Winnipeg Jazz Orchestra
Suite 150: A Big Band Portrait
In commemoration of Canada’s 150th anniversary, the Winnipeg Jazz Orchestra commissioned eleven Canadian big band jazz composers to write music reflecting some aspect of Canada or being Canadian. The completed eleven-movement suite was premiered by the Winnipeg Jazz Orchestra at the Winnipeg Art Gallery on 19 November 2017.



Soprano sax
Mark DeJong

Alto sax
Neil Watson
Mark DeJong
Matthew Steckler
Christine Jensen

Tenor sax
Paul Balcain
Jonathan Stevens

Bari sax
Ken Gold

Flute / clarinets
Sean Irvine

Trumpet / flugelhorn
Rick Boughton
Richard Gillis
Shane Hicks
Jeff Johnson
Dean McNeill
Darren Ritchie

Joel Green
D’Arcy McLean
Jeff Presslaff
Brad Shigeta

Will Bonness
Hilario Duran
Michelle Gregoire
Ron Paley

Gilles Fournier

Rob Siwik

Rodrigo Muñoz


A Common Place Fanfare builds on the middle notes of the opening phrase of O Canada and represents a wish and audacious hope that our country will continue to work towards finding a common place of mutual respectand understanding. Artistic Director of the Saskatoon Jazz Orchestra and on faculty at the University of Saskatchewan, Dean McNeill has received several awards, including Downbeat magazine’s big band arranging award.

From Far & Wide takes melodic elements from O Canada to create a new song dedicate the transformative vitality of Canada’s various communities. Richard Gillis is brass chair at the University of Manitoba, and is the artistic director of the Winnipeg Jazz Orchestra, which he co-founded in 1997.

Wenen (Who) is an Indigenous perspective of this very ancient land; one that has seen people on Turtle Island for many millennium. This is a trickster (Mishaabooz) movement, a Raven dance or fanfare, a bit of musical colonial chaos. The idea is of a very young country and the ancient voice of this land trying to recognize each other. Of Cree descent, Andrew Balfour’s many works have been performed and/or broadcast locally, nationally and internationally. Andrew is founder and Artistic Director of Camerata Nova.

Waves: The over-riding image of living on the west coast is water: Vancouver = water = waves = jazz. Prolific arranger/composer Fred Stride has received numerous commissions, including music for the Expo 86 ceremonies, 1988 Winter Olympics, and the 2010 Winter Olympics. His several awards include the 2008 IAJE / SOCAN Phil Nimmons Jazz Composer Award, and first prize for The Center for Jazz Composition (2007).

Ontario’s Memories is an expression of Canada’s great multicultural heritage and the Afro-Cuban and Latin Jazz art forms. Cuban born, Grammy-nominated and multi JUNO Award-winner Hilario Duran is described as “an unparalleled pianist, composer and arranger of the first order,” by Chucho Valdes.

Here: 49° 52' 34" N 97° 8' 42" W is a musical calendar that tracks the lengthening days from winter solstice to summer solstice and back again; each beat is a day; each month has a different tonal centre (which inverts at the summer solstice); each week is marked by a rhythmic accent. Originally from New York City, composer-pianisttrombonist Jeff Presslaff has performed with a variety of great jazz, avant-garde, world and classical musicians. Wayne Shorter says, “he gets the harmony just right.”

The More You Know is all about the prairies. The melody moves back and forth between various sections of the big band much like the way the wheat moves back and forth in the wind. Ron Paley started his career playing electric bass with Buddy Rich and Woody Herman, before returning to Winnipeg to become one of the foremost jazz figures in the city.

In Paradisum honours those who have given their lives serving Canada and helping people throughout the world. The rhythmic feel of the music acknowledges the infantry regiment known as ‘The Winnipeg Grenadiers,’ active from 1908 to 1965. David Braid is an eight-time Juno nominee, winner of three Juno Awards and "a jazz genius to call our own" (Maclean's Magazine).

Cirrus: on the prairies, with no buildings or trees blocking the view, one is struck by the immensity of the blue sky we all share, and how disproportionately small we are beneath it. Former Winnipegger and JUNO-nominated composer Earl MacDonald apprenticed with Kenny Barron and was the musical director, pianist, and arranger for Maynard Ferguson’s Big Bop Nouveau band from 1998 to 2000. He is now the Director of Jazz Studies at the University of Connecticut.

Maple: is a symbol of our mosaic of cultural diversity, with colours moving forward through the seasons. Christine Jensen has won two Juno Awards for her recordings with her own jazz orchestra, including Habitat (2014) and Treelines (2011) on Justin-Time Records. Habitat received five stars in Downbeat, along with being at the top of several international critic’s polls, including Jazz Album of the Year in 2014. She won the Downbeat 2016 Critic’s Poll Rising Star for Big Band and Arranger.

La Nouvelle Nation is dedicated to Louis Riel and the Métis people who were committed to preserving their unique way of life. Michelle Grégoire studied with renowned composers Maria Schneider, Kenny Wheeler and Bob Brookmeyer, and her music has been described as “ingenious,” “elegant,” “balanced,” and “original with great depth and imagination.”


This initiative is made possible by the Community Fund for Canada’s 150th, a collaboration between The Winnipeg Foundation, the Government of Canada, and extraordinary leaders from coast to coast to coast, and by the Canada Council, Manitoba Arts Council commission grants and an Ontario Arts Council commission grant.