About Janice Finlay

Janice Finlay – Biography


Janice Finlay knows jazz. She works, plays, and lives jazz. She performs, composes, teaches, and inspires jazz. So it might come as a surprise to know that in high school, when she first got involved in the school band, she hated jazz. Good thing she picked up the saxophone and gave it a try, because in that moment, jazz began to grow on her.


Today, jazz is Janice’s life. Winnipeg jazz fans have named her “top sax” for three years running. As a band leader, she directs her own groups The Swing Cats, Premium, The Janice Finlay Jazz Quartet, and Janice Finlay's Hardbop Herd – an extraordinary quintet comprised of acclaimed Manitoba jazz musicians who swing through music from the 50’s and 60’s hardbop era. She’s a long-time member of the Ron Paley Big Band, and her saxophone artistry is frequently heard at Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra “pops” concerts.


Jazz is Janice’s heart and soul. The driving force behind several artistic projects, Janice collaborated with three female jazz composers in 2010 to create original works that were showcased in the Jazz Winnipeg "NuSounds" concert Collaborate...Create...Compose!. In 2007, she was commissioned to compose A Harbinger of Swing to Come, a big band piece that was premiered in 2008 by the Winnipeg Jazz Orchestra.


In adventurous cross-genre collaboration, Janice partnered with gifted Winnipeg choreographer Brenda Gorlick to present Jazz on Tap at the 2007 Jazz Winnipeg Festival’s Manitoba Night. The show featured a number of Manitoba’s outstanding tap artists who added a highly percussive element to some of Janice’s original compositions and a few jazz classics.


Jazz is Janice’s passion. A “triple threat” in the woodwind world, Janice plays flute and clarinet in addition to all members of the saxophone family. The versatility acquired by Janice through her jazz pursuits has afforded her numerous opportunities to perform in pit orchestras for musical theatre productions throughout western Canada. Her most memorable orchestral moments include Hairspray (Rainbow Stage), The Drowsy Chaperone (Manitoba Theatre Centre), A Chorus Line (Saskatoon and Calgary) and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (Theatre Calgary). In 2018 Janice was proud to be inducted into the Rainbow Stage Wall of Fame.


She is also a first-call musician who has backed many touring acts including jazz legends Clark Terry, Mel Tormé and Frank Foster, children’s entertainers Sharon, Lois and Bram, 60's crooner Bobby Vinton, Las Vegas entertainer Wayne Newton, Motown groups The Four Tops and The Temptations, and country star Kenny Rogers. A career highlight was when The Janice Finlay Jazz Orchestra opened for comedian Bob Newhart.


Jazz is Janice’s forte. In November 2011, Janice released her long-awaited second disc, Anywhere But Here. The highly-anticipated CD contains nine tracks, consisting of eight originals, and her standout remake of the jazz classic Bye Bye Blackbird. Recorded by Larry Roy, Anywhere But Here features legendary jazz musician and Order of Canada recipient Don Thompson on piano and vibraphone.


Also showcased on the CD are in-the-pocket grooves from Vancouver’s Jodi Proznick on acoustic bass, inspired guitar by Ron Halldorson, and swingin’ drums by New York City ex-pat Quincy Davis. Talented chanteuse Erin Propp lends a dreamy heartfelt voice to Remember Me, a touching song written by Janice after visiting a beloved relative afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease.  


Anywhere But Here has been a long time coming for Janice. Her debut CD She’s Hip came out in 2002 at a sold-out CD release party, where she showcased the lyrical and engaging playing style and well-crafted compositions she’s become known for. She’s Hip was named one of the top three "must-have" jazz recordings by CBC's Galaxie Network in 2002, was nominated for a 2003 Western Canadian Music Award, and continues to receive ongoing radio play and enthusiastic audience response.


Jazz is Janice’s legacy. Over the years, she has developed into an extraordinary educator with an exceptional gift for teaching. Her contributions were acknowledged in 2004, when she was presented with the Xerox Manitoba Jazz Educator of the Year Award. From 2005 to 2007, Janice was the inaugural Jazz Program Coordinator at the Manitoba Conservatory of Music and Arts, where she worked for many years as a private instructor. She also teaches school workshops, jazz ensembles and jazz appreciation courses for the general public. She was a long-time member of the University of Manitoba's Jazz Camp Faculty and has been an active music festival adjudicator for more than 20 years.


Jazz is Janice’s muse. Picking up that saxophone in high school unknowingly put her on a serendipitous path of making beautiful music. It led to a Bachelor of Music in Jazz Performance from McGill University, a prestigious composition residency at the Atlantic Center for the Arts in Florida, and advanced studies at the Banff Centre for the Arts. Picking up that saxophone also led to nomination in the Arts and Culture category of the YM/YWCA Women of Distinction Awards.


Most importantly, picking up that saxophone has been music to the ears of legions of fans that have come to know and love Janice’s jubilant style. Because when all is said and done, above all else, music is meant to be shared.


And all that jazz.  

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