Mercoledi Musicale

In the past two months we’ve had the privilege of hearing two of Canada’s premiere jazz vocalists here in Ottawa.

Alexander Shelley, the new music director of the NAC Orchestra.

In mid-October  Alexander Shelley (left) launched his tenure as Music Director of the National Arts Centre Orchestra with Fusion Reactions: Classical Music in the Roaring ’20s – a five concert overview of the classical music scene in the 1920s.  It was programme that started with the late romantics and took us up to the jazz age and its influence on composers such as Ravel and Stravinsky.  Along the way we were treated to Charlie Chaplin’s City Lights with the full orchestra playing his score for this silent classic,  as well as an evening that mixed Mihauld, Ibert, Eisler, Webern and a handful of Cole Porter standards sung by Sophie Milman.  A relative newcomer to the Canadian jazz scene she has made her mark with several very successful albums and numerous club appearances in the past decade.  Her Love for Sale was given a particularly wry little twist as she was very obvious in her last trimester.  She has a powerful voice but uses it with a great deal of style and subtlety.  Hopefully when she starts performing again after her accouchement we’ll be treated to an entire evening of her unique way with a song.

The Lotsa Soap Gang (Jackie Richardson far right) prepare a caper in the revival of The Adventures of a Black Girl in Search of God.

The revival of Djanet Sears’ The Adventures of a Black Girl in Search of God in early November included amongst it’s cast of twenty-two actors, singers and dancers the marvellous Jackie Richardson. Richardson is well-known in jazz circles here in Canada and on stage for Big Mama! The Willie Mae Thornton Story. As adroit as her comic timing is – and she is a damned fine actress – it was her powerful delivery of Amazing Grace that gave a much needed emotional thrust to the second act. I am probably one of the few people who find the hymn a piece of overused kitsch but when she launched into it I found myself choking up.

Back in 2012 jazz great Peter Appleyard recorded what was to be his last album; entitled Sophisticated Ladies, it featured thirteen of Canada’s finest  jazz vocalists including, of course, Jackie Richardson and Sophie Milman.  Just after the album’s release CBC broadcast a concert with Appleyard, pianist John Sherwood and several of the very sophisticated ladies who had worked on the album with him.  Richardson’s version of Georgia On My Mind includes some great piano work by Sherwood as well as one of Appleyard’s legendary vibraphone solos.


Unfortunately Sophie Milman, who’s If You Could See Me Now is one of the my favourite tracks on Appleyard’s album, didn’t appear at the CBC concert. However I created a video from the CD track which I’m hoping will not be taken down for copyright reasons.  I find nothing but sheer pleasure of hearing Milman and Appleyard collaborate on this too-little-heard song.


I was rather amused by a comment on one of the YouTube boards that expressed surprised that there were Jazz vocalists in Canada.  All the proof needed of the scope and quality is available on Sophisticated Ladies.

On this day in 1307: According to legend, William Tell shoots an apple off his son’s head.


Author: Willym

A senior with the heart of a young'un

5 thoughts on “Mercoledi Musicale”

  1. lovely. And also, I am clearly more attracted to Canadians than I would have previously assumed. Because, dayum.

  2. Love. Thank you. Lovely with this glass of wine. I am not normally a fan the vibraphone, unless it’s a vibrating phone (just keep calling back if I don’t answer right away …), but the vocals were strong enough that the vibes weren’t overpowering.

  3. I’m a fan of Jackie Richardson’s — I saw her here in a local production of “Big Mama” a few years ago. I’ll have to take a look for that Peter Appleyard CD — sounds good. I remember he had a jazz program on CBC a million years ago when I was a kid. Tommy Banks always seemed to be on it too. And Moe Koffman! All the Canadian greats. I’m sure Oscar Peterson was probably on it too, although I have no direct memory of that.

  4. I do not know much (in anything) about jazz; I am afraid I would not recognize good from bad. No exposure really.

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