- Music Alumna’s Versatile Voice Returns to Grebel
March 6, 2020
The powerful voice of Mary-Catherine Pazzano delivered a captivating rendition of Leonard Bernstein’s musical works, both well-loved and little-known. On February 26, she was accompanied by accomplished pianist Paul Stouffer as part of Conrad Grebel University College’s Noon Hour Concert Series. A University of Waterloo and Grebel alumna herself, Mary-Catherine remarked that “it’s always good to be back!” She graduated from UWaterloo with a Bachelor of Arts in Music and Drama in 2010. Since then she has become a well-loved musician and performer throughout Kitchener-Waterloo and is the founder and director of local music programs Jazz in the Schools and Jazz for Adults.
The audience was transfixed from the moment Mary-Catherine opened with jazzy renditions of “I Feel Like I’m Not Out of Bed Yet” and the energetic “New York New York” from Bernstein’s On the Town. She said she loved the opportunity to jazz-up some of Bernstein’s work while leaving some pieces as they were. She exemplified her ability to transcend genres with a beautiful soprano “Dream with Me” from Bernstein’s Peter Pan play. Growing up watching Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer musicals made her well acquainted with, and sparked her interest in, the musical style of American Standards.
“Jazz is where my heart is. I identify with it the most.” While Mary-Catherine was classically trained, she found herself drawn to jazz throughout her musical career. She shared how Bernstein’s eclectic style can provide an adventurous performance. “You can decide what voice to use and how the piece is best served,” she explained. “I feel like I work every vocal muscle that I have when I sing Bernstein.”
When she was a Grebel student, Mary-Catherine enjoyed various opportunities to be involved in music outside the classroom. She participated in all of the choir ensembles: the Chapel Choir for two semesters, the Chamber Choir, and the University Choir. Mary-Catherine was also one of the first Music Living-Learning Community peer leaders.
The Noon Hour Concert audience on the 26th was invited into one of Mary-Catherine’s most personally treasured performances. As she prepared to sing “I Feel Pretty” from West Side Story, Mary-Catherine explained that she had performed this at the Birdland Jazz Club in New York. “I got to perform with the house band – New York musicians at the top of their game. The piano player had been Liza Minnelli’s music director for 20 years, and I love Liza Minnelli.” This is still one of her most proud performance moments. Getting to make music with those who had played with her jazz heroes was an unforgettable experience. “Sharing the stage with them was a huge honour.”
In October, Mary-Catherine will be part of a Judy Garland tribute project. “We’re flying in an Emmy-winning historian from New York. It’s going to be a multi-media event.” She said that they are starting off in Kitchener and hoping that the project will expand to Toronto as well. Meanwhile, she looks forward to working on a new album as soon as possible.
Mary-Catherine shared that the eclectic nature of Grebel and UWaterloo’s Music program is what makes it unique. She has found that the music industry is in an era where being versatile is an important marketable skill. “Through this degree, yes, I was a vocal major and that was my instrument, but I got to take conducting, and music theory, and history, and I was also a drama minor.” She said this minor has helped her become a better performer. “Every time I look at a new song, I think of the lyrics as a script and how I’m going to act that out.” She thinks the opportunity to learn across genres and faculties entices people to study in the Music program. “The well-roundedness presented here is well-suited for what the music biz model is in the world.”
- Leonard Bernstein at 100 Review
Mary-Catherine Pazzano “Leonard Bernstein at 100” – The Registry Theatre on Feb 9
Mary Catherine Pazzano – “Leonard Bernstein at 100.” MC who developed the program herself had the right vocal prowess and sultry stage presence to carry this off. She did an incredible job, not just singing Bernstein’s acclaimed repertoire like songs from “West Side Story” but teaching the audience about this renowned composer, and conductor telling the backstories behind some of Bernstein’s lesser-known stage and screen works like “On The Town.” Jason Hunter’s sax and Ben Bolt Martin’s cello solos were the icing on the centennial cake.
- Concert review: Composers fete their teacher John Eaton at Symphony Space
“Maurice Ravel once complained that all his composition students (except Ralph Vaughan Williams) “write my music” — that is, try to be mini-Ravels. In welcoming the audience Saturday night, the composer’s widow, soprano Nelda Nelson-Eaton, said the evening’s program would show how her husband encouraged each student to find his or her distinctive voice.
As if to make her point, the first item on the program left the academic hothouse behind for the hard fields of Appalachian Kentucky. In Songs for My Mother, composer and pianist Carol Ann Weaver put a simple, lightly syncopated accompaniment under the vibrato-less voice of soprano Mary-Catherine Pazzano in plain, affecting settings of her mother’s words about rural life in the 1940s, children, and approaching death.”
