Archive for jazz

Faculty Christmas Party Memories

I also remember the annual Christmas party that was held in the lobby of the EJB. Members of the Faculty created performances that defy explanation or description but were enjoyed by all. I especially remember William Aide and his farmer routine. The late Dean Gus Ciamaga improvised with a rhythm section plus ‘yours truly’ and we always had to play his favourite “Blue Skies”. The Faculty of Music Dixieland Combo performed and you can imagine the sound of the ‘Legit-Dixie’ mix. There were also performances by special guests like MP Bob Rae (piano) and Oliver Jones with now Faculty member Dave Young. I recall that we were giving Oliver and Dave U of T Faculty of Music Jackets. When Oliver, who is small in stature, tried his on it was so big that he disappeared. We ordered another jacket in his size and I bought the oversized culprit, I still wear it today………miss those Christmas parties……THOSE WERE THE DAYS.

  • Professor Phil Nimmons, Director Emeritus of Jazz Studies

Jazz Program Beginnings

It’s 1973 and I was hired by then Dean John Beckwith and Performance Coordinator Ezra Schabas to take over directing the Faculty of Music Big Band from Ward Cole, who was leaving to go out west to the University of Calgary. The sessions were during the Fall and Spring terms on Mondays from 7 to 9pm and membership was voluntary from the entire University regardless of what Faculty and from the general public. During my early days with the band we didn’t always have a full complement and it was suggested that we put a trap line on Bloor Street to capture any busking musicians and bring them into the band. However, in the long run things improved and eventually there were 2 bands and they rehearsed from 7 to 9 pm on Mondays and Wednesdays and full attendance was consistent. Little did we know, at the time, that this was the seminal beginning of the Jazz Program which later, after more than a few years, became a reality through Dean Paul Pedersen who hired Paul Read as its first Director. Its beginning was bumpy but today, in every way, it is SWINGING.

Photo: Phil Nimmons performing in Toronto, photo by Bruce Litteljohn.

  • Professor Phil Nimmons, Director Emeritus of Jazz Studies

Musical inspirations

One of the great rewards as a professor in the Jazz Area is to hear the artistic growth of our students that culminates in their final recitals.  It truly is inspiring to hear the original and creative sounds that our students produce year after year.

Equally thrilling for me was the opportunity to work with one of my former teachers, David Liebman, at U of T thanks to the support of Dean Don MacLean and our donors John and Claudine Bailey.  We were able to hire Liebman as a visiting adjunct professor in 2014 which was a fantastic boost for our program and a wonderful inspiration to our students.  Having access to an artist who worked and recorded with Miles Davis, Elvin Jones and other legendary musicians offered an invaluable experience to all of us at U of T Jazz.

Liebman also recorded two critically acclaimed albums at U of T during his time with us, one with students and one with faculty.  Sweet Ruby Suite, with the UTJO directed by Gordon Foote, featured the music of Kenny Wheeler with Liebman and vocalist Norma Winstone as featured soloists.  Live at U of T, as the title suggests, was recorded live at the Upper Jazz Studio at 90 Wellesley by Professor Jeff Wolpert and students from his MMus sound recording program.  Featuring Liebman, myself, and fellow faculty members Jim Vivian and Terry Clark, this recording managed to capture the energy of live jazz played in an intimate setting for an engaged audience.

What a thrill be able to do all of this as my “work”.

  • Mike Murley, Associate Professor, Jazz Saxophone

Wine and cheese for all!

A couple of weeks after I started working at the Faculty I coordinated a wine and cheese reception in room 130 for donors and patrons of the Jazz Studies program after a big band concert in early April. I hadn’t been given much direction and Prof Terry Promane asked me if students could come. Sure, why not I said. Well, the concert came and afterwards people starting coming into room 130. And they kept coming. And they kept coming. And they kept coming. Then the students all arrived. I’m pretty sure we had well over 200 people in that little room and it was one hopping party that went quite late. It was a fun, slightly wild introduction to the Faculty of Music.

  • Tyler Greenleaf, Faculty of Music staff member