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Canadian Brass turns blues

Fri., Oct. 2, 2009

World-renowned quintet changes gears for SuperPops

The Canadian Brass are like the Toscaninis of tubas, the Beatles of brass.

They are, without a doubt, the best-known brass quintet in the world, renowned for their serious classical music. They are especially celebrated for their Baroque music.

However, on Saturday night, Spokane audiences will get to see the swinging side of the Canadian Brass.

They will be the guest artists in a Spokane Symphony SuperPops concert and will show off their considerable blues and jazz chops.

Blues and jazz? By a brass quintet?

Well, since a Dixieland band is mostly brass, that’s not much of a stretch. In a video posted on YouTube, the Canadian Brass deftly demonstrates how easy it is to move from classical to jazz.

First they play Bach’s Fugue No. 2 from the “Well-Tempered Clavier” in the usual way, then they shift to a woozy, delirious swing rhythm and play it as a jazz number. The notes are all exactly the same, but the rhythm evokes a sultry night on Bourbon Street.

Saturday’s program will feature several jazzy numbers, beginning with the “Beale Street Blues.” Then they’ll do a lengthy medley called “Classical Duke” which will feature several Duke Ellington tunes, including “Harlem Sunday Morning,” “Cotton Tail,” “Sophisticated Lady” and “It Don’t Mean a Thing.”

The concert will end with the Canadian Brass version of “St. Louis Blues.”

It won’t be all jazz. The Brass will also team up with the symphony for a suite of Shaker hymns and excerpts from Wagner’s “Lohengrin.”

You can also expect to hear plenty of banter during the show; the Canadian Brass is also well-known for their onstage humor. They typically appear in standard black formal wear – yet with their signature white tennis shoes.

The symphony, under the direction of Resident Conductor Morihiko Nakahara, will perform several numbers on its own.

The concert will open with Suppe’s Overture to “Light Cavalry” and excerpts from John Williams’ “Star Wars Suite.”

The second half will begin with the symphony’s rendition of Rossini’s Overture to “La gazza ladra” (“The Thieving Magpie”).

The Canadian Brass began as an experimental group in Toronto in 1970. Before that, the idea of a brass quintet was still unusual.

After they burst onto the scene, brass quintets sprang up all over North America and the world.

Today, the pioneers of it all are still going strong. They have had a number of personnel changes over the decades, but the original tuba-trombone combo of Chuck Daellenbach and Gene Watts is still intact.

The rest of the current lineup consists of Jeff Nelsen on horn and Brandon Ridenour and Chris Coletti on trumpet.

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