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'Amazing' performers ready to get all jazzed up this weekend

Orillia Jazz Festival kicks off Friday with Lance Anderson's 'stunning collaboration' and is followed by music and dance at various venues all weekend
Lance Anderson
Lance Anderson will be performing at the Orillia Jazz Festival this weekend. Photo Credit: LP Photographs.

With Thanksgiving in the rear view mirror, Orillians now get to look forward to the soulful sounds and hot notes of the Orillia Jazz Festival, presented by Arts Orillia.

“The incomparable Holly Cole will kick things off on Friday, Oct. 13,” said Arts Orillia Artistic Director, Kate Hilliard. “She will sound incredible in the wonderful Lightfoot Auditorium at the Orillia Opera House.”

The other two main stage acts, also at the Orillia Opera House, will be Lance Anderson and friends on Sat. Oct. 14, and local Big Band Brassworks, joined by musicians from all the local high schools, on Sunday afternoon. 

“I am excited to premiere works from my upcoming CD, World Jazz Asylum,” said well-known musician, producer, and arranger, Lance Anderson. “Unfortunately, the CD won’t be available at the show, but we will play all the music from the CD.

“I will be joined by talented and inspiring musicians William Sperandei, Quammie Williams, Simon Wallis and an ensemble of fabulous jazz dancers.”

Anderson went on to explain the album consists of “original or very original arrangements of a few jazz classics. The ‘sound’ of the group can be labelled as ‘world music meets jazz’. There are definitely elements of African and Latin music in our performance.

"Though influenced by other world music, it is still played with a jazz sensibility and incorporates the jazz tradition of improvisation and freedom of expression," Anderson explained.

“The opening tune on the CD, St. Thomas, is a famous ‘jazz’ standard recorded by NYC saxophonist Sonny Rollins. In 1976 I was on tour in Barbados and during a tour of the island our driver started singing the melody of St. Thomas," recalled Anderson.

"I thought this was unusual that a cab driver would know a famous jazz song from the 50’s NYC jazz scene. I mentioned it to him and he said, 'Jazz song? Do you know where you are right now? We have just entered St. Thomas Parish and that melody is a folk song from this area that Sonny Rollins ‘borrowed’ and made into a jazz standard with his name on it.' This was news to me and most of the jazz musicians I knew!”

Anderson explained how he arranged this famous jazz standard for this CD.

“The actual folk melody is only eight bars long. I used a contemporary technique to re-harmonize and break up this relatively simple melody. If you think of how Picasso broke up the form of a face or body in his Cubist period, this is what I have done," explained Anderson. 

"I have separated the phrases of the melody with uneven pauses between them. The listener (and band) finds it hard to know where beat one is," he added. 

“Quammie Williams is a renowned African percussion specialist. His percussion brings out the African roots of this Caribbean tune. This arrangement is more African influenced than Caribbean and the ‘pauses’ are filled with his wonderful drumming.”

“We are thrilled to have three dancers improvise with us for the first tunes of each set,” enthused Anderson. “They will dance to both St. Thomas and one other piece. This is part of an improv residency partnership between Arts Orillia and Toronto Metropolitan University. It promises to be a stunning collaboration.”

World Jazz Asylum with Lance Anderson and friends happens at the Orillia Opera House Lightfoot Auditorium Sat. Oct. 14 at 7:30 p.m. and you can get tickets here

Sunday afternoon, audiences are in for a musical treat of a different sort as local mini big band group, Brassworks, takes to the Opera House stage, joined by an all-star group of local high school students. 

“We are really excited about this show,” said Brassworks member Curtis Metcalf. “There will be an all-star jazz band comprised of student instrumentalist from all three Orillia high schools. The ensemble will be a traditional big band style set-up with approximately 15 musicians. They will be performing All the Things You Are and Doxy. The students will also perform with Brassworks in the finale. There will also be a wonderful choir made up of local students.”

But there is more, said Metcalf. 

“Other highlights of the show will include solo items by Alex Dean, and Danny McErlain. Danny will be performing Oscar Peterson’s Hymn to Freedom together with Duncan Hopkins. The concert also features the vocalist Milli Schop from Barrie’s The Straits.  Milli is Orillia born, Barrie raised. Milli is singing Orange Coloured Sky and Don’t Know Why," said Metcalf.

“This is really going to be a fantastic show,” Metcalf concluded. “Brassworks will be welcoming six members of the local jazz group 4th Street Jazz Project to perform a few items together including Soul Bossa Nova. Five of the six musicians are graduates of Orillia high schools. And, Brassworks will start the concert with the tour de force, Strike Up The Band, by George Gershwin. We are really going to wake up your Sunday afternoon!”

Brassworks and young performers will be happening Sun. Oct. 15 at 3 p.m., at the Orillia Opera House. For tickets, click here

“We are thrilled to present the 2023 Orillia Jazz Festival,” said Hilliard. “In addition to these amazing main stage performances, Orillians can enjoy more intimate performances in venues throughout Orillia. More information and details can be found on our website, We hope to see everyone out getting their jazz on this weekend!”


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