This week we feature vocalist Alex Tait, who took part in Jazzology in 2009.
Born and raised in Toronto, Alex’s love of music was sparked by her late father, Juno award-winning trumpet player and composer Rick Tait. She completed her honours degree in contemporary music at Humber College in 2010, where she received numerous scholarships and awards. She was also selected to participate in the Banff International Workshop in Jazz and Creative Music in 2010 under the direction of Dave Douglas.
Now in the process of establishing herself as a vocalist, bandleader, and composer, Alex is in the process of releasing her debut album, Thirty, with her modern jazz ensemble featuring original string quartet arrangements and duets with guitarist Jim Tait. In addition to her own ensemble, she is the leader or front person for several groups. The Spandettes, a 10 piece disco/funk ensemble, released their debut album Spandex Effect in March, 2014. The jazz ensemble Circles has recorded two full-length albums, Autumn Dance and I understand. The Mackenzie Longpre Group’s album, Summer House, was released in 2012.
Alex took some time to discuss her experience as part of the Jazzology program as well as outline her more recent musical activities:
1) Describe your experience with the Jazzology program. What was your favourite aspect?
It was a pretty special experience. I was interviewed by Larry Green who made me feel so at home and relaxed. He kept making silly jokes to ease my nerves and make me feel comfortable.
2) What is your strongest memory of the Jazzology program? Are there any funny stories or incidents that come to mind?
Sometimes when I’m nervous I talk too fast or say too much. I had to repeatedly remind myself to chill out and just speak to Larry like we were having a coffee. I think my strongest memory was hearing my composition, “Rain Song,” getting played on the air and just sitting there trying not to lose it! It’s a surreal thing to hear your first original song on the radio and know that thousands of people are hearing it.
3) Would you recommend this experience to other young musicians?
Absolutely. There are very few opportunities for young musicians – whether in school or working in the professional world – to get their name and their music some attention, especially in the jazz scene, which often (and understandably) favours the old guard of seasoned and established musicians with big names. On Jazzology, they want to know about the process and motivation behind the music, which is something any composer is happy to talk about, regardless of the stage of their career!
4) How has this experience helped in your personal and professional development?
I learned a lot about how to be interviewed and how to conduct myself on the air. I also had email inquiries from a few listeners who heard and loved my music. At the time I didn’t have an album ready to go, but now I do!
5) This program is made possible by our generous donors and sponsors who strongly believe in the importance of arts education initiatives. If you had the opportunity to thank them in person, what would you say?
Thank you so much to the generous donors of JAZZ.FM91 for supporting Canadian talent and recognizing that we live in a city (Toronto) with a world-class jazz scene!
6) Why is music education important?
Everyone relates to their favourite music on a deeply emotional level. In a market where pop music is getting increasingly over synthesized, quantized, and auto tuned, it’s more important than ever for young people to take an interest in genuine music made with human touch, designed to resonate with the soul. Music education, specifically jazz programs, is keeping talented young musicians in touch with the human element that makes music so special and relatable.
7) Since participating in the program, what have you been doing?
Since participating in Jazzology, I graduated from Humber College with an honours degree and a substantial graduation award. That spring I was fortunate to be selected to participate in the Banff International Workshop in Jazz and Creative Music under the direction of the incomparable Dave Douglas.
My 10-piece jazz/funk band The Spandettes released our debut full-length album Spandex Effect in 2013 with great success, especially in Japan. We were on the influential J-Wav Hot-100 list in Tokyo for 8 weeks.
I just released my solo jazz project Thirty on November 24th world-wide, and will be celebrating with my album release party this Sunday, November 30th at Jam Factory.
8) What music are you listening to at the moment that you find particularly inspiring?
Lately my favourite artists are Gretchen Parlato, Esperanza Spalding, and Robert Glasper. I love the way these artists have a contemporary, fresh approach to jazz without making music that alienates the listener. They are not afraid to take risks and try new things, but they also avoid making things unnecessarily complicated just for the sake of it and embrace beautiful catchy melodies. I try to compose in the same way.
9) What are your plans for the future?
My album release party is on Sunday, November 30th at Jam Factory (2 Matilda Street) at 8:30 pm. I will have my full band as well as a string quartet.
For upcoming events for my project or The Spandettes, check out our websites and Twitter.
10) How can people learn more about you and your activities?
11) Is there anything else that you want to add?
I’m very excited to announce that some friends and I from the young Toronto jazz scene will soon be launching an artist collective called Brave New Records. We will be functioning somewhat like a record label, but almost more like a co-op for cool bands. Check out the newly launched website: bravenewrecords.com
Jazzology is proudly sponsored by RBC Emerging Artists Project.
About RBC and the Arts
RBC sponsors a wide-range of grassroots and local initiatives that contribute to the cultural fabric of our communities. Proud to support events and passions that resonate with our clients and all Canadians, RBC provides opportunities for up-and-coming artists through programs such as the RBC Canadian Painting Competition, one of the largest competitions of its kind in the world; and the RBC Emerging Filmmakers Competition, part of our commitment as the Official Bank and major sponsor of the world’s top public film festival – the Toronto International Film Festival®.