Pete Johnston was born in Windsor, Nova Scotia, Canada, and is the son of a high school music teacher and a Baptist Church pianist. He studied music composition and double bass at Dalhousie University, alternating scholarly endeavours with tours of North America as part of the Johnny Favourite Swing Orchestra, with whom he won a Juno Award in 1999. After completing his studies at Dalhousie in 2000 Pete moved to Toronto and began working as a freelance musician, guitar teacher, novel editor, and telemarketer. Following several lost years in the part-time employment trenches, Pete returned to the academy, completing a Master’s degree in composition in 2005 and a Ph.D. in ethnomusicology in 2009, both at York University. As part of his doctoral research he spent the 2006/07 academic year in London, England, where he performed for Queen Elizabeth II. Since completing his Ph.D. Pete has resumed his work as a freelance bassist and music educator in Toronto, which includes performing regularly with the groups See Through Trio, See Through 5, and Aurochs, and teaching at Ryerson University and Humber College. In 2011 Pete had the great fortune of being awarded a Chalmers Professional Development Grant from the Ontario Arts Council to study with renowned bassists Barre Phillips and Gary Peacock.
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INTERVIEW

Conducted by Paula Fayerman on Noise, from CJSW in Calgary, Alberta. 12 July 2018.

CURRICULUM VITAE

Education

2010

Ph.D., Ethnomusicology, York University
Dissertation Title: “Fields of Production and Streams of Consciousness: Negotiating the Musical and Social Practices of Improvised Music”
Supervisor: Dr. Robert Simms
Read Abstract and Introduction

2006-2007

Associate Graduate, Goldsmiths College, University of London

2005

M.A., Music Composition, York University
Thesis Title: “Travelling Without Maps: Contemporary Issues and Approaches Related To Composing For Improvising Musicians”
Supervisor: Dr. David Mott
Thesis compositions

2000

B.Mus., Concentration in Composition, Dalhousie University.
Supervisor: Dr Dennis Farrell
Thesis compositions
Double bass: Max Kasper
Jazz and Improvisation:
Don Palmer

Summer Programs

2008

The Summer Institute For Critical Studies in Improvisation, University of Guelph

2000

The Banff Centre International Workshop in Jazz and Creative Music

PUBLICATIONS

Refereed Journals

Johnston, Peter. “Teaching Improvisation and the Pedagogical History of the Jimmy Giuffre 3.” International Journal of Music Education 31, no. 4 (2013): 383-393
Read here

Johnston, Peter. “Labour, Creativity, and the Politics of Profit in the Improvised Music Field.”
Critical Studies in Improvisation 9, no. 1 (2014)
Read here

Self-published Manuscript

2006

“Contemporary Compositions for Beginning Jazz Ensemble: A Progressive Method To Teaching Jazz Improvisation and Ensemble Performance Practices”

This text, written primarily for junior high and high school students, has been used at the Acadia University Summer Music Institute, and is currently in use in several Nova Scotia high schools, including: Kings-Edgehill School, Avonview High School, Hants West Middle School, and Dorian Hall Academy of Music in Windsor, Nova Scotia. In addition, several of the compositions in this book were performed at Musicfest Canada 2008 by the community ensemble Easily Distracted (based in Windsor Nova Scotia), who won a gold standard for their performance.
View and listen here


AWARDS AND HONOURS

2006

Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada: Canada Graduate Scholarship Doctoral Scholarship

London Goodenough Association Of Canada Scholarship

2005

York University Entrance Scholarship (Ph.D.)

2004

Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada: Canada Graduate Scholarship Program Master’s Scholarship

2003

York University Entrance Scholarship (M.A.)

2000

Dalhousie University Medal, awarded for highest grade point average in a graduating class

1999

Juno Award for “Best New Group” as a member of the
Johnny Favourite Swing Orchestra for the album Holiday Romance (Universal Music)
Video:
Live at The Legendary Horseshoe Tavern

1998


East Coast Music Award for “Best Jazz Album” as a member of the Johnny Favourite Swing Orchestra for the album The Life Desire (Lucky Life Recordings)

GRANTS

2016


Canada Council For the Arts Grants to Professional Musicians - Individuals to study composing techniques for improvisers in Northern Europe

2015

Canada Council for the Arts Special Projects Grant to present the fourth
Somewhere There Creative Music Festival in 2016

Ontario Arts Council Popular Music Grant to produce a CD of original music for
See Through 5

Ontario Arts Council Grants to Presenter/Producers to present the fourth annual
Somewhere There Creative Music Festival in 2016

Ontario Arts Council Grants to Presenter/Producers to rehearse new compositions for
See Though 5

2014

Ontario Arts Council Chalmers Arts Fellowship to compose music for solo double bass and electronics

Toronto Arts Council Audio Recording Grant to record a CD of original music with
Aurochs

Toronto Arts Council Music Project Grant for presenting the third
Somewhere There Creative Music Festival in Toronto

