Saskatoon Jazz Orchestra continues big band tradition
The sound of Canadian jazz is bringing directors together across the Prairies.
The big band sound, one of the oldest branches of jazz, fills the air each autumn on Broadway. The Saskatoon Jazz Orchestra is celebrating its fifth year as an organization.
Artistic director of the SJO, Dean McNeill, founded the organization after years of experience at the U of S with a little inspiration from playing as a guest artist with the Winnipeg Jazz Orchestra.
“I just saw what they were doing there and they were playing all these great concerts and bringing in guest artists, commissioning new works and creating all this work for local musicians all in the large jazz ensemble setting.”
After 22 seasons as a non-profit organization, WJO artistic director Richard Gillis worked with McNeill to create the same atmosphere in Saskatoon. The pair continue to collaborate as guest musicians and work together to discuss concert program ideas.
“You know with the Saskatoon Jazz Orchestra, it’s great,” said Gillis. “We thought this was a model that we could spread across other centres in Canada. It takes at least one person to get it going and make it work really well and Dean McNeill is one of those people. It has been really gratifying to see Saskatoon work so well.”
Both directors emphasized the distance Canadian jazz musicians are willing to go to perform and share their passion for the genre. McNeill credits the people of Saskatoon as well as the musicians for the continued success of the SJO.
Their season’s first concert “The SJO Presents: Honoring The Tradition,” begins on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at the Broadway Theatre.