- This week: concerts in New York (March 25, 2019 – March 31, 2019)
- Leonard Bernstein at 100
KITCHENER — Just when you think you know the music of iconic American composer Leonard Bernstein, a few surprises pop up.
For Kitchener jazz singer Mary-Catherine Pazzano, the lesser known pieces of Bernstein revealed hidden surprises, music that is not only beautiful but technically difficult.
“It’s been challenging,” admitted Pazzano, who will perform “Leonard Bernstein at 100” Saturday, Feb. 9, at Kitchener’s Registry Theatre, celebrating the centenary of the composer’s birth. The concert is part of the Winter Jazz Series running Feb. 7 to 10.
The thing about Bernstein is he wrote in so many genres, including opera, symphonic, orchestral, ballet, film scores, musical theatre, choral and chamber. So, putting together a program that truly represented the composer’s artistry meant she had to be prepared to sing in several different styles, with plenty of challenging octaves to climb up and slide down.
“I’ve done classical projects but a lot of what I’ve been doing now is jazz, it’s a bit lower (range),” she said, adding that singing this music revealed a previously unexplored aspect of her voice she didn’t know existed. Her voice had darkened, become richer and deeper with age.
“I sound like a woman now,” she joked.
Pazzano will perform with her band: Jason Hunter on sax, Don Buchanan on piano, Pat Collins on bass and Steve James on drums.
Aside from a teaching degree, Pazzano holds a bachelor of arts in music and drama from the University of Waterloo. Her debut album “You’re Gonna Hear From Me” was released in October 2017. But with her concentration on jazz over the past few years, tackling a wider range of vocal gymnastics took some preparation.
The Registry’s program director and co-founder of the Winter Jazz Series, Lawrence McNaught, said there was no question in his mind as to who he would ask to perform Bernstein as part of the series that runs Feb. 7 to 10 at three venues.
To start with, Pazzano has remarkable range and a certain 1940s vibe that makes her the perfect choice for this interpretation of Bernstein’s music.
“Mary-Catherine is such a sweetheart,” he said. “Of all the performers I have worked with, she is the hardest working person. I’m such a fan of hers.”
Pazzano’s concert is one of two that weekend at the Registry. Both are part of the fourth annual Winter Jazz Series. The Friday night concert will feature Larry Larson’s Jazz Guys at the Registry. As well there are concerts at the Jazz Room in the Huether Hotel and First United Church in Waterloo. It will be all jazz, all weekend and Pazzano is thrilled to be part of it.
When she began some deep diving into historical records about Bernstein, the singer found a treasure trove of scores not commonly performed.
“Everyone knows the music from his “West Side Story,” but he did so much more great music,” she said. “On The Town” people know from the movies but it was actually a stage show.
“A lot of the music didn’t make it into the movie, but I think it was some of his best stuff.”
She first heard the music from “On The Town” at a revival of the stage production in New York a few years ago and loved it, though she was also not really surprised the music wasn’t in the movie.
Some of the lyrics are “full of innuendo,” she said, and much of it would have been too challenging to sing for any movie star who hadn’t been classically trained, even the likes of Gene Kelly.
One of her favourite Bernstein songs and one that also challenges her vocally is “Dream With Me” from the film, “Peter Pan,” where she will have guest artist, cellist Ben Bolt-Martin, perform.
“I chose the program, it’s been exciting,” she said.
McNaught said Pazzano’s concert is the perfect way to launch the jazz series, which will also feature the Robi Botos Trio at the Jazz Room. The festival will wrap up Sunday, Feb. 10, with a collaboration between the Sir John A. Macdonald Big Band and JazzFM Youth Big Band performing together on the stage of First United Church in Waterloo, as part of the church’s First On Stage series.
- Jazz vocalist Mary-Catherine Pazzano featured in this month’s Christ Church Concert
“A rising star known for her interpretations of jazz standards, Mary-Catherine will be performing [from her]… debut album, You’re Gonna Hear From Me, released last year and winning international accolades.”
- “You’re Gonna Hear From Me” Album Review by jazz journalist Scott Yanow
Scott Yanow, May 10, 2018
A talented jazz and ballad singer based in Ontario, Canada, Mary-Catherine Pazzano has an attractive high voice and a subtle improvising style. While she is involved in jazz education (founding and directing both Jazz In The Schools and Jazz For Adults), she is also very active as a performer. You’re Gonna Hear From Me is her debut CD as a leader.
