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 from within the province of Saskatchewan.
While some SJO concerts are retrospective in nature others are visionary. All are highly artistic projects that feature important current and emerging jazz musicians whose professional 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.
Where Jazz Heritage Meets New Perspectives
Board Of Directors
Martin Phillipson President
Larry Tehse Chief Financial Officer
Linda McMullen Member at Large
Paul Newton Member at Large
Ray Stephanson Member at Large
Dave Hannah Member at Large
Nick Fanner SYJO Conductor
Dean McNeill Artistic Director
Bryn Becker Media & Promotions
What Our Featured Artists Say
I have now had the opportunity to collaborate with the Saskatoon Jazz Orchestra on three very distinct projects that includes the presentation of Ellington repertoire, a ‘then and now’ look at Count Basie and most recently a reimaging of the music of Steely Dan.
The SJO’s commitment to the preparation of the music and the excellence they demonstrate in the performance make them one of the leading jazz orchestras in Canada and an important part of the cultural fabric in the greater Saskatoon area. They swing, they groove, they improvise – they are a finely tuned and musically refined group.
To play to full houses and to feel the excitement, energy and vibe that is generated by everyone involved, makes working with the SJO a very enriching musical experience. They are very fortunate to be under the artistic direction of Dean McNeill who, with his depth and breadth of musical knowledge, steers the ensemble with a clear and artistic vision.
It was a pleasure to share the stage with performers that I can now refer to as friends and colleagues and I look forward to more opportunities in the future.
Raymond Baril, MacEwan University Faculty
It is always great to visit my home province. Such a pleasure to work with several school groups as well as the SJO. I was so impressed by the way the SJO stepped up to the plate. After the first tune of the concert it was clear there was no messin’ around, they came to play!!! Wonderful people playing some great Canadian music and sounding fantastic. They are helping to keep high level jazz alive in Saskatoon! Bravo to you all.
Gord Foote, Professor of Jazz Studies, University of Toronto
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.)
Playing with the Saskatoon Jazz orchestra is indeed a great joy! Whether swingin’ or groovin’, or swingin’ and groovin’ the SJO brings it and in grand style!!! So nice to work with an organization that takes the preparation process as seriously as the performance itself. Thanks you for the opportunity and let’s do it again soon. Call on me anytime!!!
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