by Scott Roos
“I've known Jens (Lindemann) since we were about 14 years old. We went to high school together and McGill together. We've worked a lot together over the years. I feel very fortunate to kinda have him on my speed dial,” recounts Dean McNeill in a recent conversation with NSMZ.
It was Christmas 2021 and Lindemann, an award nominated, critically acclaimed, and much beloved Canadian trumpeter had recently released his Then is Now 'Rhapsody in Blue' album. McNeill, the artistic director of the Saskatoon Jazz Orchestra (henceforth referred to as the SJO), had met up with his old friend and they were chatting about their lives and how things were going. One thing led to another and the idea was pitched for Lindemann to be a guest performer with the SJO and play the iconic Gershwin piece. Lindemann will finally get his chance (of course a little thing called COVID19 got in the way of it happening sooner as opposed to later) to shine in Saskatoon this Saturday, March 11th at the Broadway Theatre.
“It was kind of a happy happenstance of some low hanging fruit that I wouldn't have tweaked into had I not been having a beer with Jens (that) Christmas,” continues McNeill.
The arrangement of Gershwin’s famed “Rhapsody in Blue” piece when Lindemann performs with the SJO will be similar to how it’s played on Then is Now. It will feature Lindemann playing the solo clarinet parts on a piccolo trumpet, jazz ensemble instrumentation replacing the orchestra, with the piano parts remaining largely unaltered.
“(Jens) does a lot of things really well but I don't know anybody on planet earth that plays the piccolo trumpet as well as that guy. He is really something special. He plays all instruments great. He's a great player on everything (he does). His piccolo trumpet playing is just absolutely world class,” raves McNeill when speaking of Lindemann.
“It's kind of a big deal to have him come play with the SJO and we're very excited.”
Guesting on piano for this event will be local favourite, Michelle Aalders. According to Aalders’ bio, she was the organist at 3rd Avenue United Church, she accompanies the Saskatoon Children's choir, and occasionally plays with the Saskatoon Symphony when they need keyboard players in the orchestra for things. McNeill is equally enthusiastic to have Aalders’ playing for the March 11th concert.
“(Having Michelle play with the SJO) is an opportunity for our community to celebrate one of our own and for her to be one of the stars. So I'm very proud of that and she brings a lot to the table. She's a great player. She'd be a great player in any city and we're very fortunate to have her. We're excited to have her involved,” says McNeill.
In terms of the concert itself, McNeill, in his role as artistic director, is always looking for new and innovative ways to program his concerts. As a result, the SJO has collaborated with string orchestras, violins, brass bands, poets and visual artists. Featuring Gershwin’s music with a slight “twist of lemon”, then, seems right up his band’s alley.
“In a sense, Gershwin was leading the way in terms of creating interdisciplinary cross connections between popular jazz and classical music. People might not see him that way but he was a kind of translator of high end classical music for the masses and whatever formula he had he ended up being immensely successful at it,” muses McNeill.
Tickets are moving quickly for this show. Given the international acclaim of Lindemann this is a show not to be missed. The show will start at 7:30 pm at the Broadway Theatre in Saskatoon. Tickets can be purchased here: