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Winnipeg Jazz Orchestra takes three to tango

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It used to take two to tango; now it takes three.

Concerts, that is.

The Winnipeg Jazz Orchestra added a third concert to its season-opening weekend, the Art of the Tango, featuring the popular trumpeter Michael Philip Mossman.

Mossman -- also a composer, arranger and director of jazz studies at the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College in New York -- performed with the WJO last November in a program called Mambo Nights.

If you're sensing a trend here, it's no surprise, and no secret. Mossman has performed and/or recorded with Latin jazz greats such as Machito, Tito Puente and Dizzy Gillespie. He garnered a Grammy nomination this year for his arrangement of Afro-Latin Suite for Ellington on the Bobby Sanabria recording Multiverse.

Winnipeg singer Sheena Rattai, a former University of Manitoba jazz studies student and a member of the band Red Moon Road joins Mossman and the WJO for the concerts.

What would a tango-themed show be without tango-master Astor Piazzolla's music, in this case Libertango and Tanguango, or a little something from the great composer Antonio Carlos Jobim, Wave, all arranged by Mossman?

Mossman is bringing almost all the music, WJO artistic director and trumpeter Richard Gillis says, including Mossman's arrangement of the classic Lionel Hampton showcase Flying Home and his compositions Atestacion, El Tango Loco, Justica de Oya, Mayte's Allen Room Caper and Tanganova.

WJO trombonist Jeff Presslaff is arranging a piece by saxophonist Ken Gold (Tango para Rosalba).

In last season's Mambo Nights show, Mossman proved himself to be a triple threat: a great trumpet player, composer and arranger. He seems prepared to repeat himself.

The WJO's Art of the Tango concerts are Saturday, Oct. 26, at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, Oct. 27, at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. Tickets are available at for $34 and $15 for students.

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American jazz singer Vanessa Rubin had a successful stage run in Yesterdays: An Evening with Billie Holiday and reprises that performance in three concerts as part of the Izzy Asper Jazz Performances series Oct. 26 and 27.

The show tells the story of Holiday's tragic life through a fictionalization of the celebrated vocalist's last club appearance.

Rubin credits an early performance of God Bless the Child, a song long associated with Holiday, as a key moment in her becoming a jazz singer instead of a journalist. Yet, at the time she didn't realize it was a Holiday trademark.

Rubin and a college friend entered a beauty pageant as a joke, and even though she was a dancer decided to sing for the talent portion of the contest, she said in an interview with the iRock Jazz website in August.

"At the time I didn't know much about Billie Holiday... I don't know how I got to God Bless the Child, but that was the song I chose to sing. It wasn't because of Billie Holiday; it was just learning a standard," she said in the interview. "At the time a light went off and I said, 'Wow, I did pretty good. Maybe I should consider this for something I would like to do as well, in terms of work.'

"It definitely was an 'aha' moment, as some people would call it."

Rubin will be accompanied in her Winnipeg shows by bassist Steve Kirby, drummer Quincy Davis, pianist Will Bonness and trumpeter Derrick Gardner, University of Manitoba jazz studies professors.

Yesterdays: An Evening with Billie Holiday concerts will be held Saturday, Oct. 26, at 8 p.m. and Sunday, Oct. 27, at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. in the Berney Theatre at the Rady Jewish Community Centre. Tickets are $38 at and 204-477-7534.


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Winnipeg singer Erin Propp has been hitting a lot of milestones of late.

She turned 30 on Sept. 17, she and her husband Chris are expecting their first child on Nov. 14 and on Oct. 6, she and musical collaborator guitarist Larry Roy won the Western Canadian Music Award for Jazz Recording of the Year for their debut Courage, My Love, which was released late last year.

That's a lot to pack into a short time, considering milestones are usually spread out over years, not weeks.

"It does feel like a big year. I'm thankful for all that has happened," says Propp, whose plan to drive to Calgary with Chris to attend the awards ceremony was scuttled by her doctor.

Propp had some initial concerns about being up against well-known singer Jill Barber, but adds, "I thought we deserved to be there. Our production values held up to everyone else."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 15, 2013 D3


Updated on Friday, October 18, 2013 at 9:50 AM CDT: Tickets are $34 for WJO's Art of the Tango concerts.

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