Ms. Pazzano is joined on the project by pianist Don Buchanan, bassist Pat Collins, drummer Steve James and occasionally Jason Hunter on tenor and soprano. Each of the musicians consistently gives her sympathetic support with occasional brief solos.
The set begins with a welcome revival of the title cut. “You’re Gonna Hear From Me.” The Andre Previn song from the movie Inside Daisy Clover perfectly fits the singer’s pretty voice and her wide range. She next performs the lesser-known Harry Warren ballad “Friendly Star” and a warm piece that she co-composed with Don Buchanan, “A Simple Conversation.” “All the Things You Are” is given an unusual but effective treatment, starting out with some wordless classical-type singing that makes the piece sound as if it was written by Bach before the familiar melody emerges.
While the emphasis on the program is on thoughtful ballads, there are a few exceptions, most notably a happily swinging version of “It’s De-Lovely” that includes some fine tenor playing. Her version of Jobim’s “How Insensitive” has a mysterious and haunting feeling to it that is quite atmospheric. A tender rendition of Joni Mitchell’s “River” precedes a fine version of “Charade” (which has a bit of Ms. Pazzano’s scatting) and the Bergman’s thoughtful ballad “Alone In The World,” both of which are performed tastefully.
The last three performances on the CD are among the set’s highpoints. A logical medley of “Manhattan” and “New York State Of Mind” goes from sweet to bluesy. “I Can’t Believe That You’re In Love With Me” is a real swinger that cooks. Then, for a closing surprise, Ms. Pazzano sings one chorus of the sad and quietly dramatic “A Cottage For Sale” as an unaccompanied vocal.
You’re Gonna Hear From Me is an excellent debut from a singer who, indeed, much more will be heard from in the future.
Scott Yanow, jazz journalist/historian and author of 11 books including The Jazz Singers, Jazz On Film and Jazz On Record 1917-76
- Musical women in the spotlight at Registry Theatre show Friday
“Every song that we’ve chosen has some kind of personal connection,” she says. That includes Pazzano’s longstanding fascination with Judy Garland.
“My mother tells me I was transfixed in front of the television any time the Wizard of Oz was on. As an infant, the only thing that got me to quiet down was a music box playing ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow,’” she laughs.“I’m definitely paying homage to her with this.”
From those influences, both performers took a musical path that includes formal studies and, now, time as musical educators in their own right.
Pazzano is a classically trained contralto, with a vocal range that can cover the gamut of emotions.”
- “You’re Gonna Hear From Me” Album Review in WholeNote Magazine
On her debut release, elegant chanteuse Mary-Catherine Pazzano has not only shown exceptional good taste in presenting 12 fine compositions from musical theatre, film and the Great American Songbook, but she has also conscripted a superb lineup of musical collaborators, including Don Buchanan on piano (also co-producer), Jason Hunter on saxophones, Pat Collins on bass and Steve James on drums. Arranged and produced by Pazzano, she has selectively dipped into the catalogues of venerable composers such as Jerome Kern, Oscar Hammerstein, Harry Warren, Cole Porter, Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer as well as contemporary artists, Joni Mitchell and Billy Joel.
First up is the stirring (and rarely performed) title track, written for the cult film Inside Daisy Clover starring Natalie Wood. Pazzano shines throughout with energy and luscious tone, as she soars with her quartet. Buchanan and Pazzano have included one well-written original composition, A Simple Conversation – which has the potential to become a contemporary jazz standard. Another standout is Mancini and Mercer’s Charade, from the hit movie of the same name starring Audrey Hepburn. Haunting and languid, this tune is set as perfectly as a Tiffany solitaire – with a many-faceted voice/bass section in front, followed by an up-tempo sequence and fine bass solo from Collins.
Pazzano possesses a gorgeous, classically trained contralto voice capable of projecting the full gamut of emotions, as well as an uncanny skill with rendering the lyrics of current music, jazz standards and show tunes. A fine opening salvo!
- Two unique shows coming to the Jazz Room this week
“At this special Jazz Room presentation, the smooth and theatrical voices of Joni NehRita, Mary-Catherine Pazzano and Derek Hines will be featured in this repeat performance by two of the region’s finest ensembles.”
- “You’re Gonna Hear From Me” charts on CFMU
“You’re Gonna Hear From Me” charts on CFMU Radio on November 17, 2017.
- “You’re Gonna Hear From Me” charts on Muzooka Radio
“You’re Gonna Hear From Me” charts on Muzooka Radio for the week of November 8, 2017.
