I was born on August 23rd, 1952. My parents were Dutch immigrants who came to Canada in 1947. My Mother had studied music so imagine the culture shock of coming to a pig farm in Stouffville, Ontario in 1947. My Father was a hard working man who was glad to do agricultural work; he liked nothing better then being outside in the fields, orchards and bee yards.
The most important thing my Mother taught us was to seriously listen while my Fathers’ contribution was the necessity and value of hard work and self reliance.
Mother schooled us in music. She ran a church choir, I sang in it when I was in grade 7 and 8. We used to sit in the music room and listen to things, one day Beethoven another day opera, another day Stravinsky. Listen, not talk. We would watch Leonard Bernsteins’ Young Peoples Concerts instead of Bonanza. One day when I was in grade 2 or 3 she brought home a Count Basie record and that was it for me, I instantly became a Jazz head. I had a Miles Davis record, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Al Cohn, Shorty Rogers, Benny Goodman, all really good stuff. I listened every week to a jazz show on the radio called Jazz Unlimited, used to come on Saturday mornings, a guy named McDonald who played Gerry Mulligan, Woody Herman, Stan Kenton, great stuff. I told a music teacher when I was in grade 4 that I wanted to be a jazz musician when I grew up. Other kids brought Elvis and Beatle records to school, I brought Count Basie.
My Mother filled our house with instruments. We had an old Steinway overstrung grand piano, a violin, guitars, and she bought me a King C-melody saxophone at the Salvation Army in Hamilton for $15. The horn did not play, pads were falling out but I loved it, still have it, should have it restored some time.
In 1960 I was 8 years old. At the time Henry Mancini and Nelson riddle were writing the music for television shows and movies. Post swing era jazz and big bands were the musical language of the day and I had the ears and was hearing it. Duke Ellington, Artie Shaw, Mulligan, Coltrane, Marty Paitch, Zoot Sims, Phil Woods and Stan Getz. I had Dave Brubeck records, loved them. Paul Desmonds’ lyricism and Joe Morellos’ exquisite touch. At the time television variety shows featured the great singers and players. Sinatra, Dean Martin, Mel Torme, Andy Williams, Tom Jones, Tony Bennet, Rosemary Clooney with the Hi Los, Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme were all on TV regularly.
Two of my older brothers with my sister were like a Peter Paul and Mary folk trio in high school. They were playing gigs and going electric and when I was 14 my brother said I could play drums in the band. I had been watching the drummer they had and could do everything he did so 2 weeks later I did my first paid gig. Right off the bat I had to play and sing harmony parts. All through high school I was making my pocket money playing, usually high school dances. I joined the Hamilton musicians Union at 16, after grade 12 was on the road, had tons of pro playing experiences. When I finally met Jazz Musicians in Hamilton I discovered that I could play jazz, it wasn’t just a far away thing that other people did!
A singer named Lenny Martin that I was working with told me to check out Sinatra so I bought Sinatra At The Sands with Count Basie and this was one of those light bulb clicking on moments, aha!!!!!! From that point I was a Sinatra and singers fan, as much as a Jazz head.
I was asked to play in a Big Band in Hamilton, learned to read, was playing baritone sax and singing in one band, drums in another. Came to Toronto in 1980, had steady work jobbing with everybody but Toronto is a tough nut to crack. I could not get in to the real inner circles so I started my own big band in 1988 after being encouraged by Bob Cary, Al Hirsh and other guys, to entertain people, play for ballroom dancers and get pro money. The reputation of my band built along with our track record, eventually we were consistently busy but towards the end of the 90’s amateur rehearsal bands began undercutting us and it became more difficult to get gigs, but that’s the story everywhere. It has never been easy.
Through the 90’s I had been learning arranging and discovered that I had a head for it. Eventually after working through the Dick Grove method with Shelly Berger the floodgates were opened and all this music came pouring out onto paper. I compulsively wrote a big band chart every week for 10 or 12 years straight. When my youngest son Corwin was born in 2000 I started on the Seventet charts and here we are 14 years and 900 charts later.
