Saxophonist Jimmy Greene remains the monster player we know and love from his time in Winnipeg.
And drummer Curtis Nowosad, back in town from his studies in New York, proved he's a monster in waiting as his band opened the theatre series at the 25th Winnipeg International Jazz Festival Monday night.
The band cooked with music from Wayne Shorter to Michael Jackson, from Bob Marley to Thelonious Monk, and from Nowosad's pen.
Greene, trumpeter Derrick Gardner, pianist Will Bonness and bassist Steve Kirby played on Nowosad's debut album, The Skeptic and the Cynic, and are recording his sophomore disc now.
The musicians opened the show, however, with saxophonist Shorter's Speak No Evil, a test of musical skills and a chance for the front line of Gardner and Greene to shine.
The concert, in fact, was a chance for everyone to shine, from the U of M jazz studies faculty of Gardner, Kirby and Bonness, former faculty member Greene and former student Nowosad (Bonness falls into that category, too).
Their rendition of Jackson's The Way You Make Me Feel, from The Skeptic, was a crowd-pleaser with great ensemble playing, some kick-ass soloing by the horns and bassist Kirby digging deep for a solo that was just shy of rockin' out.
The highlights of the show were Nowosad's compositions.
Gleaming and Dreaming from the new recording, for example, let Greene shine on soprano sax and gave pianist Bonness room for a terrific solo.
On Dialectics, Nowosad and Bonness traded the solo spot with Kirby, keeping things in order as the two younger musicians proved they can play like giants.
Guest musicians singer Erin Propp, guitarist Larry Roy and bassist Luke Sellick joined the band to perform the title track from the Propp/Roy CD Courage, My Love with Greene on soprano in what was a fabulous performance of the song.
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Greene, whose six-year-old daughter Ana Marquez-Greene was a victim of the Newtown, Conn., school slayings in 2012, thanked his fellow musicians, Jazz Winnipeg and its executive producer Paul Nolin for donating $10 from each ticket to Monday's show to the Ana Grace Project.
"I know it's a sacrifice for everyone onstage," Greene said, for helping a project that keeps alive "the memory of our little girl (and) helps make the world a better place."
It was Greene's first time performing here since he and his family moved back to his home state of Connecticut in 2012, and he appeared to relish playing for friends and fans.