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2008 Canadian National Jazz Awards

Jodi Proznick Jodi Proznick Atael Weissman
The big kick off for jazz appreciation month occurred last night in the guise of the 2008 National Jazz Awards, the seventh occurrence of this show and the third time it has been held on hallowed jazz ground, The Palais Royale, a landmark jazz palace that played host to all of the big bands of the early thirties. The event was well attended with most if not all of the major players taking part, playing, waiting to play, waiting for awards or handing out awards. The premiere performance by host vocalist Kelly Lee Evans and flutist Jane Bunnett set the stage for what was to be a jazz party.

There were a lot of awards, thirty one categories in total. The big one, the national pride award, the one that usually sets the tone of where the awards are going, is the Jazz Festival of the Year award, going this year to the TD Canada Trust Vancouver International Jazz Festival. And so the awards followed, with over one third of the prizes going to Western Canadians mostly Vancouver based artists. Jodi Proznick was one of the West Coast triple hitters, taking three awards, Record of the year for her Jodi Proznick Quartet, Foundations (Cellar Live 2007), Acoustic Band Of The Year and Bassist of the Year.

Proznick was in competition with some serious names, as she said during her acceptance, "Dave Young and Neil Swainson, world class bass players, I’m overwhelmed." Could she really be that good? Her performance segment proved that she is deserving of all the accolades, her quartet, featuring her partner, pianist Tilden Webb, guest guitarist, Jake Langley and guest drummer Sly Juhas performed a song entitled "Duke of York" about Proznicks’ twenty eight pound cat.

Proznick is a gritty bass player, pulling the notes from the bass, digging in deeply and producing punchy, slap style thunder like tones that roll out into the ambiance. The song swings and all the players are given room to groove. Langley takes an extended solo, laying down wave upon wave of clean single note runs as dynamic as lightning flashes. Langley’s guitar playing is very much in the style of a saxophone, between the flash there is a wailing sweet sustenance. Webb follows up with fury and passion, setting the pace for Juhas who produces intricately carved beats of intensity. Award winning, one and all!

Another West Coast multiple winner, multi-instrumentalist Brad Turner based in Vancouver and who is primarily known as a trumpeter, won that award, Best Trumpeter, as well as producer of the year. Saxophonist of the year and Arranger of the year went to another multi-instrumentalist, Vancouver based Phil Dwyer.

Plenty of live entertainment occurred during the evening, a break from the suspense. A very touching tribute performance by three soloists in honor of three recently departed Canadian musical icons. David Restivo played piano for Doug (Dr. Music) Riley (1945-2007) Riley received a posthumous award, Jazz Pioneer Award. Reg Swagger, the winner for Best Guitarist, played a stirring tribute to Jeff Healey (1966-2008), Artist of Distinction award was presented posthumously and Robi Botos playing piano, who raised the roof with a tremendous display of piano virtuosity that the honoree, Dr. Oscar Peterson (1925-2007) would have surely appreciated. Dr. Peterson’s family was presented with his posthumous award for Musician of the Year.

The musical director Richard Underhill, played his part as one would expect from a Shuffle Demon Underhill’s award winning band. A sense of humour was present, the music was serious but the mood was light. Underhill’s musical accompaniment to fourteen year old singing star Nikki Yanovsky during her rendition of "Old McDonald" Ella’s version, was a super treat, dynamite horns in the background adding to the barnyard fun.

Brandi Disterheft and Jodi Proznick are friends, bassists and Vancouverites; they were up against one another in the other big Canadian award show, the Juno’s. Disterheft edged out Proznick, winning best traditional jazz album for her debut recording Debut (Superfran Records 2007). The award winning album was produced by Michael Kaeshammer, the co-host of the National Jazz Awards. Disterheft and her jazz septet were introduced by CBC Radio host Katie Malloch, the Broadcaster of the Year. The band launched into a mellow sounding, percussive heavy, world style lullaby with enchanting vocalizing by songstress Sophia Pearlman.

Other highlight moments included a boogie-woogie performance by Michael Kaeshammer playing piano and singing in his distinctive style, performing "Cinnamon Sun" with Mark Rogers on bass and Mark McLean on drums providing solid support in high energy fashion. The future looks bright based on the performance of the Michael Ruby quartet, featuring Ruby on tenor sax, Brian Chahley - trumpet, Pascal Le Boeuf piano, Dan Fortin bass, Adam Arruda - drums. This for me was the most exciting performance of the evening, the young lions brought it and put it all out there, or most of it anyway, serious intensity.

The Elizabeth Sheppard Trio performed well. Sheppard is a pianist and singer, she performed a song from her new album Parkdale "Let Me Be" Scott Kemp and Colin Dinsworth accompanied on bass and drums. The October Trio, Evan Arntzen -tenor sax, Josh Cole - bass and Dan Gaucher playing drums performed a laid back tune with a heavy bass pulse and hypnotic tenor playing.

The party was winding down close to midnight, the awards were all handed out and I had a long drive, so I departed with out catching the final act, Alex Bellegarde, I heard he did a magnificent number to close out the festivities with grand style.

Other winners not mentioned above included, the other triple hitter, Torontonian, by way of Cuba, Hilario Duran, winning Big Band of the Year, Socan Composer and Latin Jazz Artist. Journalist of the Year, Geoff Chapman, this should be renamed the Geoff Chapman Award for journalism and presented to the runner up as Geoff has laid claim to the award for the past several years. A first however was his winning of the Ken Page Memorial award.

One of my favorite drummers, Don Vickery, drummer for the Canadian Jazz Quartet winning Jazz Photographer of the Year for the second time. Label of the Year went to the very deserving Cellar Live, Trombonist of the year to Hugh Fraser, violinist of the year to Jesse Zubot, CBC Galaxie Rising Star award was handed out to Chris Andrew, Male Vocalist of the Year went to Joe Coughlin. The Drummer of the Year award was no surprise, it went to Terry Clarke, his wife Lesley accepted on his behalf as he was on tour in Europe. Lesley informed the audience that Terry was dedicating his award to his students who provide him with incredible inspiration. Electric band of the Year went to another drummer and band leader, Barry Romberg for his Random Access band. Clarinetist of the year went to Phil Nimmons, this is Mr. Nimmons award, a winner since inception of the competition. Nancy Walker received keyboardist of the year, Female Vocalist of the Year went to Emile-Claire Barlow, Instrumentalist of the year went to multi-instrumentalist Don Thompson and last but not least International Musician of the Year went to Wynton Marsalis.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Jodi Proznick
  • Event Date: 4/8/2008
  • Subtitle: The Young Lions Devour Awards
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