“The sheer quality of jazz from Canada never attains the wider recognition it deserves, so this initiative, to assemble a seven-piece ensemble, the Canadian Jazz Collective, from the country’s finest, is particularly welcome.”
The idea of CJC originally came from manager Judith Humenick, who says: “I felt there was an opportunity to feature the original compositions of three wonderful musicians, Kirk MacDonald, Lorne Lofsky and Derrick Gardner, and to present them in a newly-formed Canadian ‘supergroup’.” That idea was to crystallise into a tour of seven live dates across Europe in May 2022, starting in Paris and ending in front of a full house at Ronnie Scott’s in London, with the recording of “Septology” as the centrepiece of this first adventure.
“There is a particular rightness about the place where the recording was made, MPS-Studio in Villingen in Southern Germany, and that is because there was no artist whom the founder of MPS, Hans Georg Brunner-Schwer (1927-2014) made to feel more at home there, than that greatest of all Canadian jazz artists, Oscar Peterson. Brunner-Schwer’s house and studio in Villingen were to become something of a second home for the Montreal-born genius. There is a direct connection here too: Lorne Lofsky was a member of the Oscar Peterson Quartet in the 1990s, and admits a strong sense of “delayed synchronicity”: “We walked along the path to the house, we met Brunner-Schwer’s widow and we went to see the room where they made the recordings, and the piano. There was a little toast and we listened to some music. It was fascinating to see the place where these great recordings were made.”
“Septology” takes tunes by the three co-leaders which they have specially re-arranged for this group. As Kirk MacDonald describes it: “the idea is to put together musicians with a similar aesthetic, who come at it with an openness and from the perspective of being respectful of the other personalities and to bring them to the forefront. The idea is that the whole should be greater than the sum of the parts.” Lorne Lofsky loved the challenge: “You’re looking at a tune from a different perspective. It has a different dimension. You’re hearing different colours, and instruments interacting.” And for Derrick Gardner the act of arranging tunes almost involuntarily brings to mind positive thoughts about Frank Foster, Gardner’s mentor in his early years as a member of the Basie band: “a great man and one of the most giving people I have ever encountered.”
“Thus we hear, for example, Kirk MacDonald’s “Silent Voices”, “dedicated to people who are no longer with us, and with some glorious two-part writing for the saxophonist and his daughter Virginia MacDonald. Or Lofsky’s “The Time Being”, which, as the composer reflects, “relates to my musical development thus far in my life,” and alternates between the deftly ordered polyphony of the writing for horns, and giving freedom to pianist Brian Dickinson. Or Gardner’s lively homage to his native Chicago, “Terre de DuSable” whose clever construction allows every single member of this marvellous band the opportunity to shine.” Sebastian Scotney