By David Milbourne
To think the last time this celebrated composer, arranger, bandleader and saxophonist graced this city, was in 1957 with the late, cool West Coast jazz trumpeter Shorty Rogers. So without a doubt this was a major event for Toronto in 2003 and a coup for the Humber College Faculty of Music. It was an evening to remember because not only did we have the legendary Bill Holman as guest conductor, we had the consummate Humber Faculty/Alumni Big Band. I have to admit I was simply knocked out by the quality of this orchestra, just look who was in it, leader Denny Christianson; saxophonists Mark Promane, Brian Lillos, Pat La Barbera, Kelly Jefferson, Alex Dean; trumpets, Dave Dunlop, Steve Crowe, John Macleod, Brian O’Kane; trombones, Alistair Kay, Terry Promane, Gord Myers, Peter Hysen; piano, Don Thompson; bass, Mike Downes; drums Ted Warren; and vocalist, Trish Colter.
Bill Holman was born in 1927, and originally recognized for his talent as a bop tenor saxophonist, although his real genius was as a composer/arranger. .He has written for just about everybody, Woody Herman, Count Basie, Stan Kenton, Maynard Ferguson, Gerry Mulligan, Buddy Rich, Louie Bellson, Terry Gibbs, Bob Brookmeyer, Doc Severinson, Tony Bennett, Peggy Lee Carmen MacRae, Mel Torme, Anita O’Day, June Christy, Sarah Vaughan and Natalie Cole to name a few.
I can’t imagine how members of the Facutly/Alumni Big Band felt, being under a conductor of this stature. Chatting with stellar saxophonist Kelly Jefferson, who told me he was extremely enthusiastic about the evening because he had also worked with Shorty Rogers in New York prior to his death in November 1994.
By Charles Gordon
The big band, a worthy and often neglected jazz sub – genre, made it to the Confederation Park bandstand last night with a rousing visit from 17 of Toronto’s best musicians and one of Ottawa’s led by trumpeter and arranger Denny Christianson.
Christianson’s aggregation, the Humber College Faculty/Alumni swung hard through a challenging set of charts by the American arrangers Bill Holman and Maria Schneider and by Christianson himself. Propelled by the powerful bass-drums duo of Steve Wallace and Ted Warren and sparked by the lead trumpet work of Steve Crowe, the band featured fine soloists, particularly pianist Don Thompson, tenor saxophonist Kelly Jefferson, guitarist Ted Quinlan, and trumpeter Brian O’Kane. Ottawa ringer Mark Ferguson graced the trombone section and contributed a nice solo. Vocalist Trish Colter won over an unusually chatty crowd with her work on Honeysuckle Rose.
Denny Christianson always brings good bands to Ottawa and this was big band jazz at it’s best.
By Kelly Brenton
Trish Colter never sings a song the same way twice. Jazz is improvisational by nature and the head of Humber’s vocal department is dedicated to providing a fresh sound. “When you’re scatting it’s going to be completely different every time” Colter said. I’m just reacting to what’s happening around me…listening to the chord changes that are going by and using the knowledge that I’ve developed form studying the music…to be able to deliver the solo.” Colter has just released her second album At Long Last Love as a follow up to her debut The Dance Never Ends. She recorded this new album in only two days last June. “You don’t want to stretch I out too long. Sometimes your first take is going to be better than your tenth take.” Colter said.
Unlike recording a pop album, where the accompanying players and the vocalists lay down their tracks separately, creating a jazz album is more of an ensemble affair. “In a jazz kind of setting, it’s a much more interactive kind of music in terms of the singer and the players really reacting to each other, so you tend to do it live in the studio” she said. Colter puts her own twist on the jazz classic “You Make Me Feel So Young”, sounding virtually jubilant. Another standout track is a sultry rendition of “No One Ever Tells You”. She manages to be both pleading and hopeful on “Make Someone Happy”. Colter enjoys classic jazz, but isn’t averse to adding her own signature.
“What we try to do is take some of the traditional standards and do something a little bit fresh and a little bit different with them. I think it’s a real combination of respecting the traditions of jazz music and the great jazz singers like Ella (Fitzgerald) and Sarah (Vaughan)” Colter said. The title track finds a compelling and insistent bass line complementing her vocal stylings. “Prayer (for Eddie)” is an aching and soulful tribute to a friend and past coordinator of Humber’s music program who passed away in 1999.