The Seventet charts really are my life’s work. Whatever my unique voice in music is, it comes out in those charts. Big band charts tend to be generically big band sounding and I’m told I have a “sound” but the Seventet charts are unique. They really reflect the musical era that I was surrounded by as a kid, all that late 50’s and early 60’s swinging modern post swing era small and big band stuff, mixed in with counterpoint and classical uses of color, mixed in with all the years of professional pop and entertainment experience I had. I find myself writing lines straight out of Al Cohn and Billy Byers, Gerry Mulligan and Woody Herman, stuff from when I was a kid.
I do not believe that the evolution of Jazz parallels the evolution of European Classical Music, that music progresses upwards inevitably into abstraction. To me jazz should always be about the groove, expressing what’s going on around you, the blues and the beat. Why shouldn’t people be able to dance to it? I appreciate really high level players, am in awe of what they accomplish but for me the greater focus always was the songwriters, Jerome Kern, Richard Rogers, Harold Arlen, whose tunes, along with the blues, are the basis of all jazz. My career has always been about playing those songs, entertaining and having real communication with the crowds on pro paying gigs.
Band, everybody cool? 1, 2, 1234……
- 1959 Gretsch Broadcaster drums, 20” bass, 13, 16” toms, wood snare with deep bed for calfskin heads. These are the original Mel Lewis drums.
- 1972 Gretsch 12 and 14 toms, metal chrome snare. Eventually dipped the snare in acid to remove the chrome. Great brass sound.
- 1960 Ludwig snare, die cast rim added for better rim shot tone.
- 1990 Ludwig Super Sensitive snare, die cast rim. GREAT tone.
- 1945? Slingerland Radio King Snare.
- 2010 Yamaha Tour Custom drums, 10, 12, 14, 16, 20” bass, fabulous wood snare.
- Paiste formula 602 19”, 20” flat ride, 22” medium ride, Istanbul K. Zildjian 22” ride, too many more cymbals to list.
- 1925? King H.N. White C-Melody sax # 31607.
- 1930 Conn Soprano Sax #119669.
- 1951 King Super 20 underslung Silver Neck Alto Sax #352123.
- 1941 Conn 6MVIII Alto sax #300763
- 1935 Conn Transitional “Naked Lady” Tenor Sax #M265790.
- 1972 Selmer Mark 6 Baritone Sax low Bb #188290.
- 1951 Conn 12M Baritone Sax #348696
- 1995 Yamaha YSS 62 Soprano Sax #013484.
- 1942 Boosey and Hawkes Imperial Clarinet #49446
My favorite horns are the Conns. Big, flexible and free blowing with meat in the tone.
1948 Heintzman Model K grand piano.
Pilot Parallel 1.5 mm Calligraphy Pen with 2 way width of stroke function and disposable ink cartridges.
Music parts paper based on Kendor 10 staff with title, reduced to 8 ½ X 11. Also based on Carta #12 paper.
Please note I do not use Finale or Sibelius. I write at my piano with pencil on score paper.
- 1996 Starlight Orchestra Live at the Palais Royale: Spring Forward.
- 1997 Starlight Orchestra I Can Feel It In My Bones.
- 2000 Starlight Orchestra Live at Big Band Showdown.
- 2001 James Glanville at Stage West.
- 2005 Colin Hunter Come Fly With Me.
- 2006 Colin Hunter Timeless.
- 2007 George St. Kitts A Lot Of Livin’ To Do.
- 2008 Colin Hunter Timeless Too.
- 2010 Colin Hunter Timeless Three.
- 2011 Colin Hunter More timelessness
- 2014 Andy De Campos Colors
On all of these records I am the producer, arranger and director. Tenor sax and vocals on the first three. Then I started becoming music director for feature singers. From the James Glanville record onwards I don’t play, just write the charts then stand in front and direct, as I do with the Dean Martin Show, Rat Pack and Colin Hunter shows. The big band studio records were all done at Primrose Avenue studio and were engineered and mixed by Jeff Wolpert. Colors with Andy Decampos was done at Noble Street Studios and is the first serious Seventet recording we have done.
Sad to say, the opportunity to record the Seventet in the studio has not come up often enough but there is lots on Youtube with Andy Decampos, The Sparklettes, George Evans, Rick Levine, Chris Gardner and many others.