Fred Stride Jazz Orchestra
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Fred Stride Jazz Orchestra

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"Intellectually satisfying music also swings like crazy"

From the Vancouver Sun - Thursday, January 11, 2007

Intellectually satisfying music also swings like crazy

CD REVIEWS Fred Stride's Forward Motion keeps the rhythm section and horns on their toes

Fred Stride Jazz Orchestra
Forward Motion
Cellar Live

If you ask a musician, a music student or a student's parent, you'll get a glowing opinion of Fred Stride. Unfortunately not many other people know about him.

Composer, arranger and bandleader Stride has been something of a Western Canadian icon, putting generations of student musicians through their paces. And we're not talking basic exercises here; he writes charts that would challenge the most seasoned of professionals.

Want proof? Check out Forward Motion, a collection of six original compositions (including the four-movement Machina: A Concerto for Jazz Orchestra) on which 22 professionals accept the challenge.

The selections include Gently Swaying, a latin number in 7/4 time that cooks and features a great solo from tenor saxophonist Jon Bentley. A Few Shades Darker sounds like a film noir score written by someone outside the mainstream, with a touch of humour added by trumpeter Derry Byrne, who redefines the adjective "sassy." Oddly Enough is a rhythmic number where five members of the reeds section take up the clarinet.

The closing concerto, like all the tracks here, keeps the rhythm section and horns on their toes with changes of tempo, odd time signatures and challenging voicings. And while the music has an intellectual quality, it swings like crazy.

If you're unfamiliar with Fred Stride, this recording offers a great way to find out what he's all about.

Mark Andrews, Vancouver Sun - Vancouver Sun

"Forward Motion"

It takes a lot of self-confidence, not to mention talent, to compose a four-part Concerto for Jazz Orchestra that strives to paint a musical picture of certain kinds of machinery, but that is what Fred Stride has ventured to do on Forward Motion, the second half of which is devoted to Machina, a four-part suite commissioned by John Korsrud and the Hard Rubber Orchestra. Thanks in part to his perceptive notes, it’s clear what Stride had in mind; whether the listener welcomes the concept or finds it musically agreeable is another matter.

In any case, one must concede that Stride’s Vancouver-based ensemble unravels his elaborate charts with machine-like precision, adeptly underlining every nuance and shading while making certain that the assorted changes in tempo are squarely on the mark. Machina’s opening movement comprises two parts: “Input,” depicting “a type of computational machine,” and “Process,” which concerns itself with “the manipulation of data.” Flugel Brad Turner solos on Part 1, guitarist Daryl Jahnke and trombonist Dennis Esson on Part 2. The second movement, “Colossus,” portrays “very large machinery” with very large solos to match by baritone saxophonist Mike Braverman and tubaist Brad Muirhead. The third movement, “Sound,” delineates a mysterious machine that “can move abruptly from the softest to the loudest” sound, while the final movement, “Velocity,” is, as its name suggests, concerned with “machinery that is capable of tremendous speeds.” Alto Campbell Ryga, trombonist Rod Murray and bassist Andre Lachance share center stage on “Sound,” tenors Jon Bentley and Alvin Cornista on “Velocity.”

The first half of the album, albeit comparably thematic, is explicitly more orthodox and accessible. The vigorous “Opposition Party,” Stride writes, “is an attempt to depict the Canadian parliamentary system in musical terms” (it’s actually more conciliatory than the description implies). “Gently Swaying,” a Latin chart in 7/4, speaks for itself, while “Floatation [sic] Device” is an exercise in varying tempos, “A Few Shades Darker” an extended blues with a “thick and somewhat dark” texture, “Oddly Enough” a rhythmic charmer that uses clarinets instead of saxophones in the ensemble passages (and on which clarinetist Tom Colclough sparkles with pianist Ross Taggart and drummer Bernie Arai). Tenors Bentley and Cornista engage in a lively debate on “Opposition Party,” while Bentley, Colclough (alto) and flugel Tom Shorthouse are able protagonists on “Swaying,” Ryga (alto) and Turner (trumpet) on “Device,” Esson and trumpeter Derry Byrne on “Shades.”

There’s not a lot of ear candy on Forward Motion—Stride hasn’t made things easy by aiming low—but discerning and open-minded listeners will uncover music that is both pleasurable and rewarding.

Visit Fred Stride Jazz Orchestra on the web.

Track listing: Opposition Party; Gently Swaying; Floatation Device; A Few Shades Darker; Oddly Enough; Machina: A Concert for Jazz Orchestra: Input-Process; Colossus; Sound; Velocity (79:28).

Personnel: Fred Stride: composer, arranger, conductor; Paul Baron, Derry Byrne, Brad Turner, Tom Shorthouse, Kent Wallace: trumpet, flugelhorn; Tom Colclough: alto, soprano sax, clarinet; Campbell Ryga (3,5,7): alto, soprano sax, bass clarinet; Chris Startup (1-4): alto sax; Jens Christiansen (5-9): alto sax, clarinet; Jon Bentley: tenor sax, alto clarinet; Alvin Cornista: tenor sax; Mike Braverman: baritone sax, bass clarinet; Dennis Esson, Rod Murray, Jeremy Berkman: trombone; Neil Nicholson (1-4), Brad Muirhead (5-9): bass trombone; Ross Taggart: piano; Daryl Jahnke: guitar; Andre Lachance: bass; Bernie Arai: drums; Jack Duncan: percussion. -

"Thoughtful Jazz Ensemble"

The music on this thoughtful jazz ensemble compact disc takes you forward to moments of joy and optimism, on the distaff side it also hints at darker moments.

