Thank you for visiting my site. Like my life, this space is bit eclectic. There is information about my music and some of the jazz community work, here in Canada and in Mongolia, which I’ve been fortunate to be involved in. And then, there’s “the day job” - another passion that consumes and has taken me around the world to be constantly challenged and inspired. Many times these interests overlap and lead to adventure. Glimpses of that are in the gallery.
You can subscribe to my newsletter using the "subscribe" button on my home page. I share news and stories about my gigs and adventures (musical and otherwise, here and abroad). I also share information about other musical events which I think may be of special interest.
Thursday, Aug 23. 8-10 PM Jazz Generations (Deb Rasmussen vocals, Ben Isenstein piano, Mira Riselli bass, Robin Tufts drums) at Lolita’s Lounge. 1413 9 Ave SE, Calgary. Reservations 403-265-5739. Cover $15 cash
Two generations of Calgary artists explore their common passion - Jazz! Ben Isenstein (piano), Mira Riselli (bass), Robin Tufts (percussion) and Deb Rasmussen (vocals) experiment with the old, the new and the unexpected. Catch this end-of-summer show before Ben and Mira head back to Toronto!
Northern Lights Quartet
Northern Lights is a collective comprised of some of Calgary’s most popular freelance musicians performing a mixture of traditional and contemporary jazz styles. The Northern Lights quartet has evolved from a number of ensembles that have consistently worked toward the development of spacious and interactive music which evokes the unbounded expanse of the Canadian prairies. The configuration of the ensemble varies, drawing on its members Deb Rasmussen (vocals), Keith Smith (guitar), Kai Poscente (bass), Robin Tufts (percussion), Simon Fisk (acoustic bass), John Hyde (acoustic bass) and Bruce Petherick (piano).
Northern Lights repertoire includes songs penned by guitarist Keith Smith, bassist John Hyde and vocalist Deb Rasmussen. Influences include Bill Frisell, Pat Metheney, Charlie Haden, Abby Lincoln and Shirley Horn.
Northern Lights members, together and as members of various ensembles, perform on Calgary’s best club and concert stages. Between them, they have played the breadth of North America, the British Isles and Mongolia and have been heard on over 100 CD’s.
In 2006, Northern Lights headlined at the Giant Steppes International Jazz Festival in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia where they performed in concert and conducted workshops to promote the development of improvisational music in that country. The 2006 trip evolved from earlier collaborations in both Canada and Mongolia that focused on promoting jazz awareness and education for both musicians and audiences. Northern Lights returned to Mongolia in 2008 for the Giant Steppes Festival and to embark on a collaboration with Mongolian traditional musicians. They subsequently toured Canada with Altai-Khangai to celebrate the 35 anniversary of Canada-Mongolia relations and recorded the album, Northern Lights – Altai Khangai.
Northern Lights & Altai Khangai
A unique fusion blending the freshest Canadian jazz with the ancient sounds of the Mongolian steppe.
Northern Lights performs spacious and interactive music reflecting the openness of the Canadian prairies. Altai Khangai performs traditional music from the vast steppes of Mongolia. The morin khuur (horse head fiddle), khuchir (two stringed violin), tuuvshuur (swan fiddle) and khoomii (throat singing) evoke images of the grasslands, deserts, mountains, horses and nomadic people of Mongolia, the land that knows no fences.
Together, Northern Lights – Altai Khangai play music that springs from the expansive landscape shared by western Canada and Mongolia.
Northern Lights – Altai Khangai commemorates thirty-five years of diplomatic relations between Canada and Mongolia. It began with a concert hosted by the new Embassy of Canada in Ulaanbaatar in October 2008, continued with a tour through Western Canada in August 2009 and ended with a concert for the Embassy of Mongolia in Ottawa in September 2009.
Northern Lights is a Calgary collective performing a mixture of traditional and contemporary jazz styles. Northern Lights evolved from a number of ensembles that have consistently worked toward the development of spacious and interactive music:
Keith Smith leads the Keith Smith Trio and is a member of The Amos Garret Jazz Trio. He has performed with the CPO Canadian premier of the Ainadamar Ensembles and Arias by Golijov, Hugh Frazer, P.J. Perry, Charlie Austin, Bob Day, Cheryl Fisher, Mark Sonksen, Paul Wertico, and the Int'l Trumpet Guild Conference (2008), with Doc Severinsen, Allen Vizzutti, Walter White, Wycliffe Gordon, Ingrid Jensen and others.
