Jazz musicians Andrew Homzy, who moved from Montreal to Nanaimo, and Christine Jensen, who moved from Nanaimo to Montreal, are meeting in the middle when they present new work at the Saskatchewan Jazz Festival in Saskatoon on June 22.
The two were among seven Canadian composers and arrangers selected to contribute to Thank you Kinda Blue: Reimagining Kind of Blue, a concert by the Saskatoon Jazz Orchestra paying tribute to the 60th anniversary of the album Kind of Blue by renowned jazz trumpeter Miles Davis. Jensen describes the album as “impressionist music.”
“It’s a seminal recording that really left a very large footprint on music, especially American music,” she said. “Because it’s 1959 that this happened, this recording, and in the jazz world especially it was probably the first time we really heard music that left the traditional jazz format of harmony.”
The guest arrangers – bandleader Homzy, saxophonist Jensen, Toronto pianist David Braid, Montreal-based saxophonist and pianist Paul Suchan, Saskatoon trumpeter Dean McNeill and from Winnipeg pianist and trombonist Jeff Presslaff and trumpeter Richard Gillis – were each asked to produce one original piece of work inspired by Kind of Blue. Jensen said she’s approaching her composition “like a fantasy.”
“It’s like I’m nearly cutting out memories from the recording and making my own composition out of those,” she said. “So they can be one bar, they can be a feeling from the rhythm section or from the drums and they can be a bass line and they can be a melody, but nothing more than a bar of something or two.”
Homzy broke the rules a bit and will be submitting two pieces of music and asking the organizers to pick the one they like best. The pieces are based on the Kind of Blue track Freddie Freeloader. One of them is an imagined collaboration between Davis and his contemporary Duke Ellington. The other one incorporates a hip-hop-style rhythmic bass.
“I took a little melodic phrase and I developed a whole piece out of that small phrase,” Homzy explained. “So it’s inspired musically by that particular phrase but it’s set over this hip-hop beat with a full jazz orchestra.”
Jensen participated in a similar concert for Canada’s sesquicentennial and said the most fun part was hearing what the other composers come up with. Homzy said he’s also interested in hearing how the Saskatoon Jazz Orchestra interprets the works.
“The basic composition is always going to be there, but the interpretation of it can be quite different…” he said. “Every time a jazz piece is played it’s going to be different. And those differences can be quite substantial.”