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North America Jazz Alliance

North America Jazz Alliance

When he was ready, Peter Maxymych knew that the key to the project’s success was finding the right musicians. First he found vibraphonist Steve Hobbs after hearing him on a Sirius Jazz Satellite radio station in Florida. A widely respected player from Raleigh, North Carolina, Hobbs has played vibes since he was 17. In addition to leading his own groups, he has performed with such notables as trumpeter Tom Harrell, guitarists Randy Johnston, John Stowell and Bruce Forman, pianist Kenny Barron, saxophonists Gary Bartz and Chris Potter, bandleader Tito Puente, and (in a perfect coincidence) Art Van Damme.

Next the superior Canadian guitarist Greg Clayton was hired. “His style is similar at times to Joe Pass but unique in its own way, with great taste in his phrasing.” Born in Montreal, Clayton played his first engagements when he was 12 and has been a major part of the Montreal jazz scene ever since. He keeps the legacy of bop guitar alive and flourishing.

Since Greg Clayton often works with singer John Labelle, the latter takes guest vocals on three numbers. Influenced by Frank Sinatra but also very familiar with the top jazz singers, Labelle has been singing in Montreal since he was 18. He has been a popular attraction since making a strong impression at the 1995 Montreal Jazz Festival.

Bassist Alec Walkington (born in Ottawa and a fixture in Montreal since 1985) and drummer Dave Laing are major assets in the rhythm section. Both have played with the who’s who of jazz while based in Montreal, and they have both taught at McGill University.

The most important position to fill in this project was naturally the accordion. “I was very lucky to discover Kenny Kotwitz. I found him on You Tube and called him up in Los Angeles. As it turns out, he was Art Van Damme’s best friend and actually played at his funeral. His sound was exactly what I was looking for. “Born in Milwaukee, Kotwitz has long been a significant studio musician in Los Angeles, performing on a countless number of television and motion picture soundtracks, and also appearing at many music festivals. He knew exactly what Peter Maxymych wanted because it was a natural part of his own style.

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