Interview with Lorna MacLachlan

Pianist/vocalist Lorna MacLachlan and her group of local Calgary artists will be performing her original compositions at BuckingJam Palace on Saturday, November 9th 2019 (8pm).

Lorna was nice enough to take some time out of her busy schedule to answer a few questions about her music and art in advance of her November concert.

Tell us about your musical backgroud? How did you learn to play Jazz? What is your education?

I studied piano with, arguably, Calgary’s best piano teachers - Peter Walker, Marilyn Engle, and a few others. I studied classical piano and composition with the intention of doing a double major at the University of Calgary but Composition grabbed me and I spent more time writing than practicing  (I actually started writing when I was about 12 years old). I finished a Masters in Music in Theory and Composition and then wrote professionally for everyone and anything. That is not easy in Calgary as there were very few opportunities. I wrote for Theatre Calgary, Decidedly Jazz Danceworks, Lunchbox Theatre, Springboard Dance collectives, Access network television, CBC, etc.

I loved writing but I found it difficult to balance that life with my family (ie. you cannot say NO to contracts or they dry up) so I went back to school after 10 or so years and completed an education degree. I landed an amazing first job at Western Canada High School upon my graduation and taught Choral music and Jazz Band for 15 years. I think we all had an amazing run but then it was time to move on. I went to a small private school for a few years and before returning to the Calgary Public School Board. I loved every experience I had and that is no small feat. Teaching is very challenging and it is not getting easier. It is, however, one of the most purposeful jobs I have ever known. I retired from teaching this year, after 24 years, so that I can pursue writing and playing full time.

As a “classical” musician I was pretty square but I loved Bartok (thank you Marilyn) mostly because of his crazy rhythms. As a writer I emulated his rhythmic ideas in string quartets, solo compositions and choral music. As a player I became more interested in learning about improvisation as I was also quite heavily into electronic music in my last few years at U of C. There was a great electronic music lab at the University - and a Fairlight computer (you may not know what this is but suffice it to say that the pioneers of electronic classical music made it possible for those crazy keyboard racks in the 80s). I found by combining the heavily structured and programmed electronic music with improvisation you could bring life to music that may feel a bit contrived. Keeping in mind that programming these computers was not the same as the super friendly computers of today. I remember programming a piece of music that took about 3 hours and lasted about 10 seconds and sounded like a fridge being plugged in and unplugged and then plugged in… I think you get my drift. Improvisation was so life giving in combination to this.

I wanted to know more. I joined a band and played keyboards. Then I started programming bass lines and playing live with computers and other live musicians. I never wanted to be a Pop/Rock musician, I just wanted to learn more about something I didn't know. I gravitated to a funkier/Jazzier side of things - Prince was inspiring (Sign of the Times), Peter Gabriel (everything), Sting (Dream of the Blue Turtles). I loved their work. The first CD I wrote was called Jigsawand I was given the support of a FACTOR grant (1988). I felt like I was really on the right track!

Worst album I ever recorded.

Biggest budget I ever had.

Greatest learning experience of my life.

Fortunately for everyone it is no longer available.

The second CD was called Two Trees. It was almost 20 years later and since then I have not stopped. I have written and produced 6 full length studio albums and, in my opinion, they get better with each one. (Jigsaw, Two Trees, Telegraphy, Time 4 Change, Feet on Ground, Bicycle Riding in the Dark). That is the point of recording for me: It is a document of where I am and what I have learned and that may or may not be of interest to anyone. As a teacher, artist and as a person, I am most interested in learning. In connecting and discovering what motivates me and how to take that information and make beautiful connections through music, language and relationships.

I have had the honour and privilege of studying with so many amazing teachers. Inspiring teachers. Incredible role models.

I include the inspiring teachers right here in Calgary: David Ferguson, Peter Walker, Greg Levin, Marilyn Engle, Michelle Gregoire and in other cities: David Braid, Kenny Wheeler, Don Thompson, Phil Dwyer, Maria Schneider. I could go on for the numerous opportunities that all the Jazz Educators conferences awarded me in Toronto, New Orleans and New York but I’m sure you are bored with this list already.

I spent several weeks flying to Toronto to study with David Braid. He would set me up in a practice room, give me a month’s worth of work and then meet me the next day to see what I might have accomplished. I sincerely hope to continue my studies in Toronto.

I have also learned a great deal from the musicians I get to play with: Robin Tufts, Richard Harding and Andre Wickenheiser - Very smart and talented players. The learning continues.

Who are your influences?

