Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Cap alumni, students and faculty feature prominently in Hard Rubber Orchestra 25th anniversary show

HRO photo by Diane Smithers
This year marks the 25th anniversay of the founding of the Hard Rubber Orchestra by composer and trumpeter, John Korsrud.  We are fortunate to have John as a faculty member teaching composition in the Jazz Studies program. The HRO is one of Canada's most important jazz orchestras (website here), once very aptly described as 'the Godzilla of the Vancouver jazz scene', with an impressive history of commissioning new works from Canadian and international composers and an omnivorous appetite for digesting other forms of contemporary music and blending them with the jazz tradition.  The band's most recent CD, Crush, is a showcase for both Korsrud's considerable compositional prowess and musical leadership as well as the capacity for the band of first-call Vancouver players to perform incredibly dense, intense, challenging, creative, thrilling, and energetic music.

Dave Robbins hitting hard.  Photo by Diane Smithers.
Cap Jazz faculty members have always featured prominently in the band: Ron Samworth (guitar), Dennis Esson (trombone), Dave Robbins (drums), Andre Lachance (bass), Chad Makela (saxes), Brad Turner (trumpet), Steve Kaldestad (saxes), and others have performed regularly with HRO in recent years.

HRO's most recent concert was May 9, 2015 at the Milton Wong Theatre at SFU Woodwards.  The concert featured trumpet soloist, Ingrid Jensen, music by her sister, Christine, along with new works from Korsrud, Peggy Lee, and recent Cap Jazz grad, Eric Wettstein.  Alex Varty's Georgia Straight review of the show had this to say:

Capping the first set was the introduction of the local jazz scene’s next star: singer-guitarist Eric Wettstein, whose “Mechanical Dreams” was both a thoughtful meditation on self-censorship and a jagged showcase for its composer’s extroverted guitar.  As a vocalist, the 26-year-old Wettstein is still finding his feet; here, at least, it was easy to distinguish the suture lines where his jazz and rock leanings meet. But this was such a confident performance that improvement is assured; watch out for this guy!

John introducing Eric.  Diane Smithers photo
Not mentioned in the review is the incredible compositional skill that Eric brought to the piece and the roaring energy he helped create in band.  Eric has been in funded mentorship program with John Korsrud and the HRO for the past year and the fruits of this work were very impressive.  I was thrilled with all aspects of the performance and extremely proud of Eric.  He is combining all the things we teach at Cap in compostion, improvisation, theory, and an understanding of the jazz tradition with all the things that are unique to his experience and that can't be taught - youthful rock and roll energy, fearless creativity, eclectic tastes and sensibilities, and a vision for where jazz might go in the next 25 years.

In addition to Eric's participation, another Cap Jazz student, Luis Melgar (trombone) has also been called on to join the ranks of Vancouver's top professionals and has played on several recent Hard Rubber concerts. His presence in the band's trombone section wasn't heralded by much fanfare, but it was significant for me and for all of us associated with Cap Jazz to see Luis in the center of the trombone section, calmly nailing some of the most challenging jazz orchestra parts on the planet.  They are both great examples of what we are trying to achieve in the Capilano Jazz Studies department and of what can be accomplished with hard work and passion. Way to go guys!

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