Ensemble Vivant

I was just introduced to this group in the March edition of Whole Note magazine in a review by Sharna Searle.

Searle reviewed Ensemble Vivant’s latest album Latin Romance calling it “chamber music at its evocative best!”

Led by pianist Catherine Wilson, Ensemble Vivant is a piano + strings chamber group that plays a wide range of styles running the gamut from classical to latin to jazz.

They play gorgeously.  Check out their performance of Piazzolla’s “Undertango” – the perfect kind of musical vehicle to showcase the musicians’ passion and skill – or the exotic and lyrical “Dansa Negra” by Brazilian composer Camargo Guarnieri.

Latin Romance is Ensemble Vivant’s 14th album. I’m happy to have finally heard of them and hope to catch them live at some point soon.  Just maybe there might even be a Jason Hayward- or Sax Drive-Ensemble Vivant collaboration some day!


Jason Hayward, saxophonist and composer



Sax Drive, episode 8

Sax Drive is appearing at York University’s Absinthe Pub TONIGHT March 3rd, 8:30-11:30pm.

We will provide the saxilicious groove-infected soundtrack to Tuesday evening revelry!

Featuring Scott Pearce on alto sax, Nicole Auger on tenor sax, Micaela Morey on tenor and flute, Tavo Diez de Bonilla on bass, Trevor Yearwood on drums, and yours truly (Jason Hayward) on baritone and alto saxes.

Sax Drive Absinthe Poster


Jason Hayward, saxophonist and composer



The Plight

Everyone knows it’s hard to make a living as a musician. I’m just not sure that people other than musicians know just how hard it is.  There needs to be more and clearer illustrations – perhaps, best expressed in actual hours of labour and dollar figures – of how the struggle unfolds for each of us.

Most musicians – even established ones – do something other than making music (i.e. performing and writing) in order to survive.  In fact, this is the expectation going into it. As we begin to develop our craft, we know we will likely have to support ourselves outside of music whether we want to or not. Some of us can work in a related area such as teaching music or repairing instruments or doing tech work at concerts.  This can be both beneficial and detrimental.  On the one hand, you can apply and gain further knowledge that can feed into your art.  You can make valuable social connections that will lead to support.  On the other hand, it can take crucial amounts of physical and psychological energy away from the work you really want to be doing.  So, for example, often the last thing you want to do when you come home from an exhausting day of teaching is work on your own music.

To be fair, some musicians actually want to work at something other than making music whether or not it’s related.  But for most of us who want to make a living playing and/or writing music life is damn hard.  One of my goals is to illustrate just how hard it is with more concrete examples.  Maybe if the wider public can get what’s going on in a more tangible, less conceptual way,  musicians might stand to benefit.  I’m not very hopeful about this but it’s worth a try.

The struggle is not unlike that of other workers who want to improve their conditions.  Throughout history we’ve seen plenty examples of this. Without taking the time to cite  specific examples, I do want to point out one of the key factors contributing to the continued economic plight of workers across many fields: it’s taboo to talk about money.

Nowhere is this more clear to me than in recent Equal-Pay-For-Equal-Work protests.  Our laws have already caught up to the discrimination.  In simple legal terms, no demographic group should be experiencing the form of discrimination that results in unequal pay for the same work.  Yet, it’s still bloody happening!  I think one of the main reasons why is that we haven’t been talking straight up about it, and I think this stems in part from the taboo about talking personally about money.

So, with that in mind, I’m going to share some info publicly about what I make, particularly what my projects yield, and pit this against expenses and the labour put in. All the above serves as an introduction but since it’s a bit extensive, I’ll keep the following segment as brief as possible (I see this as an ongoing series of posts).

Sax Drive performed its first gig on July 7th, 2019.  I’m kicking myself now for not tracking the tremendous number of hours involved in preparing the scores and parts, both for that first set of six tunes and for subsequent music (we have 18 tunes now, and I recently completed #19 which I’ll add in next time we rehearse). To better illustrate the prep time involved I’ll try to track the hours going forward   At this point I can only say that creating a score and parts for a 4-5 min piece for seven players is a lot of work!  More than what you might expect, is all I’m getting at.

