BY JESSE THOMAS
Humber College music graduate Will Fisher’s debut album “Portage” is up for the Jazz Album of the Year at the East Coast Music Awards.
The album was recorded over two days in the Humber recording studio back in 2011 and features a band of gifted musicians who all have ties to the Humber music program.
The band includes Humber graduates, Mikko Holden on guitar, John Challoner on trumpet, Nancy Walker and Matt Giffin on piano and Humber’s Bass department head Mike Downes on bass
Getting nominated for an ECMA came as a big surprise but is also a huge honour for the 25-year-old drummer, who will also perform at the awards show.“Just to be included in the upper echelon of East Coast musicians is a real honour,” said Fisher.
“Being it’s my first album I wasn’t expecting this but at the same time I felt really strongly about the work and I feel the musicianship was superb.”
Fisher grew up in Nova Scotia and was offered a scholarship to study music at Humber.
“We did a couple gigs and rehearsed a few times and then went into the studio and recorded for two days,” said Fisher. “I let the recordings sit for a month and then I listened to them and had a engineer mix and master them.”
From there, the album went to manufacturing, where 1000 albums were produced. Fisher has been touring and playing shows this year in support of the record and has sold nearly 400 copies since its release.
There isn’t a day that goes by, where Fisher isn’t doing something for the album. Whether its booking tours, fulfilling media requirements, applying for grants and physically mailing albums to people who purchase it on-line.
“Your first album is kind of like a musicians business card,” he said. “With it comes recognition and radio play or interviews.”
Fisher still lives and works in Toronto and has been touring to promote the album in the East Coast. He’s wrapping up an Ontario tour before going back East for the awards show.
Band mate and co-producer Matt Giffin grew up with Fisher and came to Humber to study music at the same time. Giffin was impressed with the way the album turned out and said it’s nice to see the music attracting a large listenership.
“I think the album hedges against some of the trends in jazz worldwide,” said Giffin.
“There is a certain sound that comes out of the New York scene these days and I think Will had the inkling to do something a little different and a little off the map.”
Giffin said the Fisher’s influences range from Miles Davis to East Coast Jazz drum legend Tom Roach.
“It’s definitely fresh sound and less scary than some jazz” said Giffin. “It’s very lyrical and melodically centered and for a drummer that is quite a feat to pull off.”
“It was an exciting album to record, considering we were up against the clock,” said Giffin. “You’re a little more prone to do something spontaneous when you have that time restraint and some of that spontaneity was really neat to capture.”
“I’m proud of Will for executing the album,” said Giffin. “I think the album has a great chance to win but it’s up against some stiff competition. I’m really excited to go back and showcase the music.”
The East Coast Music Award’s are celebrating their 25th anniversary this year. Awards executive director Scott Burke, said he’s looking forward to the week long festival that culminates with the awards show Saturday night.
“It’s definitely is a national and international phenomenon,” said Burke. “I believe Atlantic Canada has always punched above its weight and I believe music is Atlantic Canada’s calling card to the world. We tend to be known for our music first and it is really tied into our cultural identity.”
Artists submit their work in order to be eligible for recognition. Jurors from across the Atlantic Provinces decide and come up with the nominees.
“Most of our categories are voted on by our full-time members,” said Burke. But the jazz album is voted on by a jury.”
Burke said he couldn’t reveal who was on the jury but said it’s made up of people, sometime hundreds, who are spread out across the industry. “Musicians and individuals who have expertise in producing and recording for the most part.”