- CJAM Top 30
“You’re Gonna Hear From Me” charts at #15 for the week of October 30-November 5, 2017
- Jazz at the Library Caps Season With Mary-Catherine Pazzano
“Local jazz fans will remember her concert at the L. E. Shore Library this past spring where she celebrated the hundredth birthday of Ella Fitzgerald with stories and songs, accompanied by the Don Buchanan quartet. It was a performance that brought two standing ovations from the sellout crowd.”
- Jazz singer launches debut album at The Jazz Room
Mary-Catherine Pazzano’s earliest musical memories are of sitting on her grandmother’s knee singing along while she played piano.
Pazzano even ended up inheriting her grandmother’s rather eclectic collection of old sheet music, everything from the children’s ditty “Do You Know the Muffin Man” up to soul tracks. She’s had a few of these published manuscripts framed and hung in the music studio in her Kitchener room, beside numerous classic movie posters.
The early influences of her grandmother and old movies led Pazzano to sing at full throttle from the time she was a little kid. Her first solo was in Grade 4, an age where she could have gone either way: stage fright or fearless. She chose the latter, mostly because she didn’t know any different.
“I had never known that was anything special,” she admitted.
As a teenager, Pazzano was lucky enough to attend Bluevale Secondary when the multiple award winning music educator and choral conductor, Nancy Kidd taught music before retiring. “She showed me the possibilities,” said Pazzano. “She made me think of music on a deeper level. She’s been a huge inspiration.”
That influence led Pazzano to study vocal performance at the University of Waterloo, where she graduated in 2010 having studied under another highly respected musician and vocal teacher, Stephanie Kramer.
“She really gave me my classical training,” she said.
Those experiences with two remarkable teachers had a profound impact on Pazzano who launches her debut studio album, “You’re Gonna Hear From Me” Friday night at the Jazz Room in Waterloo. She’s pretty stoked.
“The first time I played at the Jazz Room, I had great local people working with me,” she said. “They were really helpful.”
Pazzano had been living in Toronto until 2012 where she completed teachers college and thought she’d launch a singing career, figuring the big city would have more opportunities. She soon changed her mind. “I decided to move back to Kitchener,” she said. “I wanted a performance career and there is so much happening here.”
Despite her classical training, Pazzano had switched gears to pursue jazz, a genre that provided more opportunities with just as many vocal gymnastics.
Pazzano also has not forgotten the deep influences of her vocal teachers and is now paying it forward, running a voice studio in her home and founding Jazz in the Schools, a program designed to spark the musical creativity of students. She also runs a jazz for adults class.
The singer’s decision to switch to jazz has been good for her career. She has become a regular performer at Collingwood’s Jazz at the Library series, Southampton United Church’s Jazz Series and she headlines with the Canadian Big Band Celebration in Port Elgin.
For the Jazz Room concert, Pazzano will perform with her quartet including pianist Don Buchanan, bass player Pat Collins, saxophonist Jason Hunter and drummer Steve James.
The new album, she said, is about “storytelling” in the old jazz style and given she also produced the album, she’s doubly proud of this record.
“The time and effort I put into it enhanced my musical development,” she said. “I learned so much.” Part of that development was being able to listen to the tracks with a critical ear.
“I hate listening to myself,” she said, noting producing your own recording requires listening to nuances in the tracks over and over.
“You just have to get over yourself,” she concluded with a laugh.
- The Breithaupt Brothers Come Home to Kitchener for Two Concerts
“The icing on the cake comes in the form of eight accomplished vocalists, each of whom will put their own spin on the Breithaupt songs. The who’s who are Joni NehRita, Derek Hines, Mary-Catherine Pazzano, Brenda Lewis, Denise Baker, Rosie Samra, Robin Habermehl, and Jessie Treneer.”
- Ella at 100 Concert a smash hit in Thornbury
After two standing ovations at the last Jazz at the Library concert the sellout crowd remained on its feet to recognize the performance by Mary-Catherine Pazzano and the Don Buchanan Quartet.
In celebration of Ella Fitzgerald`s 100th birthday, Mary-Catherine brought the songs, which Ella loved to sing, to life again with her beautiful and rich voice to the L.E. Shore Library on March 31. As she sang and told the stories of those timeless melodies, it felt like she was reciting poetry.
The exquisite accompaniment by Don Buchanan on piano, Jason Hunter on tenor, Clark Johnston on bass and Steve James on drums exhibited supreme musicianship.
“Those five musical minds communicated with each other perfectly and created music of a calibre and artistry seldom heard,” said organizer Tony Bauer. “A remarkable evening of admirable music.”
The next event is Jazzmania at the March Street Centre on April 28 at 7:30 p.m.
