THE underlying theme in saxophonist Paul Towndrow's Pro-Am suite is sporting feats and there was an ambitious feat involved in just bringing the participants together: not even Don Ellis, whose treatment of Blood Sweat & Tears' House in the Country opened Thursday's concert and who made some pretty spectacular contributions to the orchestral jazz canon seems to have created a work for two big bands occupying the same stage. That Towndrow pulled this off with a troupe of musicians, at least one of whom had never played a jazz solo in public before, has to go down as a success.
The vibe transmitting from the stage, with the Ryan Quigley Big Band representing the professional element in the title and the Byres Road Big Band, which Towndrow has developed as its musical director, representing the amateur, was one of cooperation and the latter band's musicians rose to the occasion well.
Their trombone section's contribution to Pro-Am's jump blues celebration of snowshoeing record holder Nick Akers was especially effective and praiseworthy and the sound of the two bands together, both in the familiar jazz numbers that comprised the first half and in Towndrow's composition was impressive.
Undisputed paid homage to boxer Ken Buchanan with appropriate stabs and orchestral ducking and diving, after which Towndrow followed tenor saxophonist Konrad Wiszniewski with a fine alto solo from the conductor's podium.
Towndrow's dedication to recently deceased track-and- field athlete Olga Kotelko was, appropriately, more sombre, with Quigley's trumpet solo singing sensitive praises and the rousing Straight Race reached for the tape with strong writing that, as with the piece overall, deserves to be heard again.