Winnipeg's Jazz Magazine


January/February 2010: EJ Strickland

Ron Paley and Ian McDougall:
Big Band Bliss

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Ron Paley hardly needs an introduction to prairie audiences—his big band has been pulling people onto dance floors since it formed in 1976. Paley, a pianist with a genuine love for big band sound and repertoire, got his start playing with the big bands of Buddy Rich and Woody Herman. He has quick hands and a kind of eager joy when he’s at the keyboard, and that sparkling energy is mirrored in the whole band.

Paley has a couple of big band recordings to his credit, and a trio album as well. He’s also made a significant impact as a composer and arranger. He’s been commissioned by Groundswell, the Winnipeg Singers, the Royal Canadian College of Organists, and the National Arts Centre. In 2004, he scored a pastiche of Rodgers and Hart songs for the Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s wildly successful “A Cinderella Story.” That show is currently on tour across the US and will be staged again here in Winnipeg at the beginning of May.

When the Ron Paley Big Band takes their seats at the Muriel Richardson Auditorium on January 16, they’ll be joined by Ian McDougall, another Canadian big band master. MacDougall is probably best known for his long-time position as lead trombonist for the Juno and Grammy award-winning band, Rob McConnell and The Boss Brass. He appears on more than a dozen recordings with that group—The Boss Brass Again and Brassy and Sassy feature his compositions. McDougall also founded The Brass Connection; their self-titled debut won the Juno for best jazz album in 1982.

As a young trombonist, McDougall spent a couple of years in the early 60s cutting his teeth with the John Dankworth Band in Great Britain. Back in Canada, he established a busy career as a freelance player and composer/arranger in Vancouver and Toronto. In the early 90s, he moved back to Victoria where he taught trombone, composition and jazz studies at UVic until his 2003 retirement.

He’s a respected composer, with works performed not only by his own bands, but also by the CBC Vancouver Orchestra, the Lafayette String Quartet, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, the Rob McConnell Tentet, and the Toronto Cantata Chorus, among others.

He continues to perform and tour. The past decade has included tours in Canada and abroad, both as a soloist and with his own groups, to Ireland, Scotland, Australia, Denmark, Holland, the USA, Germany, and England, where he directed two BBC Big Band broadcasts.

McDougall’s long list of recordings includes several as a leader. In a Sentimental Mood, a quartet recording of the gorgeous music of Billy Strayhorn and Duke Ellington, was nominated for a Juno. His big band has just released No Passport Required, an elegant recording of McDougall originals that revisits his experiences as a young player first traveling abroad.

When Paley and McDougall join forces in January, the big band sound will be warm and wonderful—and very much alive.


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