Bringing jazz to the people
Dal saxophone prof preps for the Halifax Jazz Festival
Ryan McNutt - July 5, 2012
For Dalhousie music prof Chris Mitchell, the Halifax Jazz Festival is a natural habitat: a sea of amazing, collaborative music.
“A festival is great because it really brings the music to the people,” says Mr. Mitchell, who has taught saxophone and improvisation at Dalhousie for nine years, and who also directs the Dalhousie Jazz Ensemble.
“We always have great live music in Halifax, but there’s something different about a festival, in terms of the crowds. There are just so many great acts and artists to see.”
Mr. Mitchell is no stranger to the Jazz Festival—he figures that this is at least his 20th year performing—and he’ll be playing as part of a number of different sets over the course of the week. His marquee performance will be the one that bears his name: “Chris Mitchell and Friends” are scheduled to take over the Company House Sunday night, starting at 11 p.m., bringing the festival’s first weekend to a close.
The “friends” include percussionist Mark Kelso, trumpeter Kevin Turcotte, bassist Jamie Gatti and pianist David Braid, who won this year’s JUNO award for Traditional Jazz Album of the Year.
“We’re going to play some originals by Jamie, David and myself. And I’ve done up some spanking new arrangements of classics by Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, Lee Morgan and others.”
Tapping into jazz’s life pulse
Mr. Mitchell, originally from Kitchener, Ont., makes his home in St. Margaret’s Bay, but frequently travels to and from Toronto for shows. Those connections in both parts of the country helped him assemble his acclaimed set of players for his Sunday showcase.
He’s also excited about performing in an intimate, late-night setting.
“The late night is an environment that’s energized because it’s after the main stage show. It’s a place where people can take that energy that’s been building through the entire day and bring it home for one last set. And you’re so close to the audience that when you get into that vibe, you can dig deep and be creative.”
To Mr. Mitchell, who’s released four solo albums and has won the “Prix du Montreal” award, that’s what jazz music is all about.
“For me, it’s about exploring your creative side to communicate – both with the other musicians on stage, and with your audience. It’s tapping into that life pulse.”
Mr. Mitchell’s other performances include playing with Riot Squad on Monday and the David Staples Septet on Tuesday. For a complete schedule of the week, visit the Halifax Jazz Festival website.