Bach (J.S.), Mozart (W.A.), Igor Stravinsky, Bela Bartok, Brad Mehldau, Bud Powell, McCoy Tyner, again, David Braid, Dave Holland, Maria Schneider, Amina Figarova, Joni Mitchell, Blossom Dearie to name only a few. All the guys in my band.

How do you approach composing music?

Well, yes, how do I approach composition?  When it is my choice  -patiently, reluctantly, regularly (there are times when it approaches me but those are not as common as the times I have to approach it).

I think about Kenny wheeler when he was explaining his approach to writing. It is exactly as I dream I would like to write, that is: You wake up at a reasonable hour (say, 6:30 am), you go to the piano with a strong coffee and play for a couple of hours. You then shower, pour another coffee and get to work. If you’re lucky, the work will lead to an amazing inspired thought around 6:30 pm, if you’re not, you probably got a lot of work done on the last inspired thought you had.

I always like to have three (minimum) pieces on the go. This helps keep me motivated.

My life and work has not looked exactly like this.  Most of my writing has happened at the end of a very long day or on a weekend. That said, however, I am working toward making it like the above dream.

I do believe being a composer involves the same kind of work as being a great pianist: you need to practice everyday and much of the work is not as inspiring as one would hope. You write all your garbage down (don’t worry, you can throw it out later). There can be great inspiration in the work you think is nothing and, by the same token, the work you think is awesome today may sound like crap tomorrow. Compositions need to breath and editing is key. This is a very important point for me! In the early years, I often believed that my work was a bit of a gift from the heavens: sacred. After years of study with some incredible teachers, I learned that there is much to learn and that your first draft is - exactly that - a draft. A composition is what is created when you take an inspired (hopefully) idea and work it out. This is often, labour intensive and I, like most people, don’t want to work that hard. I have to admit, though, I am pretty disciplined. Sometimes I think that has come about because I have limited talent. That statement right there does not usually help me sell CDs on my website but sometimes it FEELS like it is true. Now, I would not normally disclose this but this is not an original thought. In fact, one of the most talented (or perceived as such) artists I know told me this: “If anyone knew how hard I worked, they might think I have no talent at all”. This is my mantra.

There is also another necessary factor that makes writing important enough in your life to keep you going - for me, it is my voice. For me, I write to know myself better. This does not happen in a year or two. Through composition and improvisation I feel I have a direct line to my subconscious. Most artists I know are more interested in figuring out what motivates, captures, connects people and occasionally what entertains (but generally less of the later). Most artists I get to hang with are the most insightful, aware people I know. This can be challenging in a world that does not recognize awareness as much as money and fame but to the artist, this becomes more valuable.

Teaching is very much like this. Especially when you are inspiring students who may otherwise never have the opportunity to learn the value of great art. Of course I believe that teachers are incredibly underpaid and overworked as they inspire , and often, parent each new generation.

What is your concept for your own group and what repertoire will you be performing?

I’m not sure I have a specific “concept” for my group. I write music that is inspired by life and I arrange it with these players in mind. I love bass lines, in general, so I love working with Jeremy Coates because he is not only incredibly competent but incredibly musical. I love Robin Tuft because he is the most creative drummer I know and I love writing for two horns and I feel so lucky to have these particular two horns. I have a good idea how Richard Harding and Andre Wichenheiser play individually and how they play together. They, along with the rhythm section have a beautiful connection and really bring my ideas to life. There is a great deal of mutual respect in the group.

I am not really interested in virtuosity, however, when players are as competent this, I know it is fun to challenge each other at times. Some of this music is not easy but we work through it and these players make it sound effortless. I feel the freedom to write anything and I know they will be able to not just play it but to interpret it with the meaning I intended.

The core of this group has been together for a long time. I feel we respect each other as players and, more importantly, as people. We have all been through challenging times and we have all been there for each other. This connection is at the core of the music I want to make.

What are your future plans with this project and what other projects are you planning in the future?

I plan to keep writing. My objectives in the next year are to get better as a player (I have a trip to Toronto in the works). As long as I feel I have something to say, musically, I will continue to write. When I have nothing to say, I will stop.

I always think the latest recording will be my last but that what I though 5 or so recording back so I never know. If I write 15 or 20 tunes that I think are stunning and need to be recorded, I guess I will find the money to do another CD.

In my dreams, I would like to do a European tour (without using up all my savings). We’ll see about that.

What advice do you have for students who are interested in pursuing a career as a music educator?

