, piano; Christopher Cargnello, guitar; Genevieve Audet, vibes; Karine Chapdelaine, bass; Jon McCaslin, drums. 2002-2003 -- Blais, Power, Stewart, Cam Wallis, Paul Nedzela, reeds; Morissette, Steve McKnight, David Robitaille, J.D. Marchand, trumpet; Trottier, Nadeau, Jim Wilson, Paul Tarussov, trombone; Jean-Marc Lafleur, piano; Jim Head, guitar; Aryeh Kobrinsky, bass; J.D. Katz, drums. 2003-2004 -- Blais, Power, Stewart, Nedzela, Evan Smith, reeds; Morissette, McKnight, Robitaille, Roselyne Girouard, Mark DAngelo, trumpet; Tarussov, Nicolas Therrien, Jason Kyle, Hugh Topham, Ted Huck, trombone; Jon Day, piano; Steve Johnston, guitar; Kobrinsky, bass; Katz, drums.
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already. SOOOO... he started me off LP's by Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Errol Garner, Bill Evans, Monty Alexander, Charlie Byrd, and Dave Brubeck... does it get any better than that? ...No, it doesn't. I was hooked!!
I met and had a master class with the late music giant John Lewis, leader of the Modern Jazz Quartet! This was at CCNY in 1977. I was blessed! It was an incredible class... how could it have been anything else?!?!
The first jazz record I bought was...I bought numerous records from my friend at the record store, as mentioned above. He introduced me to nothing but music giants/legends! I think The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Greatest Hits, was actually the first one.
My advice to new listeners... study first--understand the rudiments--solfeggio, keys, scales, and basic chords. Read a book or take a class that includes the study of chord progressions, especially in jazz. It should ideally be a piano class so you can play multiple notes together. Have a good EAR or else it's not really worth it in my view...to become a musician, a good EAR for music is about as fundamental as breathing! Learn to read chord charts--i.e., lead sheets - wherein you play various voicings of the chords--major, minor, dominant 7th (alterations of these, you can learn over time - the basic chords are most important for starters), plus the melody, on the piano or keyboard. If you have to read the exact notes, then it's not the same as actually internalizing it & getting it all into your head. If you can do this, I think you're ready not only for listening to jazz, but understanding many concepts of it! Of course...anyone can listen to jazz... but I think it's so good to also have a grasp of it.