JPEC 2013 – Tapestry a Musical Landscape

Salute to Motown.jpg

Submitted by Bill McDonald

Last Saturday, the Jazz Performance and Education Centre (JPEC) kicked off their 2013 season with their opening night gala “Tapestry, a Musical Landscape” at the Toronto Centre for the Arts.  The evening featured Joe Sealy’s “Africville Stories”, “A Salute to Motown”, and a celebration of Black History Month.

Aficville Stories, from the words and music of Joe Sealy’s Juno Award wining “Afrciville Suite”, was presented by Jackie Richardson on vocals and narration, Joe Sealy (piano), Paul Novotny (bass), Mark Kelso (drums) and John Johnson (sax).  The set opened with the thunderous, gospel-inspired, “Deep Down Inside”.  Most musicians would be content to finish their night at the energy level of this opening number.  But, Africville Stories is no ordinary set of music, and Jackie Richardson begins where most vocalists hit their peaks.

Alana Bridgewater, Michael DunstonAlana Bridgewater, Michael DunstonThe inspiration for this composition was the Africville community in Halifax, Nova Scotia, originally settled in the mid 1800’s by descendents of slaves who had fled the United States.  Ultimately, Africville was razed by the Canadian government in the late 1960’s as part of urban redevelopment.  The music speaks of the people and settings that comprised this community.  It brilliantly captures the triumphs, challenges, injustices, and demise, but the ultimate triumph of the “Spirit of Hope”.

Although Africville Suite was released almost 20 years ago, it remains historically poignant and relevant.  This is a testament to Sealy’s genius and the virtuosity of the performing artists, who truly “get inside” this opus.

Jackie Richardson. Paul NovotnyJackie Richardson. Paul NovotnyIn keeping with their vision, JPEC awarded the inaugural Lincoln Alexander Scholarship award to guitarist, Sam Dickinson.  This award recognizes academic achievement and emerging jazz talent.  As importantly, this scholarship, awarded this night by Marni Beal-Alexander, honours the memory of the late Honourable Lincoln Alexander, a supporter of arts and education, and an integral part of the inception of JPEC.

JPEC also paid tribute to the Honourable Mr. Justice Michael H. Tulloch.  Since being called to the bar a little more than twenty years ago, Justice Tulloch has had an accomplished legal career and is recognized as a community leader.  Last year, he was named to the Ontario Court of Appeal – the first black person to attain this achievement.

The evening closed with a celebratory salute to Motown.  Backed by an all star slate of musicians under the musical direction of Roberto Occhipinti, vocalists Alana Bridgewater and Michael Dunston delivered a series of Motown classics.  The set ended with a rousing version of “Funky Nassau”, where they were joined on stage by Jackie Richardson and Joe Sealy.

This was JPEC’s fourth annual gala, opening another year of promoting the performance, education, and history of jazz.  For more information on JPEC and their upcoming events, visit their website, www.jazzcentre.ca.