That first gig was for a HONK! ON fundraiser and our next two gigs were at the Festival itself, July 27-28.  Neither of this was paid work, which is totally acceptable under the right circumstances.  We treated it as pro bono because we were essentially donating to the HONK! ON cause, which is rooted in free, accessible, public music performed primarily by amateur players.  It was a great opportunity for a new band to get off the ground.  After this, because of lack of availability and prior commitments, we didn’t get to do our fourth show until late November (also our last appearance of 2019), our first paid gig where we earned $210.

We happily agreed to the terms of this gig for various reasons that I won’t go into.  I simply want to point out, and emphasize in the future, the socio-economic conditions under which we work – and are expected to work – as musicians. These conditions are so complex and go way beyond the simple human-to-human transaction that consists of making the contract (formal or not), showing up to play and getting paid.

Some of the parameters of this first paid gig: 1) a Thursday night 2) at the Tranzac Club’s Southern Cross Lounge – a lovely room to play in 3) a one-hour slot to play one set  4) part of Lauren’s (who played alto sax in our band) Drawing Free For All 5) no cover charge, as is often the case, so we played for donations 6) the event was well-attended and the energy was very positive.

In summary, Sax Drive played four shows in 2019.  Apart from the hours I personally spent preparing music, the band rehearsed about 30 hours (and there was at least some personal practice).  We spent $474 on rehearsal space.  I’m sure it’s clear that, like most worthwhile ventures, there’s a lot of investment required, initially as well as part of maintenance and further development.

So, there’s some economic data representing the first phase of Sax Drive. It’s open to interpretation, and I’ll offer some of my own at another time. For now, it’s important to just share the numbers.

Sax Drive, episode 7

Playing at Drom Taberna felt – and will probably always feel –  like a homecoming.  That’s where our band played its first gig in July 2019 and it’s where we played our seventh show on Wednesday, February 19th.

We haven’t reached the level of Heavyweights yet – i.e. the Heavyweights Brass Band – who pack the venue on the last Friday night of each month, but I’m confident we’ll get there.  Our Wednesday night crowd, although much smaller at around 50-60 people, was no less enthusiastic about our music.  We saw dancers up for the first time and to me, that means things are moving in the right direction, literally.

A three-hour time slot from 9pm to 12am meant meeting a challenge we had been working towards since our inception: a repertoire extensive enough to allow us to play three sets.   It worked out perfectly.  I planned to do a reprise of one of our charts at the very end but we really didn’t need to do that as it was pretty much on the nose at midnight when we started it.  I just felt it rounded out the set nicely.  Also, the tune, “Crescent City”, feels a little bit like a signature tune and a nice way to either start or end the night.

We debuted a laid-back bossa tune called “Deidra’s Dream”, the closest thing we have to a ballad and one of only 2-3 pieces that aren’t in some way upbeat or energetic.  It’s a sweet groove to wind down a little before closing things out (I’ve always liked the idea of a penultimate slow piece).  We’re going for a cool vibe on this one and expanding our palette of musical colours.  Not too far down the road I’ll probably add a bone fide ballad to our set.  Later this spring I’m planning to roll out more adaptations of older pieces that I think will suit the band really well, including more samba, more uptempo swing and a piece that combines both.

Our next gig is at York University’s Absinthe Pub on Tuesday, March 3rd, 9pm-12am.  Where students are drinking things can get a little wild. We’ll do what we can to ensure this is the case, even if it is only a Tuesday!

Sax Drive has T-shirts!

Exciting times!

Here’s our first T-shirt logo (picture this against a gray background):Sax Drive T-shirt Logo

Huge thanks to Sean Anderson for his super cool art!!! Check out his other stuff – he’s got multiple styles – at his website: brom.ca

Marion Lougheed came up with the layout for the shirt, i.e. how to combine the image with the text and choosing the font (called “Ravie” – the semi-expanded version, in case you were wondering).  I’ll have an image of the actual shirt soon.  Love it!

