January 2009

DAREarts Jazz Ensemble & Chorus with Barry Harris
We Are One
Jazz Project
with Special Guest Charles McPherson
January 22, 2009 Toronto Centre for the Performing Arts Toronto
Have The Kids Taken Over?
by David Fujino
Two hundred children standing, boys and girls, three deep across the wide stage, made you stir and sit back.
Behind them on the stage sat a large senior string section from Earl Haig Secondary School, the Big Fish Jazz Orchestra from Earl Haig, and further up stage, the Earl Haig Jazz Singers, and buried in there was a mature jazz trio, too.

The two hundred young choristers — assembled from six Rexdale grade schools — were conducted by Brian Katz, the strings by John McGregor, the Earl Haig Jazz Singers by Pamela Hetherington, and the Big Fish Jazz Orchestra by John Pagnotta.

There was a fresh vibe, an air of anticipation in the jazzy air — of course, it was about the kids; the kids and the seniors, actually, when you think about it.

The concert this evening was the result of a four month partnership with DAREarts, Howard Rees Jazz Workshops, Barry Harris and the kids, and when they sang tunes like "The Big Foot Kangaroo", it was a true blast — its fun rhythm and lyrics expressed the jazz culture's best spirit, sounds, and forward approach to life, and it concluded smartly with the kids getting the last soft word in, "Yeah".

The audience loved it (the many parents, teachers, and friends).

Barry Harris
"Like This" was a framework for scat singing, and after the trombones and trumpets had played the theme, the seven singers stepped up to the mic and scatted to the chording piano, walking bass and loping drums, and took two choruses each. Scat is where you make up the words and the song, and the call-and-response of the large chorus worked nicely with each of the seven soloists who, in the case of the first singer, scatted in long wordless tones and, in the case of the fifth singer, moved us with her instant words and her obviously natural singing ability. But true to the jazz tradition, all of the soloists sang themselves, and that's beauty.

In "All I Can Do Is Sing", the call-and-response of the brass section especially ignited the alto saxophone soloist, Charles MacPherson, who played rhapsodic, long-lined, and intricate patterns.

But the clearest statement this evening came from pianist Dr. Barry Harris, the creator and mentor of We Are One, a community project for children at risk, coordinated by DAREarts.

Dr. Harris said the election of Barack Obama as the President of the United States has sent out a message to kids that now, "you can be anything you want".

You can be anything you want.

It was a special evening.

We welcome your comments and feedback
David Fujino
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