Legendary trumpet player Al Muirhead is nominated for a Juno.
Yes… that same Al Muirhead who, for over 60 years has played countless studio sessions, appeared on innumerable stages and accompanied award-winners like Ian Tyson, Rosemary Clooney and Diana Krall, has finally stepped into the spotlight and recorded his own album… at age 80.
That album is nominated for the 2016 Jazz Album of the Year Juno Award and the reaction from the community is, “It’s About Time.” Which, ironically, is the title of the release.
Bassist Kodi Hutchinson (Chronograph Records) was the one to persuade Muirhead to do it. So, he called long-time friends and collaborators P. J. Perry and Tommy Banks to join him. MRU drum and jazz clinician Tyler Hornby also appeared on the album.
As for which of the encyclopaedia of jazz standards they know between them they were going to include, “We went into the studio with nothing prepared,” Muirhead starts, “No lead sheets. Nothing. It was right off the top of our heads.”
This organic process is reminiscent of what brought Muirhead to jazz in the first place, “I was playing in the orchestra and military band. Then the music coming out of New York after the war… I just loved the freedom of it all.”
As to how he got into the genre, “I learned by ear,” he confesses. “You heard most of the stuff on the radio and you couldn’t afford the ‘78s of them. So, people would get together at a barn dance and give their own interpretation of them.”
Muirhead, who spends a good deal of time at the MRU Conservatory teaching workshops and clinics to lucky young trumpet players and jazz enthusiasts, thinks that jazz has evolved, and not just always for the better. “Melody seems to be a thing of the past,” he recounts, “what’s important now are the time changes and key changes. It’s an academic pursuit.”
Back in the days when jazz standards were the pop tunes of the broadcast world, “when Louis (Armstrong) was out there – everyone loves Louis – you didn’t have to be a jazz fan to love Louis. That was when everyone listened with their ears, not their eyes.”
This accessibility is something that his debut album brings back, but it’s not intended only to please the public. “Hopefully (on the album) I have the goods, but this is me. Hope you like it. That’s it.”
He even writes a couple original tunes on the recording. One in particular is close to his heart as it was penned for and named after his wife of forty-two years “Ida Mae.” This is one of the rare gems that features Al Muirhead’s singing voice. His assessment of his crooning track, “The guys played really well,” and, “The ladies love it.”
His wife ‘Ida Mae’ was excited about embracing the Juno announcement, but for Muirhead, “It took me a while,” he admits graciously. “It’s not something I was working towards. It’s never been my goal.”
But, Juno judges and fans alike are celebrating this nomination by echoing the sentiment of his debut offering, “It’s About Time.”
- By (Not-yet-Juno-Nominated) JLove