Canada Council for the Arts: Grants to Professional Musicians - Individuals to compose music for
See Through Trio

2013

Canada Council for the Arts: Production Grant in Music to record a new CD with
See Through Trio

Canada Council for the Arts: New Music Program - Project Funding. Awarded for presenting the second annual
Somewhere There Music Festival

2012

Canada Council for the Arts: New Music Program - Project Funding. Awarded for developing and presenting the
Somewhere There Music Festival

2010

Ontario Arts Council: Chalmers Professional Development Grant, awarded to study with American bassists
Barre Phillips and Gary Peacock


INVITED TALKS

2016

"Radiohead's
In Rainbows: The Work of Music in the Era of Digital Reproduction," lecture delivered at Ryerson University as part of the Sounds of The Times Lecture Series (7 November)
Watch here

2011

“Such Sweet Thunder: The Art and Craft of Duke Ellington,” lecture-recital delivered at the University of Toronto Scarborough as part of the World Rhythms Performance Lecture Series (9 February)

2010

“After the Avant-garde: Free Improvisation in London, England and the Emergence of a Modernist Work Ethic,” presentation at the Ryerson University Music Series: Interdisciplinary Perspectives (22 February)


CONFERENCE PRESENTATIONS AND PERFORMANCES

2014

Contemporary Approaches to Composing For Improvisers,” paper delivered at the Canadian University Music Society Annual Conference

2012

“Teaching Improvisation and the Pedagogical History of the Jimmy Giuffre 3,” paper delivered at the Guelph Jazz Festival And Colloquium, University of Guelph

“The Improvisation of Everyday Music,” paper delivered at the Society of Ethnomusicology Niagara chapter conference, University of Toronto

“Improvising Identity: Jazz, Experimental Music, and the Politics of Musical Migration,” paper delivered at the International Association for the Study of Popular Music Canada Conference, Acadia University

2011

“Labour, Creativity, and the Politics of Profit in the Improvised Music Field,” paper delivered at the Improvisation, Community, and Social Practice conference “Making the Changes: Ethics and the Improvising Business,” University of Guelph

“Sounding the System: Improvisation, Creativity, and Contemporary Music Pedagogy,” paper delivered at the Canadian University Music Society annual Conference, Mount Allison University

2009

“Fields of Production and Streams of Consciousness: Explorations into the
Concept of Free Improvisation,” paper delivered at the York University Graduate Music Student Colloquium

“Calling All Outlaws: Improvising Musicians and the Problems with Social Justice,” paper delivered at the Improvisation, Community, And Social Practice Conference, McGill University

“From Mainstream to Downstream: Jimmy Giuffre and the Deconstruction of the Jazz Art World,” paper delivered at the International Association for the Study of Popular Music Canada Conference, Dalhousie University

“Music in Canada,” lecture delivered at York University in the undergraduate class FA/MUSI 2200: Music and Cultures II—A History of Western Music

2008

“Getting The Music Off The Page: Practice-based Research and the Construction of the Practitioner-Theorist,” paper delivered at the Guelph Jazz Festival And Colloquium, University of Guelph

“From The Inside Looking Out: Practice-based Research and the Study of Improvisation,” paper delivered at the Improvisation, Community, And Social Practice Conference, McGill University

“Producing the Process: Issues In Composing For Free Improvisers,” lecture-recital delivered at the Canadian University Music Society Annual Conference, University of British Columbia

2007

“Searching For Uncommon Ground: Eddie Prévost’s Improvisation Workshop and the Construction of Collective Identity,” paper delivered at the Guelph Jazz Festival And Colloquium, University of Guelph

“Dancing About Architecture: An Investigation Into the Practice of Writing About Improvisation,” paper delivered at the Leeds International Jazz Conference, Leeds College of Music

2006

“What’s Left Is Faking It: Collective Improvisation and the Creative Process of the Jimmy Giuffre 3,” paper delivered at the Guelph Jazz Festival And Colloquium, University of Guelph

Eleven Pieces for Improvising Trio,” mini concert at the Canadian University Music Society Annual Conference, York University

“The Life Of A Trio: Jimmy Giuffre, Paul Bley, and Steve Swallow,” paper delivered at the York University Graduate Student Annual Colloquium

“Selections From Eleven Pieces for Improvising Trio,” lecture-recital delivered at the University of Toronto Music Graduate Students Association Conference

2004

“Jimmy Giuffre: Unsung Avant-garde Jazz Composer and Improviser,” paper delivered at the Association For Recorded Sound Collections (ARSC) Annual Conference in Austin, Texas


TEACHING EXPERIENCE

Humber College - Sessional Lecturer, 2014-Present

Critical Perspectives in Contemporary Music (F/W 2014-15, F/W 2015-16, F/W 2016-17, F/W 2017-18)
Syllabus - Lecture Video - Lecture Webcast - Sample Assignment

