Hepner; Hillfield-Strathallan & “Linc” Reply

Review by Terry Gaisin

In fairness to our readers, a little personal history may justify a certain positive bias on the part of this reporter.  It was fifty years ago this month that I blind-dated a recent immigrant to Toronto. He was from Montreal, thus cognizant of all the stereotypes his hometown bestowed on my city…lousy restaurants (true); Blue Laws; (also true) cold & insular (still true); and rolled up streets after sunset (NOT true). During those early dates when couples learn about each other; I found out he was an avid fan of live music, including jazz.

The HEPNER Jazz orchestra @ Hillfield-Strathallan

I suggested we go to George’s Spaghetti House that was known for good food & great jazz; it became OUR PLACE! The evening of the 1962 ‘fog bowl’ Grey Cup; we became engaged. Thanks- Doug Cole; Leo Mascarin & that menu favorite – #17 (double cheese & pepperoni).

Last night we enjoyed great jazz just as we did 18,262 days ago. This time it was Darcy Hepner and his group instead of Moe Koffman; and the concert was dedicated to the memory and musical preferences of Lincoln Alexander. Hosted by Hillfield-Strathallan College, the seventeen musicians performed both standards and pop pieces; many of which Linc would always enjoy hearing at a certain local pub. Works by Thad Jones, and arrangements popularized by Boney James were part of the programme. The first set also featured three pieces by Mancini including the “P-dum, P-dum; pdum pdum pdum” theme of a certain odd-coloured puma or catamount.

The second set totally belonged to guest soloist Sophia Perlman who sang such familiar pieces as ‘Satin Doll’ and an interestingly arranged ‘Honeysuckle Rose’ that featured her with just the bass as background. Her scat is a little mumbled but the voice is amazingly powerful for such a non-robust physique. The ‘A Tisket a Tasket’ and “How High the Moon” arrangements mirrored those performed by Nancy Osborne of the Chordettes and were presented just as effectively.

Sophia Perlman fronting the Hepner ensemble

Hepner’s group are all professionals and every solo riff that we heard showcased expertise. However, they seem a little too polished to be part of the improvisational school of the genre. This is certainly not a negative, and Hepner’s 16 musicians deserve their acknowledged place as one of Hamilton’s foremost ensembles. They also deserve a free plug for their weekly gigs at the Corktown Pub at Young (NOT Yonge) & Ferguson.


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