Richard Harding (alto), Eric Friedenberg (alto), Pat Belliveau (tenor),
Gareth Bane (baritone)
Robi Botos (piano), Steve Moretti (drums), Mike Downes (bass)
released November 19, 2020
Then is Now ‘Rhapsody in Blue’
Jon Kimura Parker-Piano
Matt Catingub-Music Director
Canadian All-Star JazzPops Orchestra
Rhapsody in Blue has a claim on our collective soul that few other works share. It blends Tin Pan Alley songwriting and classical exposition. It trades in high contrasts of dynamics and phrasing. It evokes serenity, anxiety, the Charleston, nervousness, carriage rides in Central Park, teems of people on Broadway. It transgresses boundaries, dissolves form, and yet clings to a simple theme. It is, in many ways, modernity’s anthem.
Matt Catingub and Allan Gilliland’s arrangement celebrates the Rhapsody by returning it to its big band roots. Still, it honors Ferde Grofé’s 1942 symphonic arrangement by allowing pianist Jon Kimura Parker to showcase sensitive and probing cadenzas. And the introductory line is given not to a clarinetist, but to Jens Lindemann on piccolo trumpet. Not since Duke Ellington gave Harry Carney’s baritone saxophone the line in his 1963 recording have we seen an instrumentation that has redefined the original so dynamically.
Part of Rhapsody in Blue’s charm is its insouciance. Despite the cataclysmic musical virtuosity required to execute it properly, you can’t help by the end but feel that you wandered in on a jam session that just went really well. That’s certainly the flavor of this version, but keep in mind that this was made during the great pandemic of 2020. The musicians recorded in sequestration, in different cities, unable even to rehearse together. And maybe that’s the point. Gershwin’s Rhapsody might be modernity’s anthem, but this is a recording made in and for our postmodern world. It is a tribute to true art’s universality, and simultaneous ability to be reinvented for every age.
-H. Robert Baker
Then is Now is a celebration of legacy and how great music stands the test of time by being as relevant today as it was yesterday. Inspired by my friend and hero the great Doc Severinsen, this recording opens up with the Tommy Dorsey classic ‘Well, Git It’ which led Doc himself to play trumpet when he first heard it live in 1941 at the age of 14. 40 years later, I was also 14 hearing Doc in concert for the first time and that was the day the trumpet picked me forever. We also honoured the inimitable Tommy Banks on Oscar Peterson’s classic ‘Hymn to Freedom’. Using the live concert track from our Juno nominated recording “Sweet Canadiana”, Matt Catingub arranged around Tommy’s solo playing from that 2015 live concert in Toronto’s Koerner Hall.
From Duke Ellington, Nat King Cole, Oscar Peterson, Glenn Miller and more, “Then is Now” keeps alive the very tradition of the big band sound, which was the most popular genre of its time, by presenting these tunes in an updated setting. With an ensemble including Canadian All-Star soloists such as Robi Botos (piano), Mike Downes (bass), Al Muirhead (trumpet) and others all directed by Matt with Steve Moretti on drums as the musical ‘bus driver’, climb on board for a ride through a classic era that feels as fresh today as it did then.
Finally, producing Rhapsody in Blue with everyone sequestered and recording alone from coast to coast during a worldwide pandemic is the quintessential reason for remembering that great music not only continues, it also brings us together.
In my many years of music making, especially in the contemporary orchestral world, I have had the pleasure of deeply exploring just about every musical genre there is. But when it comes right down to it, the Big Band will always be at the heart of everything I do. What a joy it was creating and producing a recording like this with my friend Jens Lindemann, my musical partner Steve Moretti, and all of the incredible Canadian jazz musicians and vocalists that participated on this recording. I feel it is some of my best work, and it was truly one of my greatest life experiences making music with all of these wonderful artists at one of our earth’s greatest settings -Banff Centre for the Arts. I hope the joy we felt putting this project together is felt by you the listener, as I know I still feel that same joy when I listen to what we accomplished.