On a cool fall Monday night, I capped off the day by hearing modern big band sounds from the Toronto Composers Collective Big Band, headed by trombonist and bandleader Christian Overton.
The band is comprised of young jazz musicians who play compositions written by themselves or members of the local jazz community, showcasing a wealth of talent and body of work that is worthy of mass exposure. Through playing their original compositions and arrangements, it brings a fresh new perspective to the big band sound, paralleled by bands headed by Jim McNeely, Gil Evans, Thad Jones and Rob McConnell.
Among the highlights of the band’s performance was a brief but exhilarating swinging opener called “Four More To Go” by local saxophonist Allison Au (featuring Paul Metcalfe on tenor sax), the breathtaking, lilting dance of Shrinatha Beddage’s “Danushka’s Dance” with an exhillarating solo by Marcus Ali on soprano sax as well as Todd Pentney on piano, and the multi-faceted composition by Christian Overton called Green Black and Brown which shifts from Latin, jungle music, and right into contemporary rock alongside a bluesy guitar solo by Eric Patterson.
The band was later joined by vocalist Maya Killtron to close off the set with arrangements of popular hits. Among the highlights is the timeless take on the Billy Strayhorn classic “Lush Life and a rousing take on Janelle Monae’s “Tightrope”, bringing a sense of high energy and funk into the big band mix.