Simon Fisk is a jazz bassist who has recorded and performed extensively since the early 1990's. He has worked primarily in the piano trio format with pianist Chris Gestrin, and most recently Jerry Granelli on drums. Since 2002, Fisk has released six CD's as a leader on the Plunge Records label. Fisk has performed around the world at a steady pace since 2000, with Canadian pianist Michael Kaeshammer, and with his own trio.
Robin Tufts is a drummer and percussionist and accompanies the Program of Dance at the U of Calgary. He is a member of The Keith Smith Trio, Seanachie (celtic) and Klezmerovits (klezmer). Other credits include, The Lorna Maclachlan Group, Gary Wolfe, flamenco guitarist Peter Knight, Lynn Miles, Ann Gray, George Blondhiem, The Bob Day Quartet, the poet Sheri-d Wilson, Guido Basso, Alberta Ballet, Decidedly Jazz Dance, Dancers Studio West and Stage West.
Deb Rasmussen has performed at the Calgary Jazz Festival "Party in the Plaza" and the Sylvan Lake "Jazz at the Lake" Festival along with the Keith Smith Trio. In Calgary, she has been featured at the Cliff Bungalow Jazz Series and the BeatNiq Jazz and Social Club. She is a co-founder of the Mongolia Jazz Listening Library and the Giant Steppes Jazz Festival.
Altai Khangai is a group from Mongolia named after the Altai mountains and the khangai steppes. Formed in 1993, they have spent much time spreading their music through Europe and the US:
Ganbold Muukhai (Inflexible Metal) - Morin Khuur Instructor, College of Music and Dance, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. Born in Uvs, in 1970, Ganbold's family is a family of camel drivers and highly creative musicians, singers and dancers. Ganbold sings and plays the horsehead fiddle.
Ganzorig Nergui (Strong Heart) - Morin Khuur and Khuumii, Mungun Haraa Ensemble, Mongolia. From Selenge, his father was a herdsman. During their travels across the steppes he learned to sing and imitate the whistles of birds. Ganzorig plays morin khuur, tovshuur and tsuur flute.
Odontungalag Uranchimeg: Khuchir Instructor and Performer College of Music and Dance, and Mongolian National Song and Dance Academic Ensemble, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.
Debra’s warm, intimate vocals tell story through song. Her material includes jazz standards and her own original material.
Deb’s journey with jazz vocals began in 1998 when she took a jazz vocal workshop with Vivianne Cardinal in Calgary. In 2000 and 2001, she studied vocal jazz at the Banff Centre for the Fine Arts with vocalists Sheila Jordan and Jay Clayton. She continued her studies with Cheryl Fisher in Calgary and Dee Daniels in Vancouver. She has also studied with Nancy King and Roberta Gamberini at the Centrum jazz workshop in Port Townsend, Washington. In 2012, she participated in Bobby McFerrin’s Circle Song workshop at the Omega Centre in upstate New York.
She has performed at the Calgary Jazz Festival “Party in the Plaza” and the Sylvan Lake “Jazz at the Lake” Festival along with the Keith Smith Trio. In Calgary, she has been featured at the Cliff Bungalow Jazz Series and has headlined at the BeatNiq Jazz and Social Club. She also performed regularly at the PiqNiq Café, Niko’s and the Bears Den.
Debra performed at the 2006 Giant Steppes Jazz Festival in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia with the Northern Lights Quartet (NLQ) of Calgary. In 2008, NLQ returned to Mongolia for the Giant Steppes Festival to initiate a collaborative project with the traditional Mongolian ensemble, Altai Khangai, followed by performances in Beijing, China at the prestigious Peking University as part of the Time Arts Jazz Series. In August, 2009, she toured Canada with the Canadian-Mongolian jazz fusion project Northern Lights – Altai Khangai, performing in Calgary, Red Deer, High River, Victoria, Vancouver, Saskatoon and Ottawa. The project was captured on the CD Northern Lights – Altai Khangai.
She is also a member of the informal circle of singers, “Calgary Women in Jazz”. On March 8th each year, they present an International Women’s Day concert to celebrate the strength and creative force of women. Proceeds of the concerts support women and girls programs in Calgary. The group also performs a Christmas benefit concert, “Six Babes a Singin’ ”. Their summer concert, “Favourite Females of Jazz” has each member of the group feature a favourite jazz vocalist through song and stories.
In 2011, Deb and Keith Smith released their duo CD, Heart Wide Open, featuring intimate interpretations of jazz standards and several of Deb’s original songs.