New Music for Trumpet and Piano

DEAN MCNEILL, trumpet and flugelhorn
JON BALLANTYNE, jazz piano
BONNIE NICHOLSON, classical piano



"The classical pieces are from Canadian composers, and I liked all of them...The Trumpet Sonata given here is nicely done, as is the Aria. [McNeill plays] a warm flugel that rivals dear old Chuck Mangione...I can definitely recommend this for the jazz, and the classical pieces are fine too... Jazz enthusiasts will fine some nice readings here."
Steven Ritter, Audiophile Audition - Jaunary 2009
"Dean McNeill has subtitled Mélange "New Music for Trumpet and Piano." The key word here is "new," for in this album McNeill and several of his friends explore the borderland where jazz and classical genres meet and coexist happily. Perhaps it is fitting that McNeill himself teaches at the University of Saskatchewan, in the Canadian prairie province of that name, for as with a prairie, Mélange seems to breathe the air of wide open spaces and boundless possibilities.

Fortunately, the trumpet, McNeill’s instrument, is equally at home in both the jazz and the classical media, swimming freely in both streams without losing any of its character. On this album he has two superb pianists as partners, Bonnie Nicholson in the classical pieces and Jon Ballantyne in the jazz tracks. The classical pieces, which seem to grow more noticeably jazz-inflected as we get further into the program, are, in order, Allan Gililand’s grandly imposing Concerto for Trumpet (1993), Elizabeth Raum’s wide-ranging Variations for Trumpet and Piano (2006), which is her seamlessly imaginative re-writing of an original work for flute and piano, and David McIntyre’s intriguing Sonata for Trumpet (1990), whose movements are entitled "Mystery-Game-Mystery-Game." The last classical piece, Aria for Trumpet (2006) by David Kaplan, lifts us up and carries us off, as an aria should do.

The jazz numbers, interspersed with the classical, are richly varied in style, mood and harmony. They include original compositions, free improvisations, and a pair of evergreen jazz standards. The title of McNeill’s Fall in may sound like an army sergeant’s command, but the intimate mood created by his trumpet lets us know that "falling in love" is what the piece is really about. Fluze Blues is a deliciously quirky improv based on the 12-bar blues form of that name (and not on the fact that Dean was in fact sick with the flu when recording the jazz portion of the program, something you would never guess from the smart inflections and sweetly glowing tones that he cultivates). Spacious, Restless World, and Outergate were improvised during the jazz sessions by McNeill and Ballantyne and named after the fact. The title of the last-named seems appropriate, as it is the most outré of the three in its flavorful dissonances. But each of the three does a bit of envelope-pushing in its own way, as does McNeill’s composition Intro.

McNeill and Ballantyne go back to the Forties for two jazz standards, Billy Eckstine’s I Want to Talk about You (1940), which seems new and refreshing to each new generation of musicians and jazz fans who discover it, and the Jack Lawrence/Walter Gross Tenderly (1946), a sentimental favorite that never seems to outstay its welcome no matter how often we’ve heard it.

The program concludes with a charming Lullaby, which McNeill describes as having been co-written with his daughter Phoebe Deanne McNeill when her mother Jennifer was recovering from her delivery on May 17, 2007. Since Phoebe was still no more than five months old when McNeill recorded the jazz tracks on October 15-16, she must have been precocious indeed! Whatever means Phoebe used to communicate her part of the collaboration, Lullaby is the real thing – straight from the heart, as all good jazz must be."
Atlanta Audio Society - October 2008
Repertoire: The thematic component to this project is that of instrumentation (i.e. music for trumpet and piano) rather than musical genre. Repertoire and inspiration were gleaned from both jazz and classical sources. This project showcases Western Canadian talent (composers and performers) with the exception of Soul Mates composed by Dan Hearle and the jazz standards Tenderly and I Want To Talk About You.

Western Canadian Repertoire: The idea to focus half the repertoire for this disc on Western Canadian composers emerged from working with University of Saskatchewan graduate student Daniel Funk who recently compiled a database of classical repertoire for trumpet by Canadian prairie composers. This database was part of Daniel’s Master’s degree in Brass Pedagogy. Composers Dr. David Kaplan and Elizabeth Raum were approached and asked if they had any solo pieces for trumpet and piano that could be considered for this project. Both Variation for Trumpet and Aria for Trumpet were delivered shortly thereafter. Variation for Trumpet was originally composed for flute in 1996. Special thanks to both Elizabeth and David for preparing these works for this recording.

Jazz Repertoire: The jazz repertoire is a stylistic cross-section of compositions selected by Dean McNeill including jazz standards, original compositions, and free improvisations.

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Head of the Department of Music at the University of Saskatchewan Canadian trumpeter/composer Dean McNeill is a graduate of the University of North Texas (M.Mus), McGill University (B.Mus), and Grant McEwan College (Dip.). Dean has composed and/or arranged music for professional ensembles including brass quintet, symphony orchestra, large and small brass ensembles, jazz combo, and large jazz ensemble. Dean’s arrangement of the jazz standard All of You won an award from Downbeat Magazine for University Student Arrangement of the Year.

