The Saskatoon Jazz Orchestra (SJO) is committed to presenting the highest caliber professional large jazz ensemble music through its programming and through the featuring of local and nationally/internationally celebrated jazz talent. Through these concert activities the SJO delivers top-quality art music to the city of Saskatoon and beyond while professionally developing many of our own established and emerging jazz musicians.
While some SJO concerts are retrospective in nature (e.g. Friends Remembered 2015 SK. tour, Tribute to Duke Ellington, Tribute to Frank Sinatra), others are visionary (e.g. 2014 jazz festival performance of Phil Dwyer’s Changing Seasons (for large jazz orchestra, string orchestra and classical solo violinist Mark Fewer), large ensemble orchestrations of Mike Rud’s Juno award winning CD Notes on Montreal). All concerts feature important current and emerging musicians whose work intersects with the large jazz ensemble idiom specifically.
For many years SJO Artistic Director Dean McNeill directed the Metro Jazz Ensemble of Saskatoon (MJE), which was the precursor and indeed the inspiration for the Saskatoon Jazz Orchestra.
Our Mission: To Preserve Jazz Heritage
Board Of Directors
Martin Phillipson President
Linda McMullen Vice President
Michael Cossar Chief Financial Officier
Ray Stephanson Member at Large
Paul Newton Member at Large
Eric Neufeld Member at Large
Dean McNeill Artistic Director
What Our Featured Artists Say
Such an ensemble and organization creates aesthetic and professional development opportunities for its players, and provides inspiration and aspiration to the coming generations of young musicians, composers, and orchestrators.
And, of course, it permits of the presentation of music that would not otherwise happen in the community at this level of quality.
The demonstrable positive effects of Dean’s (and his colleagues’) contributions can be seen in the coming season of the Orchestra’s concert series. It is broader and more ambitious than ever.
The Honourable Tommy Banks, O.C., A.O.E., LL.D. (Hon.), FRCMT (Hon.)
When I had the opportunity to share the stage with the Saskatoon Jazz Orchestra, it was a magical moment for two reasons. First, the concert consisted of selected pieces from the Duke Ellington Sacred Music Concerts…and I love the music that the Duke himself sited as being his best work. Second, was the fact that I had an opportunity to sing this great music with a big band who could not only play it extremely well, but who really understood and captured the sentiment of the music. SJO swings, and swings hard! The icing on the cake is that all of the members of the band are very nice people which makes up the great energy they produce on stage.
In 2008 I had the distinct pleasure of being invited to perform (as both a vocalist and pianist) with the Saskatoon Jazz Orchestra for the Saskatoon Jazz Festival. Knowing Dean McNeill as a trumpet soloist of the highest calibre, I knew that performing with SJO would be a very memorable musical experience. The level of musicianship was world class; the SJO deserves its national and international recognition. I was impressed with the inclusion of young students in the rhythm section who were clearly aspiring talents. The band embraced all sorts of different musical styles with ease and authenticity. I only hope to be invited back to perform with the SJO again.
Kudos to Dean McNeill and the SJO for pulling off a great performance of my Changing Seasons piece at the 2014 SaskTel Jazz Festival. Everything from the organizational to the playing was top-notch and I predict more exciting things from this group in the future.
Phil Dwyer (C.M.)
The SJO, under the direction of trumpeter, arranger & composer, Dean McNeill, is quickly establishing itself as one of Canada’s finest jazz big bands.
The SJO is a tremendous cultural asset in Western Canada, presenting great Canadian jazz artists alongside locally-based musicians for engaging and exciting concert performances. I’m grateful for every opportunity I have to perform with the band.
Eric Platz, Brandon University Jazz Faculty
Molly Johnson recently performed with Dean McNeill and the SJO as part of the 2015 Saskatoon Jazz Festival. From the initial booking to the actual performance, Dean and I (as Molly’s musical director) worked together to bring a program of entirely new arrangements for Molly and jazz orchestra to fruition. A lot goes on behind the scenes, and Dean was involved on almost every level, musically and organizationally. Come actual performance time, Dean and the SJO played beautifully and proved they are world-class professionals. It was an absolute pleasure.
Mike Downes, Humber University Faculty