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CONCERT REVIEW | Jens Lindemann Makes History at the Women’s Musical Club of Toronto

By Robin Elliott on March 17, 2015

Jens Lindemann
Jens Lindemann

Jens Lindemann with Kristian Alexandrov, Mike Downes, and Ted Warren at Walter Hall, University of Toronto Thursday, March 12, 2015.

Editor’s note: Robin Elliott is the co-ordinator of the Tuning Your Mind series of pre-concert lectures for the WMCT.

The Los-Angeles-based Canadian trumpet virtuoso Jens Lindemann gave a varied and highly entertaining recital for the Women’s Musical Club of Toronto on Thursday afternoon (March 12th). The ten selections on his program ranged widely across both classical and jazz idioms. And that’s where history was made – this was the first time in 117 years that jazz has been featured on a WMCT program. (To be fair, of course, jazz did not even exist until the WMCT was well into its adolescent years.) Not being accustomed to the requests of jazz players, the WMCT was left scrambling at the last-minute to find a drum set for the recital, but as always rose to the task.

Lindemann played on a variety of beautiful gold-plated Yamaha trumpets in the course of his recital (including a piccolo trumpet and flugelhorn), but kept one instrument under wraps until near the end of the program. With true dramatic flare, he unveiled his signature blue trumpet, which is covered in crushed sapphire and is worth $1.7 million. Or is it? Lindemann kept up a constant stream of highly amusing off-the-cuff remarks throughout the afternoon, but it was hard to tell where the truth ended and the tall tales began. Whatever its value, the famous blue trumpet produces an unbelievably sharp and piercing tone, one that had more than a few audience members covering their ears – yes, it was that loud!

The program opened with Debussy’s La fille aux cheveux de lin, a popular piano prelude that has been arranged countless times. Lindemann’s version for piccolo trumpet and piano lent the work a bright, piercing quality that was surprisingly effective, all the more so as Lindemann played it while walking down the aisle from the back of Walter Hall to the stage. (Was I alone in worrying that he was going to trip on a step along the way, with disastrous consequences?) The program then alternated between classical and jazz numbers; both genres providing ample opportunity for Lindemann to showcase his exceptional musical talents, which range from lyrical, golden hued (literally and figuratively) legato playing to scintillating virtuoso passage work at breakneck speeds, with every shade and nuance in between. His spoken remarks also ranged widely, from off-the-cuff situational observations worthy of a stand-up comic, to poignant remarks on the power of music to heal, and to bring solace. Usually I cringe when musicians speak from the stage, but Lindemann consistently hit just the right note (so to speak), and especially so when he movingly dedicated his performance of “Fragile” by Sting to the memory of Joan Watson, the outstanding Canadian French horn player who had passed away that very morning.

Perhaps the most sensational work of the afternoon was Dreaming of the Masters III by Allan Gilliland, who was a high school classmate of Lindemann in Edmonton. Originally written for trumpet and orchestra (and played by Lindemann with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra at Carnegie Hall in 2012), the work is equally effective in this arrangement for jazz quartet. It is an homage to various types of jazz and pop music trumpet idioms, and was written to showcase Lindemann’s stunning ability to switch between instruments and idioms on the fly without missing a beat. It was for this piece that the famous blue trumpet was unveiled with great effect.

Lindemann was more than ably assisted by his wife, Jennifer Snow, on piano in the classical selections, with a guest appearance from Barry Shiffman for the tango Milonga del Angel by Piazzolla. In the jazz items, he performed with the excellent pianist Kristian Alexander (who doubled on percussion, and also wrote two of the works), Mike Downes on bass (both string and electric bass), and Ted Warren, whose excellent rhythmic work on the drumset was matched by an imaginative range of tone colours that were truly a joy to hear. Lindemann and his fellow musicians were greeted with a resounding and well-deserved standing ovation at the conclusion of the recital.

Robin Elliott

Robin Elliott

Robin Elliott

Robin Elliott studied music at Queen’s University (violin and chamber music) and the University of Toronto (musicology). After six years as a faculty member at University College Dublin, he was appointed to the Jean A. Chalmers Chair in Canadian Music in 2002. He is the historian for the Women’s Musical Club of Toronto and coordinates their pre-concert lecture series, “Tuning Your Mind”.
Robin Elliott
Robin Elliott

Robin Elliott

Robin Elliott studied music at Queen’s University (violin and chamber music) and the University of Toronto (musicology). After six years as a faculty member at University College Dublin, he was appointed to the Jean A. Chalmers Chair in Canadian Music in 2002. He is the historian for the Women’s Musical Club of Toronto and coordinates their pre-concert lecture series, “Tuning Your Mind”.
Robin Elliott
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