Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Saxophonist brings heat to U of M jazz camp

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EXPECT some "liquid fire" this week when alto saxophonist Jon Gordon joins three other top U.S. musicians for four nights of jamming, a concert and seven days of teaching at the University of Manitoba's 20th annual jazz camp.

Gordon, newly appointed saxophone professor in the faculty of music's jazz studies program, will join saxophonist Steve Wilson, trombonist Wycliffe Gordon and trombonist Steve Turre, who also plays shells, teaching at the camp and jamming today, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday at the Orbit Room on Pembina Highway (8 p.m.) and in concert Wednesday at the Winnipeg Art Gallery (7:30 p.m., $25).

Jazz studies director and bassist Steve Kirby admits to not being a fan of the alto saxophone: "Truthfully, I don't like the alto; it can sound like a nanny goat."

But saxophonist Gordon "has a dark, deep sound -- liquid fire, lava, it's beautiful," Kirby says.

The four guest musicians will join faculty members Kirby, drummer Quincy Davis, trumpeter Derrick Gardner, pianist Will Bonness, guitarist Larry Roy and vocalist Anna-Lisa Kirby for the jam sessions and concert.

Jon Gordon, Wycliffe Gordon, Wilson and Turre will make a formidable front line with trumpeter Gardner and any one of those nights has the potential for some great improvised music.

Wilson, Turre and Wycliffe Gordon are familiar to Winnipeg jazz fans, having performed here as part of earlier jazz camps or in concert with other groups. Jon Gordon will add a new face and sound to the mix.

Jon Gordon has been on the faculty of Purchase University from 2009 to 2013 and has taught at the College of the City of New York, the New School and the Manhattan School of Music, where he and Kirby first met.

Kirby describes him as a prodigy and a "very generous soul." The bassist said Gordon was always willing to give him his time, even when he didn't really have the time. When he needed to find a new jazz saxophone teacher, Gordon was at the top of his wish list.

Kirby expected to contact Gordon, be told he was busy, and get a recommendation for someone else. To Kirby's delight, Gordon had heard of the U of M opening and was interested.

Gordon is "methodical, creative," Kirby adds, and a man who gets along with everyone. "In New York there are black camps, white camps, every kind of camp -- he belongs to all camps," Kirby says. As well as being a great musician, "He's the kind of guy you'd want across the hedge as a neighbour."

Kirby remembers having Gordon give a master class at the U of M; "a one-hour session with him bumped me up a notch." He also comes with praise from alto saxophone great Phil Woods, and orchestra leader Maria Schneider speaks highly of him, Kirby says.

Jazz camp runs Aug. 18-24 at the U of M campus with 97 registered students.

-- -- --

As local fans greet the lineup of top U.S. musicians this week, three of the city's most promising young players are heading the other way, to New York City, to pursue jazz studies.

Bassist Luke Sellick returns to his master's degree studies at Juilliard; drummer Curtis Nowosad begins a master's program as a fellow of the Manhattan School of Music jazz institute; and teenage bassist Devon Gillingham, who won the first annual composition/arranging competition at the Essentially Ellington Festival at Jazz at Lincoln Center, starts at the New School of Jazz and Contemporary Music.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 17, 2013 D3

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