To those students who are thinking of teaching music here is my advice:

1) You better be passionate about your area in music and a few other areas in music as well as in other subject areas. Stay playing and practice. When you get to the place where you can’t play anymore your are not as effective as you think. Take some lessons. I have always been pretty fortunate in that I taught predominantly music for my career - this does not happen as much anymore. You need to KEEP yourself feeling passionate about music and if you stop feeling that way you need to inspire yourself to keep the passion going (i.e. keep playing, take a class, join a performing ensemble, start a band). All the inspiration you create for yourself continues through you to your students. If you are teaching choral music and you don’t feel anything - stop. I know that sounds harsh but if you are not teaching passion and emotion through music, what are you teaching?

2) Don’t teach your students to become entertainers  and don’t fall into the habit of entertaining them. - they get enough of that everyday in this society. Teach them something they don’t already know - that’s your job. The beauty of Bach and Mozart. Who?

3) Teaching is challenging but it is one of the most purposeful occupations you will ever know but only if you keep learning.

4) The most important line I was told by an amazing educator - “remember, you will outlive your administration” I don’t even know if that is relevant here and it may sound radical but I never forgot it and it saved me on more than one or two occasions - it is true.

5) Relationships with other teachers are important but the most important relationships you have are the ones you develop with the support staff in your school (your administrative assistant /secretary does more work for you than you will ever know) The care taking staff are people with complex lives. The last caretaker I had was a cardiac surgeon who could not practice in Canada - don’t assume anything.

Jodi Proznick: "Let Go"

Vancouver bassist and composer Jodi Proznick offers some personal insight into her original composition "Let Go", from her album Sun Songs (which, incidentally, won her a recent Western Canadian Music Award for "Jazz Artist of the Year"!)

Also, check out this feature with Proznick from the Vancouver Courier about the inspiration and process behind her music.

Jodi Proznick and her quintet perform music from her album Sun Songs on Friday, November 1st 8pm at BuckingJam Palace!

*If tickets for an event are sold out, make sure to email through the website anyways and request to be put on the waitlist. Often tickets will come up at the last minute due to last minute cancellations.*

**You can also put yourself on the waitlist through the Eventbrite listing. Each waitlist entry represents one ticket so you need to enter your information twice if you want two tickets. There is always someone who can't make it at the last minute and we do our very best to accommodate anyone who wants to be here!**

***Also, remember to sign up for the email list as tickets for these unique events frequently sell out quickly. Don’t miss out on these amazing opportunities!***

Interview with Jodi Proznick -"Sun Songs"

Bassist, composer, educator and recent winner of the Western Canadian Music Awards "Jazz Artist of the Year" category Jodi Proznick was kind enough to take time out her busy schedule to answer a few questions in advance of her Friday, November 1st performance at BuckingJam Palace.

Jodi Proznick BuckingJam Blog Interview - October 2019

1) Tell us about your musical background. How did you learn to play Jazz? What is your education?

My musical background started in my playful childhood home - then piano lessons and ballet, then in school - a great elementary school music teacher and a fabulous band program at my high school. I then went to McGill to pursue a degree in music.

2) Who are your influences?

My big jazz influences are John Coltrane, Wayne Shorter, Paul Chambers, Kenny Wheeler and Shirley Horne. And the Beatles. And J.S. Bach!

3) What is your concept for your own group and what repertoire will you be performing?

I like the quartet and/or trio format - the Sun Songs project added a vocalist to my quartet, but I did write the vocal part with a horn in mind. We will be playing the music from my JUNO nominated album Sun Songs - a project that explores the polarities of life, written in response to two big life events; the birth of my son and my mother's early onset dementia diagnosis.

4) How do you approach composing music?

Composing is very slow for me. I need time and space - which means that when life is busy, I have to grab time and space in the cracks of my day.

5) What are your future plans for this project and what other projects are you planning in the future?

I feel like this project is going to keep going for a while - we performed some of the pieces with the amazing men's choir Chor Lioni and I am interested to see what other groups and/or collectives could recreate and reimagine the music. Chamber music? Orchestra? Big Band? Multi-media? I am open to possibilities!

6) What advice do you have for students who are interested in pursuing a career as a music educator and/or Jazz musician?

My advice for a life in music?

When you are nervous, focus in service.

When you are clear about the why, the how and the what, and they all become obvious.

Intention is everything.

Be kind and be prepared.

Show up for your life.

Find your people and love them. Make art with them.

Mike Allen Trio: Spotlight on Lewis Nash

Lewis Nash, one of the world's greatest Jazz drummers, will be joining Vancouver tenor saxophonist Mike Allen and bassist Peter Washington at BuckingJam Palace for two intimate shows on Sunday, October 20th (2pm & 8pm).

Regular followers of the Calgary Jazz scene might recall the last time that Nash performed in Calgary, at the Jack Singer Concert Hall in 2013, with the Monterey Jazz Festival On Tour. This was truly an amazing concert that also featured the likes of Benny Green on piano, Christian McBride on bass, Chris Potter on tenor saxophone, Ambrose Akinmisure on trumpet and vocalist DeeDee Bridgewater!

