Tunes by Louise Denson
- Lonely WingStraight · 2000-2010 · Medium · Vocal · G · 4/4
Born in Saskatchewan, Canada, Louise has been playing piano all her life. After excursions into classical, folk, and old-time music, clarinet, cello, and banjo, she discovered jazz in her mid-20s and quickly became a convert. After studying at St. Francis Xavier University (Nova Scotia, Canada), she moved to Montreal where she set about trying to make a living as a freelance musician: no easy task.
But, thanks to being introduced to a musical genre which had been virtually unknown to her until her move to Montreal, Louise was able to pay her rent on an on-going basis. She quickly became a valued and well-known quantity on the latin music scene, due to her ability to read, write and arrange music and direct ensembles, as well as being able to play. Montreal was the hottest spot in Canada for latin music in the 1990s, with several well-established clubs hiring live bands regularly. The merengue craze was just hitting Montreal, and Louise musically directed Orquesta Tambora, the first large merengue orchestra – 5 rhythm, 5 horns, numerous singers and dancers – from its inception. She played with every local luminary on the Caribbean scene, including Orquesta Pambiche, Joe Armando, Eval Manigat, Pierre-Michel Menard, Roro d’Haiti, Balmore Estrada, Jab-Jab and Assar Santana. Eventually Louise started her own latin jazz project, A Comer!, with percussionists Paco Reyes and Ramon Ortiz, and fellow latin music-loving jazz musicians Shane MacKenzie (bs), Frank Lozano (tenor, sop) and Aron Doyle (tpt).
Latin music did not completely take over Louise’s musical life, however. In the mid-nineties she spent two years completing her Masters degree in Jazz Improvisation at the New England Conservatory (Boston). Studying under Bevan Manson, Paul Bley, George Russell and Joe Maneri, she greatly expanded her knowledge of contemporary improvisational and compositional practice. Upon returning to Montreal in 1996 she issued her first jazz CD with the Louise Denson Group (LDG), On the Level. It featured 5 original compositions and 2 de-and re-constructed standards, and combined the talents of Mike Milligan (bs), Gary Fieldman (dr), Frank Lozano and Aron Doyle.
Before leaving Canada for warmer climes, Louise had appeared in jazz festivals in Montreal, Ottawa, Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Burlington VT, Rimouski, at the Harbourfront (Toronto), and at numerous smaller festivals and events all over eastern Canada.
In 1999, Louise was offered the chance to emigrate to Australia in order to take up a teaching post at the Queensland Conservatorium, Brisbane. Being fully over Montreal winters, and having never dreamed of ever having the opportunity to visit such a far-flung corner of the globe (almost exactly geographically opposite Montreal!),she jumped at the chance. After the initial shock of realizing that she would not blend in with the locals wearing the collection of white pants and floral print shirts she had carefully acquired for the move (after all, Queensland is the sub-tropics: what else would they all be wearing?), she settled in well.
Louise has been head of the Jazz area at the Qld Conservatorium (affectionately known as “the Con”) since 2002. She teaches piano, aural training, ensemble and jazz composition, with a few other bits and pieces thrown in. Having a full-time teaching and administrative post has definitely curtailed her late night gigging activities, but she has maintained a presence on both the local and national jazz scenes throughout her now permanent stay down under. Louise performs with the Australian version of LDG, latin orchestra Hot Mambo, and jazz vocalist Ingrid James. She is currently undertaking a Doctorate of Musical Arts through Griffith University, focusing on jazz composition and arranging.