Composer John Korsrud evades labels in eclectic musical journey

"I’m always looking for projects to work on with other composers, other kind of theatrical projects that I am attracted to, or just kind of composing myself trying to find a new language that’s kind of unique and unusual."

Trumpet player, bandleader, and composer straddles different worlds with jazz and Latin big band compositions

Vancouver's John Korsrud, a trumpet player, composer and bandleader, travels through many musical worlds from inventive jazz to Latin big band. (Submitted by John Korsrud)

You could call John Korsrud an accomplished trumpeter, composer and bandleader, but it doesn't quite capture the breadth of his eclectic career.

He has played Carnegie Hall, performed with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra and the legendary punk band DOA.

He's also made award-winning music for movies, scored the world's first ever new music extravaganza on ice, and was part of musical multimedia projects inspired by the Stanley Cup riots.

And his two major bands are a study in contrasts.

His Hard Rubber Orchestra builds charging prose with its lyrical, contemporary jazz inventions, but his Latin big band troupe, the Orquesta Goma Dura — Spanish for Hard Rubber Orchestra — takes a slightly different tack with bold percussion and rich colour.

"They're two different sides of the same coin," Korsrud said. "[But] they're both big brassy sounds [and] high energy music."

Listen to John Korsrud's interview with CBC's Margaret Gallagher on Hot Air:

Special guest John Korsrud, trumpet player, composer and bandleader, takes us on a musical journey through many eclectic sonic influences. 54:00

New release with Kenny Wheeler

Korsrud's latest project is a release by the Hard Rubber Orchestra which comes out in August. It's called Suite for Hard Rubber Orchestra writtenby the late jazz composer Kenny Wheeler who died in 2014.

"As far as we know, this is the last large work from him," Korsrud said. "He's really one of the most influential big band jazz orchestra composers. He's up there with Bob Brookmeyer and Maria Schneider."

Korsrud met Wheeler at the Banff Centre in the 1980s. But it wasn't until their mutual friend Hugh Fraser suggested Kenny as a potential collaborator that he considered asking the legendary composer.

"I was honoured  and shocked  — I was honoured even to get a hold of him on the phone — and him agreeing to write us a suite. I asked him for a 10-minute piece [but] he wrote us 25 minutes, 30 minutes," Korsrud said.

Collaboration essential

The Hard Rubber Orchestra's latest release is part of a long tradition of boundary-bending collaboration for Korsrud.

"I'm always looking for projects to work on with other composers, other kind of theatrical projects that I am attracted to, or just kind of composing myself trying to find a new language that's kind of unique and unusual," he said.

"It's always changing ... I'm always going to different wells."

It helps that Korsrud's partner is Jocelyn Morlock, a Juno-winning classical composer in her own right.

"There's always a lot of music around the house and scores. That's really inspiring for me, too," he said.

"We're all just trying to create good music and the boundaries are being broken all the time."

With files from Hot Air