Bunnett, Jane

 Jane (b Maryjane) Bunnett. Saxophonist, flutist, composer, b Toronto 22 Oct 1956. She studied piano with Harry Heap at the RCMT until tendonitis curtailed her hopes for a concert career. She turned to the flute at 20 and subsequently took up the soprano saxophone. Her teachers in jazz included Jane Fair, Barry Harris, and Steve Lacy. In 1983 she formed a jazz group under her own name, a quintet (or sextet) co-led by her husband, the trumpeter Larry Cramer (b Toronto 7 Jun 1955). The band appeared in local clubs and concerts, at festivals across Canada in 1987 and 1989, and in New Zealand, Australia, and Hawaii in 1990. It has often included noted US musicians, among them the pianist Don Pullen and the tenor saxophonist Dewey Redman. Bunnett and Cramer also performed informally on many occasions in Cuba, beginning in 1986, and appeared (with Pullen) at the Havana International Jazz Festival in 1989 and recorded in Havava for CBC radio in 1991. Bunnett and Pullen performed as a duo at the FIJM in 1990.

Bunnett's recordings with Pullen and Redman brought her as much favourable critical attention internationally as has been enjoyed by any Canadian jazz musician of her generation. By virtue of her influences - primarily Eric Dolphy and Steve Lacy (she studied with the latter in Paris on a Canada Council grant) - she stood somewhat apart from the prevailing styles and trends of the day in contemporary jazz in Canada. Bunnett also played with the Toronto orchestras Banda Brava and Hemispheres, and in two groups with Jane Fair, the Ladies of Jazz, formed in 1986, and Music in Monk Time, formed in 1988.

Bunnett's approach broadened in the early 1990s, primarily as a result of her absorption of Cuban music during her visits to that country. Her 1992 album Spirits of Havana won a Juno award, and she and Cramer began a series of fruitful endeavours with Cuban musicians. They recorded several albums in Cuba, and performed in Canada with visiting Cuban ensembles, in a blend of western jazz and Cuban rhythms that became Bunnett's new trademark. With her band, now named Spirits of Havana, Bunnett toured Canada, Cuba, and Europe several times, playing at jazz and world music festivals. Although she took her ensemble to such cities as Chicago, St. Louis, Seattle, and San Francisco, US legislation limiting relations with Cubans resulted in cancellations of several 1996 performances in the USA. As of 2003, Bunnett and her group were popular performers in Canada.

Bunnett (with her Spirits of Havana ensemble) was the recipient of a second Juno award, for Ritmo + Soul, in 2001; a National Jazz Award in 2001; and a Grammy nomination in 2003. She performed at the 2001 Genie Awards, for which the NFB film Spirits of Havana, on her collaborations with local Cuban musicians, had been nominated. She was active in providing instruments and instrument repairs to Cuban musicians and arranging performer exchanges, and was bestowed with the Toronto Arts award. Jazz Report and Downbeat magazines also recognized Bunnett.

Her compositions include The Wanderer, Limbo, Five, Ginastera, Make Someone Happy, Nice Work, Hole in One, and numerous other pieces, all recorded by her band, and music for the NFB documentary For Richer for Poorer (1988).

Writings

and Cramer, Larry. 'Don Pullen,' Coda, Sept 1995