My husband had written “Prayer (for Eddie)” as a big band piece that was played at…a memorial, concert for Eddie. Paul rewrote it for the small group setting and we decided to do it on the album,” Colter said.
Despite her hectic schedule Colter must work to keep her voice in shape. “You just have to keep practicing and doing exercises. It’s like an athlete who’s training and has to jog every day,” she said.
While her full time position at Humber makes it challenging to find even an hour in the day to devote to singing, Colter finds teaching very rewarding.
“The opportunity to work with all these talented young musicians is wonderful. It’s amazing to see the transformation students make between their first and third year. To see that transformation and know that you’ve had a hand in helping that along is wonderful.” Colter began singing professionally in 1976 and has toured throughout Canada the United States and Europe. She has performed alongside numerous well-known jazz artists including Guido Bass, Pat LaBarbera and Don Thompson. In addition to heading Humber’s vocal department, Colter adjudicates and performs at Jazz Festivals, including the Toronto Downtown Jazz Festival.
At Long Last Love is an apropos title for the new album by husband and wife team Paul Read and Trish Colter. It has been more than three years since the North Toronto couple committed their first set of songs to disc.
Colter is the head of the vocal department at Humber College’s acclaimed jazz program and Read is the director of Jazz studies at the University of Toronto. The two met at Humber when Read taught there and worked for five years before getting together. “We became a couple the long way around,” says Colter. In 1998 they released The Dance Never Ends featuring Colter’s vocals and arrangements by Read. This summer they spent two days in the studio with their long-time sextet recording the new compilation of standards and originals.
“We set out to do something different this time…Music gravitates towards a certain flavour or mood,” Read says and the new album explores “the new colours” of Colter’s voice. Recording the album live allowed the well-rehearsed band to play off each other and Read notes that they were able to finish recording in less time than they had allotted. In February they released the album at a release party at Toronto jazz institution, the Rex Hotel. “Playing live is the real payoff,” says Read, as opposed to the stressful work of slogging it out in the recording studio.
Read and Colter are still enthusiastic about teaching and being “surrounded by music”. In teaching the difficult art of improvisation, Read sees himself as more of a coach than a teacher. Whether performing, recording or teaching music pervades every aspect of their lives. But, as teachers, they are helping students find ways of getting past the techniques. and expressing themselves through music. Says Colter “We’re both lucky to have that as part of what we do”.
By Geoff Chapman
“Sing for your supper and you’ll get breakfast
Songbirds always eat if their song is sweet to hear”
Those optimistic lyrics form the Rogers and Hart musical The Boys From Syracuse say something today about the healthy resurgence of female jazz singing. Jazz singing went on the lam with the decline of the big bands and the emergence of potent new music like rock. Very few warblers made it through the 1960’s and 70’s, but since the late 90’s singing is back in favour partly because of the creation of campus jazz departments and also because of the astonishing rise to fame of Canada’s Diana Krall…. …The Star asked leading lights in our community about the songstress comeback…
Trish Colter, singer and head of the Humber college music program’s vocal department: “Diana Krall is a factor and part of her appeal is the way she looks… Today’s jazz voices cross over a lot, as you can tell from the Krall album The Look of Love. Another reason is that audiences want to hear good melodies from the past, a strong melody and a lyric with which they can identify. There’s still a ripple effect from last September’s terrorist attack on New York. People want to hang on to a lyric that gets to the heart and soul and to hear positive things. Jazz lyrics have more depth than pop and today’s jazz students are very serious about that.
By Jeff Heatherington
After years of teaching music and performing at various jazz festivals, musicians Trish Colter and Paul Read are testing new waters by releasing their polished sound on compact disc. “This was our first release together and it’s been a long time coming”, said Read, who is the director of jazz studies at the University of Toronto. “It was a great opportunity as a creative outlet and, being the arranger, I got to do a lot of the things I wanted to do.”
The disc is called The Dance Never Ends and reflects the incredible careers of both Read and Colter. Colter, a professional vocalist since 1976, has performed at countless jazz festivals from the du Maurier Downtown Jazz Festival to the Orillia Jazz Festival. She joined the music faculty at Humber College in 1986 and, in 1987, was appointed full time head of the vocal department. She conducts the award winning Humber College Jazz ensemble and is always in demand at schools across the province. The creation of the CD was mainly personal satisfaction, says the duo, but Colter admitted they would like to gain more recognition in the process.
