Several weeks ago at a National Arts Centre Orchestra concert that featured Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducting and Marc-André Hamelin on piano — yeah, it’s nice to live in Ottawa sometimes — what also stood out during the slow movement of Gershwin’s Piano Concerto in F was Karen Donnelly, back in the brass section, playing doleful solo passages with her big, radiant trumpet sound.
I first met Karen when she was a grad student at McGill and I was writing about jazz for The Gazette. She began playing with the NACO in the late 1990s and has been their principle trumpeter for 8 years. She is a serious trumpeter, and I have been kicking myself for a long time about missing my chances to hear her occasional turns as a featured soloist around town. Fortunately, tonight at another NAC concert featuring a visiting orchestra I hope to tell you about later, I bought a copy of the new CD by Capital Brassworks, Ottawa’s local brass band. It’s called Gabriel’s Sister, it features Karen as the soloist on a fantastic set of century-old cornet virtuoso tunes and the odd ballad, and it’s a brass fan’s delight. To my ear it ranks close to the classic recordings of the cornet repertoire by Gerard Schwarz and Wynton Marsalis. If you know a serious young student of the trumpet or, indeed, of any brass instrument, you could hardly do better than to get them a copy of this CD.