Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Whiteley originals given jazzy spin

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IF you think of Chris Whiteley as a blues musician, think again.

The new album by the Toronto-based singer/guitarist/trumpeter, While I'm Here, is a jazzy outing of mainly Whiteley compositions with a couple of standards such as I've Got The World On A String and Do Nothin' Till You Hear From Me.

"It's not so much a shift," Whiteley said in an interview. "It's a bit more of a focus on one aspect of what I do.

"I've played the trumpet for a long time. I'm jazz-oriented; I've always had a large jazz influence in what I do. This CD is more focused on a certain style."

Jazz musicians like Fats Waller and Duke Ellington have been a big influence, he added, and the material on the album "reflects a lot of what I do when I do live shows."

Nine of the 12 tunes are written by Whiteley, including a tribute to Ernie Coombs (aka Mr. Dressup), The Week That Ernie Died.

"I can understand why people want to stay with the classic stuff that's out there," he said. "Listeners are accustomed to hearing those songs. Those are songs I know and will play in a live set."

But "when recording, I want originality. Part of what I have to offer is my original songs. People who know me expect original material," he said, adding "few people are writing new songs in that old style.

"I like to think of clever rhymes; things that take a bit of thought -- not necessarily profound, but entertaining."

Whitely heard musicals at home growing up, but found them corny, he said. "As my musical sophistication grew, so did my appreciation of how good those pieces are musically."

The musician met Coombs while doing some music for the popular CBC TV children's show and they became friends. Coombs had "a really sincere, genuine quality I liked," Whiteley said, and a tribute song seemed right.

Whiteley is well-known to fans of CBC Radio's The Vinyl Cafe and has performed here as a member of the show's house band. The show will be here again as part of its fall tour.

Whiteley's disc is distributed by Festival or it can be ordered through until his new Web site is up and running.

* * *

Caught in the act: Mike Allen Trio last Wednesday at the Franco-Manitoban Cultural Centre. This Vancouver-based trio of Allen on tenor and soprano saxophones, Paul Rushka on bass and Julian MacDonough on drums was tight after working its way to the East Coast and back on a cross-country tour.

They came out kicking with Allen's composition, Nette's 'Cept, and easily caught the audience's attention before switching to one of the saxophonist's slower tunes, Until It's Over.

Another Allen tune, Your Kind Brings Joy, showcased his skill and feeling on the soprano sax. Rushka is quite a tasteful, and tasty, bass player and MacDonough is an exuberant drummer, who nonetheless turned in a delightful brush solo. The band performed in 17 cities to promote its new CD, Dialectic.

* * *

Get a taste of the Jazz Winnipeg Festival on Thursday at a free concert at the Lyric Theatre in Assiniboine Park.

The River East Collegiate Senior Jazz Band, the first Canadian group to be invited to the prestigious Essentially Ellington Competition held every year at Lincoln Centre in New York, will lead off at 7 p.m.

Singer June (Pepper) Harris continues the show, sponsored by 99.1 COOL FM and the CanWest Foundation.

Ron Paley's quartet -- Paley on piano, Rob Siwik on drums, Gilles Fournier on bass and Dave Lawton on trumpet and vocals -- will close out the show. Local singers Sara Dell, Lisa Bell and Pat Boraski will join the Paley band.

The Jazz Winnipeg Festival runs June 12-21; information is available at

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 26, 2003 $sourceSection$sourcePage

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