Music Interview: Sigesmund’s legend continues

By Katherine Fletcher

Time for a quick Gauntlet lesson in jazz. Today’s lecture consists of two parts: pay attention or it’ll go past. First, the three Rs of jazz–revitalize, relax, and reflect. The music penetrates the human body, causing a toe-tap. Then comes the finger-snapping and head-flapping sensation, because the soothing element of jazz allows for contemplation.

The second part of the lesson is summed up in “Have jazz, will travel.” Darren Sigesmund, a Toronto-based trombonist and composer, lives by that motto. He recently completed a tour in Asia where his music was well received.

“In Japan, there is a very high knowledge of jazz in the audience,” says Sigesmund. “They have a strong knowledge of jazz standards.”

Showcasing his innovative sound on a nine-city Western Canada tour with his quintet, he makes a stop in Calgary at the Beatniq. Sigesmund’s quintet features Quinsin Nachoff, an acclaimed saxophonist and composer. The two began to collaborate after studying together at the University of Toronto’s Jazz Performance program.

“Ever since [the program] I’ve always wanted to have him in a quintet and be able to write for him,” says Sigesmund. “He has an incredible sense of vitality in his playing and just a wonderful melodic, harmonic and rhythmic sense. It’s a real treat to have him in my quintet.”

On this tour Sigesmund is performing from his latest quintet project, Strands, an amalgamation of jazz, Latin and classical music. “My goal is to write music that is not so traditional,” he states. He strives to meet the standards of his influences including Bach (“I love his counterpoint. No one is better than him at counterpointing”) and New York-based guitarist Ben Monder (“When I heard his music it opened a Pandora’s Box of musical possibilities for me”).

Sigesmund will undoubtedly be an influence on the next generation of musicians. During the Western Canada tour, he is holding several clinics, including one at Ernest Manning High School.

“Working with young musicians is incredibly rewarding,” he asserts. “In an education setting, it’s a learning experience for us as well.”

The clinic at the southwest high school and the gig at the Beatniq are sponsored by the Calgary Association for the Development of Music Education.

“For this particular day of workshops, the goal is to give the student ensembles some practical experience at developing skills for a live performance,” explained Sigesmund. “They will take the tunes they learn during the clinics and perform them at the Beatniq as the first act.”

While on tour, Sigesmund wants to promote the trombone–the sleek brass horn overlooked in contemporary jazz.

“I do feel that to a certain extent,” admits Sigesmund. “I guess that’s why I’m trying to take the initiative to do a tour like this, to raise my profile, and to feature [the trombone] as a major soloing instrument.”

Following the tour, Sigesmund plans to continue working on Strands and write more material for his group back in Toronto. He’s also planning another tour in Asia and will start a tango project featuring such instruments as the violin, bass, piano, and trombone.

“This project will also feature some of [Argentine musician] Astor Piazolla’s tunes, but I’d like to make it more of an original project. Take what Piazolla has done in a chamber-like setting and write my own interpretations of tango.”

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