“With a jazz album, you never do it for the money,” said Colter “We’ve done a few radio interviews in an attempt to get some air play going so that people start knowing that it is out there. Our expectations are wide open. It was a huge process and it’s been a great experience, but it’s also been lot of work.” In addition to being a pianist, arranger and composer, Read also plays saxophone and flute. He has performed at the CJRT FM/Rothmans/Benson and Hedges sounds of Toronto Jazz Series and with the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra and the Manhattan Symphony in New York. Demonstrating that he is one of the hardest working individuals in the industry, Read has also published a series of books with Oscar Peterson containing transcripts of Peterson’s compositions and performances. He has been teaching since the early 70’s and is the former director of music at Humber College.
After realizing how much work it takes to create and produce an album, Read admits he’ll probably think twice about producing an album as well as performing on it. “Having never produced an album before, if I was going to do it again and play on the album I’d probably get another person to produce,” said Read. “It’s tough to do both, but it has been a great learning experience for us from the beginning to the end”. Besides Colter and Read the compilation also features artists Pat Collins (bass), Kevin Dempsey (drums), Pat LaBarbera (saxophone/flute), Phil Nimmons (clarinet) and Chase Sanborn (trumpet/flugelhorn). Nimmons also contributed an original ballad to the collection (Whenever Lies Smiles).
The album also features a four- song tribute to the music of Joni Mitchell, entitled Suite Joni, with Michael From Mountains, Carey, Blue and Case of You. “We both have always loved the music of Joni Mitchell. And we wanted to include some Canadian repertoire on the CD,” said Colter. Read agreed “There were great possibilities in arranging Joni’s music, a lot of which lends itself to restructuring”. In a business that comes with a lot of rejection both Colter and Read stress to their students that they should never give up. “You don’t go into this business to make money, you do it for the love,” said Colter, “but you also have to have a good business sense to survive in the music industry today.” Read added, “we don’t preach the ‘back-up plan’ to our students but we strongly encourage them to pursue and finish their degrees, knowing that there is nothing that is a sure bet anymore”.
By Geoff Chapman
The profs are up for review Monday, so anyone studying music at U of T or Humber College had the chance to check out what they’re being taught from the other side. The occasion is the debut CD release by the husband-and-wife team of Paul Read, ex-York Mills Collegiate teacher and 12-year Humber vet before becoming, in 1991, the chief of the U of T Jazz Studies Program (which has 19 on staff) and Trish Colter, head of the vocal studies for the past 11 years at Humber. On stage Monday will be their regular band with bass Pat Collins and drummer Kevin Dempsey, though they’re joined on the release The Dance Never Ends on the Reaco label by saxist Pat La Barbera and trumpeter Chase Sanborn, while Phil Nimmons-composer, clarinetist and director emeritus of the campus jazz program – makes a guest appearance. The sparkling material includes originals, standards and four classic songs by Joni Mitchell.
Says Read “I always played piano and until four years ago saxes a swell, mainly tenor and alto. My style is post bop and you could say I’ve been influenced by Bill Evans and Herbie Hancock. “Trish has been my jazz partner for a while. She’s concentrated on jazz since the mid-80’s – she conducts the college vocal jazz ensemble and holds clinic for ensembles and solo voices across Ontario. “We have tried to find things off the beaten track and always try to do something fresh. It was the right time to record, since we both took sabbaticals this year, me writing commissions I haven’t had time for, Trish researching teaching of jazz singing.”
By David Milbourne
It is always a pleasure working with people who are professional in whatever they do, this is how I found these two particular artists. So often you ask for something pertinent to the article you are going to do, and the response is somewhat bewildering. I have usually found that performers who are proud of what they do are well organized with their presentation material. The others seem to have a ‘couldn’t care less’ attitude. With Paul and Trish you knew you were dealing with proficient individuals who took their music careers seriously.
For over 20 years Trish has been an active vocalist, and has toured the U.S.A., Canada and Europe. She has performed in most major Canadian jazz festivals, and in many jazz clubs, plus various radio programmes. In 1987 Trish was appointed full time head of the vocal department at the faculty of music Humber College. Her teaching abilities were also much sought after by other universities across Ontario.
Multi-talented Paul has gained recognition not only as a musician, he plays flute, saxophone and piano, he is also known as a published author, arranger and composer. His compositions and arrangements have been recorded and performed by noted musicians such as Scott Robinson, Horace Parlan, Klaus Suonsari, Renee Rosnes and Tom Harrell. He has performed in numerous jazz festivals and has performed with the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra and the Manhattan Symphony in New York. Paul is well established in the field of education, he is Director of Jazz Studies at the University of Toronto and was Director of Music at Humber College (1982-89).
Now we come to the Trish Colter/Paul Read recent CD release The Dance Never Ends on Reaco Recordings. This swinging record features Pat Collins (bass), Kevin Dempsey (drums), Pat LaBarbera (saxophone/flute), Chase Sanborn (trumpet/flugelhorn) the legendary Phil Nimmons (clarinet) and of course Paul on piano with Trish on vocals. Well the crowd at the Senator, where this CD was released, really liked what they heard and that was a tasty selection of tunes, executed by top notch players.
By Barb McCullough
Trish Colter is living proof that good things come in small packages. Although small in stature she has a big, beautiful voice and a personality to match. She’s an exciting jazz vocalist and a dedicated respected educator.
As Head of Vocal Studies at Humber College for the past eight years, she has taught and influenced hundred of students who pursue an interest in singing. She teaches private lesson and oversees four part time faculty members. She conducts vocal workshops, which specialize in technique, performance, stylistic interpretation and extended improvisation for all styles of jazz plus musical theatre. She also directs Humber’s vocal jazz combo which includes six to eight voices with a rhythm section. The combo has been featured at the Ontario Vocal Festival and the International Association of Jazz Educators conference.
Every summer, Trish also teaches at the National Jazz Camp. “I try to get students excited about what they’re doing,” says Trish. “It’s important to keep their interest, guide them and respect them as adults and individuals.” Students applying to Humber must audition for the programme. She auditioned close to 100 people for 18 first –year spots so it’s very competitive- students want to be there. She says “I have to keep abreast of new developments, constantly learn new repertoire and improve my own abilities in technique and improvisation in order to feel qualified to offer students the best instruction possible.” Trish is doing just that. She’s a good teacher and her students love her. As an endearing gag gift one Christmas, they gave her a pair of stilts “so she can be seen more clearly on stage.” The stilts are a permanent fixture in her office.
Since day one, Trish has been a major coordinator of the free workshops offered each year during the du Maurier Downtown Jazz Festival. Humber College, University of Toronto and York University work together to produce workshops that each year attracts a growing appreciative audience and help educate the general public about jazz.
Raised in London, Ontario, her singing career began while at Western University. “I sang, played mediocre guitar and we played a number of coffee houses and clubs. It was fun!”
After university she went on the road with a pop/rock/rhythm and blues group. “I really learned a lot. I had to become versatile to sing the breadth of repertoire required for that type of band. We toured Canada, the United States, Germany and Switzerland, so I got a lot of performance experience.”
In 1986 she landed a part-time teaching position at Humber College. “That was a turning point for me. Humber had an excellent reputation for its jazz programme and jazz was always my number one interest. The following year I was hired full time”. Trish had completed her teaching degree after getting her BA. She was qualified, gifted and passionate about the music. She focused all her energies on jazz performance. A few years ago, she joined forces with pianist Paul Read, Director of Jazz Studies at University of Toronto and an excellent saxophonist, writer and arranger. It was the beginning of a wonderful collaboration. Though familiar with the standard repertoire, they both work hard on interesting material, unusual tunes and are developing original pieces.
In the last few years, Trish has been making a strong impression on the local jazz scene. She considers herself lucky because her teaching allows her to focus soley on jazz and constantly improve her own singing. She’s also working on a daily basis with faculty members who are some of the best jazz musicians in Toronto. Trish plans to produce a CD in the near future.
If you’d like to see Trish and her jazz ensemble, she will be performing a special concert on Monday February 6, 8:00 pm at the Ontario Science Centre as part of the CJRT FM “Sounds of Toronto” Jazz Concert Series. Don’t miss her!!