Honouring the Hammond B3

Unlike many jazz musicians, Jerrold Dubyk does not come from a musical family. It was while he was playing in band programs during high school that he became turned on to jazz.

Now the Edmonton-based tenor saxophonist is a jazz educator himself.

This weekend, the Jerrold Dubyk Quartet will play at the Yukon Arts Centre as part of the Jazz on the Wing series.

After finishing an undergraduate degree, Dubyk moved to New Brunswick, New Jersey to complete his Masters in music in the prestigious jazz study program at Rutgers University.

He was drawn to the program by his desire to study with tenor saxophonist Ralph Bowen. Bowen is a transplanted Canadian who is a highly respected recording artist, composer and jazz pedagogue.

In the beginning, Dubyk admits, he felt out of his element at Rutgers. It was intimidating to be playing and studying with fellow students who had established jazz careers and were playing regularly in New York City, the mecca of this music.

With Bowen’s help, he dug in and completed his degree in two years.

For a short time, he considered relocating to New York, but decided that he could not pass up the teaching opportunities open to him back home in Edmonton.

He now teaches at Victoria School of the Arts and Grant MacEwan University, as well as the University of Alberta.

Dubyk says he feels lucky to have classes filled with students who want to be challenged and apply themselves to their studies. He anticipates few will carry on to be professional musicians, but all of them will gain an appreciation for the dedication and skill that it takes to play the music he loves so much. He feels strongly that education in the arts positively affects all his students’ lives.

Dubyk formed his quartet after sharing teaching duties with trumpeter Brad Turner at Grant MacEwan back in 2007. He and Turner agreed they should get together to record, and Dubyk insisted that the band be built around the Hammond B3 organ.

Turner immediately suggested his fellow Vancouver musicians organist Chris Gestrin and drummer Jesse Cahill and the Jerrold Dubyk Quartet was born.

The next summer the band recorded its first CD titled The Maverick, which won the Best Jazz Album category at the 2009 Western Canadian Music Awards.

That award has given Dubyk the confidence to continue playing and writing. He is keen to get the group back into the studio to build on the success of its award-winning recording.

Because the members of his quartet are based in Vancouver rehearsal time is precious, but it makes the time they have together much more special, Dubyk says.

The notion to form the “organ” group was inspired by a recording involving one of Dubyk’s saxophone heroes, tenor man Joe Henderson. In 1965, Henderson played on a project called Unity led by organist Larry Young, along with trumpeter Woody Shaw and drummer Elvin Jones.

That record is considered a classic in the jazz canon, it marked a change in direction for the Hammond B3, ushering the instrument firmly into modern jazz.

Deeply moved by this innovative recording, Dubyk uses the same instrumentation for his own quartet.

Contemplating the future of jazz, Dubyk feels it will always have a relatively small audience, but he’s optimistic that it will continue to grow and evolve.

Jazz has always been a hybrid comprised of many influences. It uses the harmonies and instrumentation of Western classical music, rhythms from Africa and Latin America, and the deep emotional language of the blues.

Dubyk points to the continued success of jazz clubs such as The Yardbird Suite in Edmonton and The Cellar in Vancouver as confirmation that this music will be around for the long term.

For its Jazz on the Wing show the quartet will reprise many of the compositions from The Maverick CD, as well as some of Dubyk’s newly-penned tunes.

The Jerrold Dubyk Quartet will take the Yukon Arts Centre stage on Sunday, November 20. Doors open at 7 p.m. and the show starts at 7:30 p.m.

For audio samples, go to http://www.jazzyukon.com

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