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Beth McKenna

Beth McKenna Jazz Orchestra

Debut EP "START" now available on Soundcloud and Bandcamp!

  • (also available in physical CD format)

Musical Director, Compositions - Beth McKenna


Saxes: Alexandre Dion, Averil Parker, Annie Dominique, Claire Devlin, Paul Carter


Trumpets: Dominic Rossi, Frédéric Bourgeault, Rachel Therrien,

Martine Labbé, Hichem Khalfa


Trombones: Taylor Donaldson, Karine Gordon, Helene Lemay, Christopher Smith


Rhythm: François Jalbert (Guitar), Guillaume Martineau (Keyboards),

Simon Pagé (Electric Bass), Peter Colantonio (Drums)

Beth McKenna Jazz Orchestra - About the Ensemble (Based in Montreal, QC)


Beth McKenna Jazz Orchestra was founded by Beth McKenna at the age of 24 as an independent artist after completing her studies at McGill's Schulich School of Music as a Jazz Saxophonist and Music Educator. Beth McKenna Jazz Orchestra is a professional ensemble based in Montreal performing the original jazz-fusion/contemporary jazz-rock music compositions written by McKenna for the musicians in her band. The ensemble also addresses many issues in music, representing next-generation professional musicians (mostly 26-40 years of age), men and women as well as anglophones and francophones from Montreal's musical community.


The winner-recipient of a Conseil des arts et lettres du Quebec (CALQ) "Up-and-Coming Artists - Music"  $10,500 grant for her first year in the project, she received one-on-one project mentorship independently from four different jazz leaders/composers-- Christine Jensen and John Roney in Montreal, Darcy James Argue and Jim McNeely in New York City. While writing the music for this project, Beth also had the opportunity to work with l'Orchestre Nationale de Jazz de Montreal as part of her development within this project.


Beth has received a second consecutive large Up-and-coming Artists-Music grant from the CALQ to continue building and writing for the group, and also record, produce and launch a second demo in 2016. Beth is currently working towards booking summer/fall 2015 live performances for the group as well within central Canada (Quebec/Ontario). (Contact for bookings)


The band's first demo EP CD, "START" was received with critical acclaim from critics, jazz community, colleagues and peers as a new sound and new approach to jazz, influenced by many different artists and experiences. The CD focused on a goal of creating much greater accessibility to larger audiences by re-shaping jazz and creating an individual style and voice for the ensemble's original repertoire, completely written by McKenna. The overall goal of Beth's in forming this ensemble, is to rebuild jazz audiences, to pull in listeners from other genres and other communities to re-explore jazz, and write to both the artistic abilities and individualistic styles of the musicians within the group. Beth also aims to rebuild demand for jazz performances, big band and larger audiences to support the arts and musicians. "START" was directly influenced from 7 years of living in Montreal, life experiences and concepts learned while developing from a young adult to an independant woman and young professional post-college, holding both a B.Mus and B.Ed degree.


In this 50+minute demo CD recorded at Multi-Media Room in Montreal (McGill University Schulich School of Music) by Stuart Bremner and Mike Ardagh, mixed and mastered by Brett Leonard (University of Nebraska, Omaha), Beth and her musicians perform many multi-section works that take the listener on a sonorous adventure in each piece. Beth's works tend to be 10+ minutes in length per piece, but never feel monotonous or boring, shifting through several different contrasts and sections---like many smaller pieces within each musical work. She features many different soloists within her band and focuses within a piece to illustrate a concept or experience she has personally had, described to the listener through music.


The group also creates a focus on diversity in the professional ensemble setting, especially in jazz orchestras. Beth McKenna Jazz Orchestra features 18 of Montreal's elite next-generation musicians, hand-selected by McKenna for various qualities in their artistic approach to music, open-mindedness to music, and skill and ability musically. This group focuses itself as a professional ensemble with about 95% of the group in the 25-40 age range, all professional musicians with their own leader projects and individual established performer careers on the Canadian jazz scene. This includes such established professional bandleaders in the group as Guillaume Martineau, Simon Pagé, François Jalbert, Averil Parker, Alexandre Dion, Christopher Smith, Hichem Khalfa, Rachel Therrien, Annie Dominique and Karine Gordon.


The group also blends the Montreal francophone and anglophone musical communities together with strong representation from both communities within the ensemble. Beth also developed a diverse mix of both very talented male and female musicians originating from all over Quebec and Canada who are fully dedicated to pursuing a professional career in music and enthusiastically creating new artistic music together within this ensemble. Beth continues to push the envelope of what is possible in a jazz orchestra, from adding a string quartet, to unconventional time signatures (4/4 + 6/8 groove in 7/4, 7/8, 6/4, 6/8, and occasionally the common 4/4...), distorted guitar solos, pounding piano solos, woodwind doubles, shifting traditional roles in the ensemble between sections, and breaking away from the stereotypical "swing band" big band tradition into something completely different and new for the jazz orchestra.


Beth McKenna Jazz Orchestra's presence on stage and energy in their performances captivate audiences, and the group has performed for a sold-out Sala Rossa in their first live launch performance. "START" has received a very enthusiastic and positive critique response from it's debut. It has received international radio airplay and media coverage, including reviews and photo coverage from, airplay on Coco Jazz (Radio Lasalle, diffused throughout Quebec and abroad), ICI-Espace Musique (CBC-Radio Canada)'s Quand le Jazz est la with Stanley Pean,, Global Morning News Montreal, Ottawa Citizen's Jazz Critic Peter Hum, CultMtl, among many other media outlets across Montreal and beyond.


"START" is available via BandCamp and Soundcloud, physical copies available by emailing

"START" CD - Beth McKenna Jazz Orchestra - As featured on---

Heading West

Courtesy of Ryan MacDowell (Legato Productions)

Composition - Beth McKenna


Courtesy of Ryan MacDowell (Legato Productions)

Composition - Beth McKenna

1st Movement - 6am Commute to the West

Solos: Rachel Therrien, Karine Gordon, Alexandre Dion, Annie Dominique, Claire Devlin

2nd Movement - Back Home
Solos: Frederic Bourgeault, Alexandre Dion, Peter Colantonio

Solos: Francois Jalbert - Electric Guitar, Guillaume Martineau - Keyboard, 

Hichem Khalfa - Trumpet,  Simon Page - Electric Bass

Courtesy of Claude Thibault (

Composition - Beth McKenna


Solos: Jean-Philippe Tremblay, Rachel Therrien, Annie Dominique

Features: Frédéric Bourgeault, Paul Carter

Freelance Saxophonist (EWI, Flute & Clarinet), Jazz Ensemble Leader

Music Educator and Contemporary Jazz Composer



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