What happens when you bring together four different band leaders, from a variety of musical and geographical worlds, to lead four different bands, all on the same night? I’m not sure, exactly, but no doubt great music will be made this Saturday night with the final Special Projects presentation of 2018.
Curated by local violinist and composer Aline Homzy, The Smith Sessions Presents: Bitches Brew aims to shine the spotlight on female bandleaders, showcasing their talent as performers, improvisers and composers/arrangers. Aline says her goal “is to contribute to the normalization of women in leadership roles, in the context of jazz and improvised music.” The performance will put a uniquely Toronto spin on a series of the same name created by bassist Emma Smith in Edinburgh, Scotland. Emma will be one of four bandleaders on Saturday night, along with Homzy, flutist Ahn Phung and percussionist Magdelys Savigne.
The Smith Sessions Presents: Bitches Brew earned high praise (the highest, in fact) from the panel which met in December to decide on this year’s Special Projects recipients. The philosophy behind the project was lauded, and the panel felt this was the project which best met the mandate of going “beyond the scope of the musician’s usual activity” – while Aline is an active member of Toronto’s jazz and wider musical community, this will be her first outing as a curator.
Also exciting about this project is the diversity of music to be presented. While I associate Aline’s playing most often with the jazz manouche group she co-leads called Les Petits Nouveaux, here she’ll perform with piano, bass and drums; Ahn Phung operates in a variety of musical worlds including jazz, funk, Irish and folk and will perform in a duo of flute and bass; Magdelys Savigne has established herself in a few short years as a leading Toronto composer and percussionist with her work in groups like Maqueque and OKAN, and will perform in trio format; and Emma Smith – a new name for me – is equally at home playing jazz or classical (or, in fact, on stage with Gorillaz), and her compositions, which blend groove-based music with harmonic depth and sonically pleasing melodies, will be on display in a series of violin and bass duets. Each leader will present music written specifically for this performance; some will be performing their music with groups formed exclusively for this project – it will be an evening of premieres and debuts.
Aline has chosen an intimate space for the first Toronto incarnation of The Smith Sessions: Bitches Brew – the Chalmers Performance Space in the Canadian Music Centre, 20 St. Joseph Street. In doing so she is setting the stage for an ideal concert-going experience: the room has been purpose-built for musical gatherings, with a 7-foot grand piano and excellent acoustics. The venue will serve the performers, the new works and audience members well, ensuring a memorable evening for all in attendance.
The Smith Sessions: Bitches Brew rounds out the 2018 Special Projects presentations this Saturday, April 28 at 8 pm. Complete concert information is available on our website. I also encourage you to read Sara Constant’s excellent article/profile/interview, on the the performance, in the April edition of The Wholenote, available here.
See you Saturday!
P.S. – I made an error in my post earlier this week about tomorrow night’s BLUED DHARMA CD release. Concert time is 7 pm and not 8 pm as previously reported. Please adjust your calendars accordingly!