Shirts will only be  available at our gigs (at least for now) and will likely have a limited run.


Sax Drive, episode 6

On Saturday February 15th, Sax Drive played an afternoon house concert, hosted by band member Micaela Morey and her roommates.

An unexpected delight: our name in lights!


Knowing we’d have a small, intimate setting we treated the outing like a little party and as an opportunity to share info about some of our music as we went along.  I intended to open things up for audience feedback or questions but totally forgot about it – a format I’d strive for next time we do such an up-close-and-personal sort of thing.

The house concert model was somewhat experimental for us and, while at this stage we relish every opportunity to play for the experience, it might be a better model for when we have a larger following.  That being said, the idea is that the hosts invite as many in their circle as possible with the goals of hosting a party and supporting the band.  In other words, the success of this kind of format really depends on the host’s efforts to cram people into the space.  It doesn’t work so well if treated like a more conventional venue space that the band (or promoter) is then responsible for promoting.  Of course, this means the dynamics of such an initiative have to be communicated clearly to the hosts so they know exactly what they’re getting into.  In this case, I’m not sure that happened successfully.  As a result, we had an audience of not more than a dozen or so, as engaged and appreciative as they were.  The upside is that there was plenty of room for people to be comfortable.  Also, despite the low attendance, several people there never heard the band before, they really enjoyed us and will subsequently support us – in short, we gained new fans!

On a more personal note, an additional benefit was hanging out with some of Micaela’s roommates and friends, who were gracious and enthusiastic hosts.  We extend much gratitude to Will, Gabe and Andrea (who couldn’t be there because of her work) for opening their lovely home to us!

We debuted three pieces – older tunes that I wrote and recently adapted – bringing our repertoire up to about 18 pieces.  “Cabin Fever” is a 12-bar blues that is made somewhat quirky by its use of diminished scale-based melody and harmony.  “Calypso Factor” is an homage to Sonny Rollins and his composition “St. Thomas”, probably the first instance of a calypso jazz piece.  “Candlestick Jumping” is our new nemesis technically: an uptempo swing tune based on rhythm changes (so-called because the prototype was Gershwin’s “I Got Rhythm”), which features a demanding unison soli in addition to fast solos based on those changes.

Here’s how we looked in the living room:


Here’s one of our new fans:

El Gato- 15Feb2019


Sax Drive, episode 5

Sax Drive returns to the Southern Cross Lounge at Tranzac (292 Brunswick Avenue) this Wednesday, January 29th.  We are playing two sets from 10pm to 12am.  No cover charge.

We feature original music by yours truly (Jason Hayward), including premieres of four new tunes!

The musicians are: Lauren Barnett and Scott Pearce on alto sax, Nicole Auger and Micaela Morey on tenor, and special guest Greg Bruce on baritone.  I’ll be playing bass on this gig (instead of bari sax) and my partner in rhythm is Trevor Yearwood on drums.

We had so much fun playing at this venue back in November and are excited for another round!

Special thanks to Marion Lougheed for putting this gig together for us.

USax Drive flyer1


York University student photographer Carly Balestreri came to the show and some of her photos of us are featured in Artichoke Magazine!


Jason Hayward, saxophonist and composer



Korea Town Acid

Fans of eclectic electronic music will probably love this.

Korea Town Acid is the performing alias of Toronto-based DJ/Producer Jessica Cho, who performed last Saturday at the Toronto Sound Festival (Marion and I attended as part of my birthday celebrations!)