Now you can have the rare opportunity to see this Master percussionist play up close and personal! (you'd otherwise have to travel to New York City to see him play in a small venue such as this...)

Lewis Nash has played and recorded with the greatest Jazz musicians in the world. His unique drumming style combines a sensitive touch with percussive artistry and his drumming has been in constant demand for the past 30+ years as a sideman to the world's greatest Jazz musicians.

Check out his bio for a glimpse into the career of this accomplished Jazz artist:

"Rhythm Is My Business" is the title of his debut recording as a leader, and rhythm is a booming business as far as Lewis Nash is concerned. He is the drummer of choice for an incredible array of artists - from the masters of the music to the hottest young players of today - and is equally in demand as a clinician and educator.

Born in Phoenix, Arizona, Lewis developed an early interest in music and began playing drums at age 10. By age 18, he was performing with local jazz groups. By the time he was 21, Nash had become the "first call" jazz drummer in Phoenix, working with Sonny Stitt, Art Pepper, Red Garland, Lee Konitz, Barney Kessell and Slide Hampton during their engagements in the city.

In 1981, Nash moved to New York City and joined the trio of the great jazz vocalist Betty Carter. For nearly four years, he toured internationally with Ms. Carter. He is featured on three of her recordings, including the Grammy winning "Look What I Got."

World-renowned bassist Ron Carter hired Nash in 1984. As a member Carter´s nonet, quintet and quartet, Nash toured extensively and is featured on several of the bassist´s recordings.

In the fall of 1986, saxophonist Branford Marsalis asked Lewis to join his quartet. That active association spanned two years and several continents, and is documented on Marsalis´ Grammy nominated recording "Random Abstract", as well as two videos: Royal Garden Blues (directed by Spike Lee) and "Branford Marsalis - Steep".

1988 marked the return to the jazz scene of trombone master J.J. Johnson. Johnson frequently asked Lewis to provide rhythm duties for his band. That same year, Nash joined the Don Pullen/George Adams quartet, succeeding the late Dannie Richmond. 1989 proved to be an even busier year for Lewis, touring with legendary saxophonist Sonny Rollins. He also performed with Stan Getz, Art Farmer, Clark Terry and Milt Jackson.

From 1990 to 2000, Lewis was a member of the Tommy Flanagan Trio, and is featured on seven CD recordings with the late piano master. During this period, Nash also toured and recorded with both the Carnegie Hall Jazz Band and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra. His impressive discography (over 300 recordings) includes projects with jazz legends Dizzy Gillespie, Oscar Peterson, Benny Carter, Hank Jones and John Lewis, as well as new jazz stars Diana Krall, Joe Lovano and Roy Hargrove. Demonstrating his stylistic diversity, Nash is also featured on recordings by Natalie Cole, Bette Midler, Nancy Wilson, Kenny Rankin, Melissa Manchester and George Michael.

Currently, while he continues to perform and record with a wide variety of artists, Nash leads several of his own exciting groups, from duo to septet. His lectures, clinics and workshops are as much in demand as his bandstand and studio work. 

Lewis Nash is currently the Bob and Gretchen Ravenscroft Professor of Practice in Jazz at the Arizona State University School of Music and is the drummer of choice for an incredible array of artists – from jazz masters to the hottest young players of today – and is equally in demand as a clinician and educator. His career spans over 30 years and includes performance on 10 Grammy award-winning albums and an impressive discography of more than 400 recordings with jazz legends such as Betty Carter, Tommy Flanagan, Dizzy Gillespie, Oscar Peterson, McCoy Tyner, Hank Jones, Joe Henderson, Sonny Rollins, Ron Carter and Clark Terry, as well as such contemporary jazz artists as Branford Marsalis, Wynton Marsalis, Diana Krall, Joe Lovano and Roy Hargrove. Nash has become a highly sought after jazz educator and is sponsored by Sakae drums, Zildjian cymbals, Remo drumheads and Vic Firth drumsticks.

Nash is noted for his adaptability to a vast array of genres, as evidenced by his performances with such different musicians as Tommy Flanagan and Don Pullen. Nash has made five recordings as bandleader: Rhythm is My Business (1989), It Don't Mean a Thing (2003 Japanese import) and Stompin' at the Savoy (2005 Japanese import), Lewis Nash and the Bebop All-Stars featuring Frank Wess (2008 Japanese Import), and The Highest Mountain (2012). In 2008, Nash became part of The Blue Note 7, a septet formed that year in honor of the 70th anniversary of Blue Note Records.