This extremely articulate project is one to sit back and contemplate what is happening musically and perhaps why. During the 80 minutes of the CD you will absorb the sort of music people like Bob Brookmeyer have been preparing us for. There are occasional references to the traditional big band startlingly dissolving into exhilerating flights of invention. I find the unexpected logic of the writing irresistable;. rhythmically intense, harmonically rich. What more do you want?

Died in the wool traditionalists may find this adventure too close to or beyond what some people think is the cutting edge. But every excursion has it's reward, whether it is the expected extraordinarily high standard of soloing or the extreme demands of the ensemble writing, whatever this is an album Canada, and Fred Stride can be proud of.

The CD is available at Cellar Live (above) and also at CDBaby and CD Universe.


"Jazz becomes classical, great band."

Reviewer: Peg Vranesh


Opposition Party. Arrangement good, section work excellent, like the dissonance. Swings well. Solos almost seem like decoration. Last four minutes just terrific. ****Gently Swaying. Complicated arrangement, but jells. It’s about time someone wrote for orchestra instead of songs that are limiting. Not much of that going on. I love this piece. Flotation Device. Soprano sax excellent. This piece takes a lot of listening to put it together for a listener. Maybe a little too much. ****A Shade Darker, The band, the arrangements, solos, etc. The top! ***Oddly Enough. Oh clarinets, what a sound! So fresh. Everyone is so together. Machina. ****Mvt 1. Who cares about machines! If the composer needs it, use it. It still comes out as music worth listening to without imagining anything but hearing the sounds. Concert music, using jazz concepts but goes into the another world. So original. In general: Brass is strong emphasis. Reeds are a soft undercoating. The ensemble work is terrific, so good to hear this. The arrangements are so solid. - CD Baby

"Fred Stride Jazz Orchestra"

Fred Stride Jazz Orchestra
Forward Motion
(Cellar Live)

A veritable who's who of the entire local scene is involved in this 22 piece unit and they all appear to be playing at the top of their games on this 9 track CD. Firmly entrenched in the classic Ellington orchestras - can you really have a big band and not touch on his genius? - Stride's writing is lively, fun and inventively swinging. From the opener "Opposition Party," a brassy shuffle inspired by the Canuck parliamentary system, to the four movement "Machina: A Concerto for Jazz Orchestra," this is a killer session well worth grabbing. A-

Stuart Derdeyn - The Province

""Another blue chip ensemble.""

The Fred Stride Jazz Orchestra, another blue chip ensemble, makes its home in Vancouver, Canada. I don’t know if this is a regular working group (no information is given in the booklet), but this well be its debut recording. If so, it certainly makes a favorable first impression. Stride wrote and arranged everything, and his music, albeit essentially thematic (complete information is given in the booklet) is always well-drawn and engaging. The second half of the album a four movement, Concerto for Jazz Orchestra, “Machina,” which, as its name suggests, a series of musical sketches of various kinds of machinery. Relax, its more persuasive and adaptable than it sounds, even though there are times when the machinery could use a touch of oil. As a whole, everything meshes quite well, and Stride makes his point musically and esthetically, by means of tempo and dynamics and by using, in his words “a set of notes representing data in the form of a 12 tone row,” which “provides the building blocks for the entire concerto.” Its not an easy listen, and may not be everyone’s idea of a useful appliance, but should please the open minded listener. The first half of the album, while also thematic, is more melodically and rhythmically accessible, which is not to say it is any less provocative, only different. “Opposition Party” is “an attempt to depict the Canadian parliamentary system in musical terms,” “Floatation [sic] Device” a launching pad for rapid tempos, “A Few Shades Darker” an expanded blues, “Oddly Enough” a vehicle for changing tempos, and “Gently Swaying” precisely what the name implies. Happily, the orchestra performs like a well-oiled machine, and there sharp solos by saxophonists Jon Bentley, Alvin Cornista, Campbell Ryga and Mike Braverman; trumpeters Brad Turner and Derry Byrne, trombonists Dennis Esson and Rod Murray, clarinetist Tom Colclough, pianist Ross Taggart, guitarist Daryl Jahnke, bassist Andre Lachance and drummer Bernie Arai. Sound is first rate, playing time as generous as can be. A sundry banquet for the more discriminating connoisseur. - Cadence Magazine


Fred Stride Jazz Orchestra: "Forward Motion"



The Fred Stride Jazz Orchestra is designed to perform the many compositions and arrangements of Fred Stride. Fred’s compositional style is a strong mix of both traditional and contemporary approaches to big band music. Major influences on his work include Duke Ellington, Bill Holman, Bela Bartok, Witold Lutoslawski, and almost anyone who has written for the big band over the last 80 years.

The FSJO has also performed many big band classics including works by Duke Ellington, Ralph Burns, Eddie Sauter, Billy Strayhorn, Stan Kenton, Bill Russo, Bill Holman, Gerry Mulligan, Johnny Richards, Ron Collier and many others. Some of these performances have been broadcast by CBC radio.

More information at