Toronto Sound Festival logoHer strengths are rhythmic and timbral variety, as well as the ability to create an infectious groove – although, I was chagrined at the lack of it visceral impact as evidenced by the lack of movement from the mostly-younger-than-me audience, but that’s on them!  Marion and I, on the other hand, couldn’t stop moving.  I would also characterize her music as very atmospheric and very textural, and by that I don’t mean “ambient” – there’s too much interest for it to be “ambient”, in my opinion.  Her musical influences seem to be widespread given the variety of synths and samples that hint at numerous sub-genres.  Apparently, she approaches creating her tracks in an improvisatory fashion, and that’s damn cool if you ask me.


Photo: by Ella Rinaldo for MUTEK

I went to get her to sign my notebook but she seemed like she couldn’t be bothered.  Trying to break the ice, I mentioned I had taught in Korea for three years. Sadly, ZERO response.  Ok, so she hasn’t lived there in decades but hey, she goes by the name Korea Town Acid!    I can only speculate as to why she seemed so cold.

Nevertheless, I intend to seek out her music online, track down her EP Mahogani Forest and keep an eye out for future releases.

More info:

Article in NOW Magazine by Michelle Da Silva (June 13, 2018)

Sax Drive, Ep. 4 Success

Group Photo Sax Drive Full Band

Just a quick note to say we had an awesome gig last Thursday night (Nov. 21st) at the Southern Cross lounge of the Tranzac Club.  Big thanks to Lauren Barnett, for hooking us up with it (and for playing alto so beautifully in our band)!  And of course, big thanks to the rest of the band for pouring their musical souls into the set.

The small 50-person capacity room was pretty much full of enthusiastic supporters, some friends and some strangers, probably most hearing the band for the first time. We received so much positive feedback on our music and I think it bodes well for our future. My friend Alison Hall – who heard us at HONK! ON – said it was even better than what she was expecting, and that our “lush” sounds were better appreciated in a venue like this than in a big park.

It was amazing to be able to feed off the energy – the whistles and cheers – as we played our eight-song set. You never know what kind of crowd to expect, especially appearing as unknowns at a recurring event like this.  Lauren might get a full-house one night and only a handful on another night.  We couldn’t have asked for better experience – it felt like a bit of a party!

What most didn’t realize is that, while it’s our fourth appearance as a band, it was our very first appearance as the real deal – the full band with no subs sitting in (our “true self” lol).  That makes a big difference to our sound, of course. Not only is it meant to sound like a seven-piece, the contributions of the regular crew means a tighter sound and one that will only improve the more we play together.  Yesterday, I listened to the set, which we recorded on a ZOOM Recorder, and damn we sounded good.

We didn’t get to play all ten songs of our current repertoire, but we did close out with a “world premiere” of “Under a Demon’s Thumb”, which I re-titled “Under a Demon’s Thumbnail Sketch” in light of the Drawing Free For All theme.  I adapted a few other titles, too.  I did this at Drom Taberna back in July and I can see changing titles to fit the gig becoming a little bit of a fun gimmick (even if I just entertain myself, I suppose).

Anyway, we don’t have our next gig scheduled in yet, but we’re planning to get together soon to record a couple demos and then break for the holidays.


Sax Drive, episode #4

My new band Sax Drive is playing later this week.

November Sax Drive - Made with PosterMyWall

Lauren Barnett, who plays alto sax in Sax Drive, hosts this really cool event on the third Thursday of each month at Tranzac, 292 Brunswick Ave.  At 10pm until midnight you can sit in a cozy lounge, listen to great music and draw to your heart’s content – Lauren provides the supplies.

This month Lauren has connected her Drawing Free For All with the groovy jazz sounds of Sax Drive: five saxophones, bass and drums. Joining her are Scott Pearce on alto, Nicole Auger and Micaela Morey on tenor, Tavo Diez De Bonilla on bass, Trevor Yearwood on drums and yours truly on the bari sax.

Sax Drive plays from 10-11-pm and is followed by Tom Richards on piano.

It’s our fourth appearance and we’re premiering a couple new tunes. It’s bound to be a fun time.

I’ll be dedicating the show to the memory of my teacher and friend, Paul Bendzsa, who passed away last Thursday.  I know he’d appreciate our music and also the connection with visual art.