Lewis Nash: Rhythm is indeed his business!

Oh yes, before I forget, Lewis Nash is also one of the greatest BRUSH players on the planet! Check out this video and let's hope that he doesn't forget his brushes on October 20th!

Lewis Nash will be appearing with Vancouver's Mike Allen and bassist Peter Washington at BuckingJam Palace on Sunday, October 20th.

The 2pm show is currently sold-out BUT there are a handful of tickets available for the 8pm show. Visit the BuckingJam EventBrite page and reserve your ticket asap before they sell-out!

Mike Allen Trio: Spotlight on Bassist Peter Washington

Mike Allen's "Just Like Magic" trio will be performing two shows at BuckingJam Palace on Sunday, October 20th (2pm and 8pm). Backing up the accomplished Vancouver-based tenor saxophonist Mike Allen will be renowned drummer Lewis Nash and bassist Peter Washington.

Tickets are moving fast for these two shows so don't wait, get your tickets now before they sell out! Find full ticket information at

Peter Washington is one of the most-recorded Jazz bassists in current times, his CV reads like a "who's who" of Jazz greats that he's played and performed with, and his appearance in Calgary represents a rare occasion to see and hear this Master Jazz musician up close.

Here's a video of Peter Washington playing an intimate bass-piano duet at New York's Mezzrow  Jazz club featuring Washington on bass along with Mike LeDonne on piano (ed. note: LeDonne will also be performing at BuckingJam Palace on October 5th with his own group, The Groovers Quartet!)

Peter Washington – Bass

Perhaps the most recorded bassist of his generation, Peter Washington has also played an integral part in two of the most important and highly praised jazz trios of the last 20 years, in addition to a who’s who roster of jazz artists.

Born in Los Angeles, California, in 1964, Washington attended the University of California, Berkeley, where he majored in English Literature and played in both the UC Symphony and the San Francisco Youth Symphony. In 1986, while performing in San Francisco with alto saxophonist John Handy, he was asked by Art Blakey to move to New York and join the seminal Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers.

Washington remained with the Jazz Messengers from 1986 to 1989, and during this time was able to establish himself as a ubiquitous, first- call freelance bassist; a position he has occupied to this day.

In the early 1990’s Washington joined the Tommy Flanagan Trio , called by many the greatest trio in jazz, and remained until Flanagan’s death, in 2002. For the past ten years he has been a member of the very highly acclaimed Bill Charlap Trio.

In addition to these long- term commitments Washington has worked and recorded with an extremely large number of top- tier artists, of all generations. A partial list of those he has recorded and performed live with would include Dizzy Gillespie, Benny Golson. Freddie Hubbard, Donald Byrd, Benny Carter, Hank Jones, Milt Jackson, Bobby Hutcherson, Kenny Burrell, Phil Woods, Cedar Walton, Joe Henderson, Ray Bryant, Frank Wess, Clark Terry, Lionel Hampton, Charles McPherson, Jimmy Heath, Percy Heath, Jimmy Cobb, Louis Hayes, the Newport All Stars, the Carnegie Hall Jazz Band, Gerald Wilson,Lou Donaldson, Barry Harris, Lew Tabakin, Sweets Edison, Johnny Griffin, Jackie McLean, Sir Simon Rattle and the Birmingham Symphony, Richard Wyands, Teddy Edwards, Johnny Coles and Frank Morgan. And of the younger generations, Washington has recorded and performed with Mulgrew Miller, Tom Harrell, the Brecker Brothers, Don Grolnick, David Sanchez, Eric Alexander, Benny Green, Javon Jackson, Brian Lynch, David Hazeltine, One For All, Steve Nelson, James Carter, Renee Rosnes, Steve Turre, Regina Carter, Kenny Washington, Grant Stewart, Robin Eubanks, Joe Magnarelli, Geoff Keezer, Billy Drummond, Jeremy Pelt, Ryan Kisor, Walt Weiskopf, and many, many others.

Peter Washington has also enjoyed associtions with vocalists as diverse as Andy Bey, Freddie Cole, Karrin Allyson, Chris Conner, Mark Murphy, Georgie Fame, Ernie Andrews, Paula West, Eric Comstock, Ann Hampton Calloway, Marlena Shaw, and Ernestine Anderson.

A complete discography would list, as of this writing, over 350 recordings, and is expanded on a weekly and monthly basis.

In the scope and breadth of his career thus far, his adaptability, and in his emphasis on creative, supportive, swiging time- playing as well as inventive and intelligent soloing, Washington has been compared to the likes of George Duvivier, Milt Hinton, and Ron Carter.