Winnipeg's Jazz Magazine

November/December 2011: Randy Brecker

Janice Finlay

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Like many musicians, saxophonist Janice Finlay began at the piano, but when that was a poor fit, her mother allowed her to exchange it for a band instrument. From the start, she enjoyed the process of “breathing life into an instrument.” A stint on euphonium quickly gave way to the clarinet (they got all the fun parts), but when a family friend’s band needed a saxophone, she made the switch—and she hasn’t looked back. On November 24, she releases a new CD, Anywhere But Here.

Tell me about your new recording project.  

Anywhere But Here is my second feature CD. In addition to wanting to record my body of original work, I was looking for an opportunity to work with a musical mentor of mine, award-winning multi-instrumentalist and prolific jazz composer Don Thompson. I was overjoyed when he agreed to play piano and vibes on the CD! I also was super excited when Jodi Proznick, a rising star in the jazz bassist world, agreed to be part of the project.  U of M jazz faculty member, all-star drummer Quincy Davis and local jazz guitar legend Ron Halldorson rounded out my musician “dream team” and that is when everything started to fall into place. 

Anywhere But Here features primarily my original compositions. One particularly exciting difference this time around is the inclusion of a vocal piece called “Remember Me,” featuring recent U of M grad Erin Propp.  Erin and pianist Don Thompson do an extraordinary job of this ballad, and Don was bowled over by Erin’s obvious talent.

On this CD I actually play soprano and baritone in addition to alto and tenor. I believe that I have a different musical voice on each of the four saxophones I play, partly because I have modeled my playing after different musicians on each horn.

One thing I learned with my first CD, She’s Hip, is that it is really hard to be objective about a project of this scope when you are still close temporally to it. That’s one of the reasons I like working with producer/engineer Larry Roy—he’s an outstanding musician himself so I feel confident trusting him to be objective and to act as a creative gatekeeper of sorts.

What has playing jazz taught you about life?

Probably the biggest life lesson I have learned is that pursuing a career you are passionate about is a significant part of leading a fulfilled life. It does not matter what a person does if they have a passion for it and are fortunate enough to get paid to do it—that is the perfect combination!

Another life lesson would be that learning never stops. Thank goodness! We are so lucky as jazz musicians that there are always new things to learn! 

On a more personal level I have had to learn to honour and value the creative spirit that is within me and every human being.
I guess the final thing that comes to mind is that perseverance and hope can be powerful allies if you are able to keep them at your side at all times—and that is hardest when you need them the most!

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