Thornbury Jazzworks presents the Noodle factory Jazz Project, the 10-member orchestra featuring Canadian composers and arrangers in their 150 Years of Jazz program. Tickets are $25 for adults, $5 for students, available in Thornbury at Pharmasave and Sincerely Yours, in Clarksburg at Riverside Graphics, in Collingwood at Blue Mountain Music and in Meaford at Stuff To Read.
- Five fun things to do: New Year’s weekend Dec. 30-Jan. 2
- Festive favourites play The Jazz Room this season
“Pazzano is a Jazz Room favourite, and she will say goodbye to 2016 and ring in “Love and Hope for 2017” on the second last day of the year.
After the events of the year, Pazzano felt a need to use her voice to spread joy more than ever before.”
- Talented singers featured this weekend at The Jazz Room
- Pazzano hits the high notes on jazz history
Stylish 1967 movie romance “Two for the Road” chronicles the tumultuous 12-year marriage of Mark Wallace (Albert Finney) and Joanna Wallace (Audrey Hepburn) through a series of exquisite cars and witty non-linear couples vignettes as they journey through married life, from the passionate fast lanes of early love on the French Riviera to his-and-hers emotional potholes in London, England, years later.
“Oh my God. That is one of my favourite movies,” exclaims jazz-singer/classic movie buff Mary-Catherine Pazzano.
That’s why Pazzano included the film’s title love-song in her ballads set list. She loves taking “underperformed little gems” and jazzing them up so they are “a little more hip” for the 21st century.
“Film has always been my jumping point,” she notes. “Oh, who wrote that? Cole Porter? Let’s look up his library of songs. Then you go down the rabbit hole and never stop,” she says with a laugh.
“Sometimes my bass player or piano player will bring a song to me,” she said, referring to veteran musician/longtime collaborator John McLelland on keys, in addition to acclaimed bassist Mike Grace, who has played with many jazz legends, from Henry Mancini to Dizzy Gillespie.
“For instance, they introduced me to (1944 Jule Styne/Sammy Cahn composition) ‘Guess I’ll Hang My Tears Out to Dry,’ which I immediately fell in love with because I never knew that song,” she admits.
This bittersweet jazz standard, first sung by film actress Jane Withers, comes from a stage show called “Glad to See You” that never made it Broadway. Pazzano makes it her own with a vocally opulent modern interpretation of this classic torch song.
The singer says jazz first caught her attention in high school.
“I studied classically so I did the whole legit training,” says Pazzano, also a music teacher who runs jazz workshops and programs in local high schools. “But then immediately after I graduated I started latching on to jazz players (like McLelland) who really helped and mentored me. Then, as the jazzers say, I ‘went left’ and never went back.”
Pazzano, who also studied drama, says singing these standards is like being an actress, be it “scatting” her way through the bossa nova tune “No More Blues,” or losing herself in childhood singing idol Judy Garland’s beloved classic “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”
“The lyrics are so rich. You get to delve in and find something new in that lyric that works for you. You deliver that to the audience and that is why I think there are so many great recordings of standards that always sound so fresh.”
Pazzano, who plays many notable jazz clubs from Toronto’s Rex to Guelph’s Manhattan’s, is also the featured soloist on (McLelland’s) Phoenix Jazz Group CD “Intrinsic Values” which comes out in February.
The Jazz Room show featuring McLelland, Grace, and Steve James on drums will showcase songs from “major players and composers” of The Great American Songbook evolving through the decades to the premiere of Pazzano’s newer material from sassy uptempo beats to sultry slow-down ballads.
“There is definitely another place that takes over,” says Pazzano referring to her performance process. “I am not even sure where that it is. I know that I always feel most at home in that place. You almost go up into this other world. Then you come back down to reality after you are finished singing a song when you are really into it and you are really connected to the lyrics. So I am always trying to imagine where that character will be in that lyric.”
- A Career of Local Music-Making
Article written for University of Waterloo Alumni Page
- Jazz at the Library: The Great American Songbook Concert Review
“As impressive as these artists were on Friday night, it was singer Mary-Catherine Pazzano who truly stole the show. Whether she was scatting her way through a fast number or slowing things down for a powerfully belted tune, Pazzano had the audience enthralled throughout the entire show. Her performance was probably best summed up in the quiet moments that occasionally appeared between the notes, when the room sat in anticipation of her next line – completely silent and breathless.
As always, the library’s gallery served as the perfect venue for the event, with the painted sunsets and landscapes providing the backdrop, the great acoustics, and the room’s high ceiling doing its absolute best to contain Pazzano’s expansive voice.”
- Inspirations and Influences Concert Coverage, Feb. 2014
Video from “Inspirations and Influences” concert shot by Philip Bast for KW Record website, January 2014