The Saskatoon Jazz Orchestra is less than a week away from kicking off its second official season.
Formerly the Metro Jazz Ensemble, the group was put together by artistic director Dean McNeill, who as of last year has been shifting the big band towards a more professional profile.
The SJO is in the final stages of becoming a non-profit organization which will give them access to financial grants in the future. They now have a board of directors who will oversee the governance of the organization.
When McNeill, currently a professor in the College of Music at the University of Saskatchewan, first came to Saskatoon 15 years ago, he was surprised by how many talented jazz musicians weren’t playing in a professional big band.
“I’d come from various communities, said McNeill,“like Montreal, Dallas, and Edmonton, where there were a number of professional big bands. The pros in town got together and played some music, kept your chops in shape, your sight reading in shape, and you hung out.”
And so with that model in mind, the Metro Jazz Ensemble was born. Now, the evolution of the band and re-branding to the Saskatoon Jazz Ensemble signals a step up in professionalism and substance. The SJO will focus on “soft seat theatre ticketed events” with quality over quantity being the name of the game.
The SJO’s first concert of the year, scheduled for Saturday, November 30, features Canadian Jazz vocalist Denzal Sinclaire. You can check out our feature article on Denzal here.
The SJO’s website lists two more concerts this season: Duke Ellington’s Such Sweet Thunder Puite, Peer Gynt Suite, and Thursday Suite on January 26, and New Perspectives Featuring All Canadian Repertoire on April 6. All three performances will be at the Broadway Theatre.