In the jazz idiom Dean has performed with the Banff Centre Jazz Orchestra, Vancouver Jazz Orchestra, the Birth of the Cool Repertoire Project, the Art Blakey Tribute Project, and with the likes of Kenny Wheeler, Pat LaBarbera, P.J. Perry, Bobby Caldwell, Hugh Fraser, Campbell Ryga, and Tommy Banks. Dean currently directs the Metro Jazz Ensemble of Saskatoon and he has led many of his own small jazz groups as projects throughout Western Canada.

In the classical idiom Dean has been a member of the Saskatchewan Brass Quintet (Saskatoon, Saskatchewan), the Blue Bonnet Brass (Fort Worth, Texas), and the Red Deer (Alberta), Irving (Texas), and Saskatoon (Saskatchewan) Symphony Orchestras. He has performed in numerous classical chamber recitals throughout Western Canada, conducted the Saskatoon Symphony (pops concerts), and recently performed trumpet recitals at the University of Alberta (Edmonton, Alberta), Auburn University (Auburn, Alabama), Oklahoma State University (Stillwater, Oklahoma), University of Saskatchewan (Saskatoon, Saskatchewan), and the 2007 Western Canadian Music Awards (Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan).

Dean has adjudicated throughout Canada, has been the Musical Director of the Texas Lone Star Film Awards, the Edmonton Jazz Society’s Little Bird Big Band and Jazz Works music workshop. Dean has often adjudicated the Western Canadian Music Awards and the Canadian Juno Awards. At the U of S Dean has taught applied trumpet, trumpet ensemble, large jazz ensemble, jazz history, jazz materials (theory) and jazz pedagogy. Dean is a recipient of the U of S Dept of Music’s Dwaine Nelson Teaching Award.

In 2007, Dean released a CD of his compositions and arrangement for big band entitled Prairie Fire-Large Jazz Ensemble featuring many acclaimed Canadian jazz players/composers. Dean is a Yamaha artist.

Manhattan-based, Saskatchewan-born jazz pianist Jon Ballantyne has released nine albums, won two Juno awards, most recently in 2007 for Avenue Standard, and received three Juno nominations as a leader. In 2007-2008, following recent tours of Europe, Israel, Canada, and the USA with his acclaimed quartet including Boris Kozlov, Jeff Hirshfield and Douglas Yates, Jon has embarked on a series of solo piano projects.

Jon’s early interest in studying and performing music ultimately led to his collaborations musically (onstage and/or recording) with musicians such as Joe Henderson, Paul Bley, Dewey Redman, Billy Hart, Roy Haynes, Drew Gress, Dave Liebman, and most recently as part of the Francois Houle Octet. In his formative years, Jon played alongside Pepper Adams, Woody Herman’s Thundering Herd, Ed Bickert, Terry Clarke, Neil Swainson and Jerry Fuller. Jon has studied with musical greats such as Cecil Taylor, Ed Blackwell, Kenny Wheeler, Don Thompson, Karl Berger, Elvin Jones, Richie Beirach, Barry Harris, Joanne Brackeen and Lee Konitz.

Born in Prince Albert Saskatchewan, Bonnie Nicholson is much in demand as a piano teacher, performer, and clinician. Her degrees include a Bachelor of Music (Performance) and a Master of Arts Degree from the U of S, as well as an A.R.C.T. in Piano Performance from the Royal Conservatory of Music Bonnie’s teachers and influences include Janet Wendland, mentor Robin Harrison, Claude Savard, and Mark Wescott.

Bonnie is a seasonal lecturer in the U of S Department of Music. In 1993, Bonnie received the Florence Bowes Piano Pedagogy Scholarship from the SRMTA, in 2000, the U of S Dwaine Nelson Teaching Award, and in 2004, the Sylvia Wallace Sessional Teaching Award, a university-wide award at the U of S. In their evaluations, students and colleagues have commented on Bonnie’s “innovative and insightful teaching methods”, and her “enthusiasm and encouragement”. Bonnie’s students consistently excel at competitions, festivals, and music exams. A recent student highlight came in February of 2006 when Bonnie’s former student, Dr. Thomas Yu, won the 17th International Piano Competition for Outstanding Amateurs in Paris, France.

Bonnie is an in-demand adjudicator in Saskatchewan and throughout Western Canada. She is an avid supporter of the Canadian Music Competitions, provincially and nationally. She has performed on CBC Radio, and on CDs with Bass-Baritone Henri Loiselle, the Saskatoon Children’s Choir, and the Saskatoon Fireside Singers.


Allan Gilliland
Concerto for Trumpet (1993)

Dean McNeill
Fall In (2006)

Dean McNeill & Jon Ballantyne
Flues Blues (2007)

Billy Eckstine
I Want To Talk About You (1940)

Elizabeth Raum
Variations for Trumpet and Piano (2006)

Dean McNeill & Jon Ballantyne
Spacious (2007)

Dan Hearle
Soul Mates (1977)

David McIntyre
Sonata for Trumpet (1990)

Dean McNeill & Jon Ballantyne
Restless World (2007)

Dean McNeill & Jon Ballantyne
Integrate This (2007)

Dean McNeill
Intro (2007)

Jack Lawrence & Walter Gross
Tenderly (1946)

David Kaplan
Aria for Trumpet (2006)

Dean & Phoebe McNeill
Lullaby (2007)

MSR Classics