Music In Contemporary Society (F2014, W2016, W2017, W2018)
Syllabus - Lecture Webcast - Sample Assignment

Music in World Cultures (F2015, F2016, F2017)
Syllabus - Lecture Video - Sample Assignment

History of Canadian Music (W2015)
Syllabus - Sample Assignment

Special Ensemble: Livetronica Ensemble (F/W 2017-18)

Ryerson University - Sessional Lecturer, 2014-Present

Popular Music and Culture (W2015, F2015, W2016, F2016, W2017, F2017, W2018)
Syllabus - Sample Assignment

Traditional Musics of the World (W2017, W2018)
Syllabus - Sample Assignment

Social Issues in Popular Music (F2016, F2017)
Syllabus - Lecture Video - Sample Assignment

Music Cultures of the City (F2014)
Syllabus - Sample Assignment

Gospel Music - Songs of the Spirit (2014)
Syllabus - Sample Assignment

York University -Teaching Assistant, 2005-2010

Music and Cultures I (2009)
Music and Cultures II: A History of Western Music (2008)
Workshop in Musicianship (2005)

Music Tutor, 2009-2010
Contemporary Musicianship and Improvisation (2009)

FREELANCE TEACHING EXPERIENCE

2010-2014


Conductor of the
Toronto All-Star Big Band, which is a large community jazz ensemble composed of high school and university students who must audition for admittance

Bass, guitar, and music theory instructor at
Kitchen Music Studio and Canada Music Academy

Private lessons in bass, guitar, theory, and musicianship conducted in my home studio

2002-2005

Marc Enkin Music, Toronto, ON
Private and ensemble lessons, working with beginning and intermediate guitar, bass, and drum students

2000-2001

Canadian Conservatory Summer Rock Camp, Halifax NS
Private and Ensemble lessons in popular music performance

1999-2008

Acadia University Summer Music Institute, Wolfville, NS
Private and ensemble lessons, teaching jazz improvisation and general musicianship to high school students


Recordings

As a leader

2016

See Through 5 - Margins (All-Set! Editions)

Aurochs -
Another Helpful Medicine (All-Set! Editions)

See Through Two -
Slow Bend (All-Set! Editions)

See Through 5 -
Utilities (All-Set! Editions)

2014

See Through Trio - Parallel Lights (Woods And Waters)

Aurochs - Rational Animals (Woods And Waters)

2012

See Through Trio –
Near Northern Static (Woods And Waters)

2009

See Through Trio –
Lines and Spaces (Woods And Waters)

2007

See Through Trio –
Our Own Devices (independent)

2000

Quatrain -
Adamant Shoals (independent)

1997

The Art Ensemble Of Halifax -
Exile On The Wayside and Subfield Emissions, independent

As a side person

2011

MuskoxInvocation/Transformations (independent)
Recording funded by Ontario Arts Council


AIMToronto Orchestra – Year of the Boar (Barnyard Records)

2009

Muskox –
Five Pieces (Standard Form)

2008

Muskox –
Gallantries (Woods and Waters)

2006

George Grosman –
Mango (independent)

2005

Danny Bakan -
“…and truth is spectacular” (independent)

Paradise Public Radio –
It Seems Like Only Yesterday… independent

2004

John Wesley Chisholm –
Dear Friends and Gentle Hearts, Arcadia Entertainment Inc. East Coast Music Award nominee

1999

Johnny Favourite Swing Orchestra –
Holiday Romance (Universal Music) Juno Award winner

Joel Plaskett -
In Need of Medical Attention, No Alternative

1997

Johnny Favourite Swing Orchestra -
Life Desire, Lucky Life Recordings. East Coast Music Award winner


Compositions and Performances

2017

Performed with See Through 4 at the Open Waters Festival in Halifax, Nova Scotia

2015

Performed with See Through Trio at the Something Else Jazz Festival in Hamilton, Ontario

2014

Performed at the Music Gallery in Toronto with Aurochs, opening for legendary jazz bassist Henry Grimes

2013


Performed in the premiere of Canadian composer Martin Arnold’s piece Mill O’Tifty’s Annie at the Somewhere There Music Festival

2012

See Through Trio CD release concert for
Near Northern Static

Performed with Doc Severinson and the Toronto All Star Big Band

Performed with Muskox and Jeremy Stratchan at the Guelph Jazz Festival

2011

AIM Toronto Orchestra CD release with special guest saxophonist Evan Parker

Performed with Muskox at the JazzEast “Out Like A Lion” festival in Halifax


2010

Performed with SISTER at the Pop Montreal Festival


2009

Performed with Muskox at The Music Gallery, supporting Charles Spearin’s The Happiness Project


2008

Live recording for CBC Radio’s
The Signal, with Muskox

Summer tour of British Columbia with See Through Trio

2007

Summer tour of Nova Scotia with See Through Trio, culminating with a performance at The Atlantic Jazz Festival, Halifax

2006

Performed for Queen Elizabeth II in London, England as part of the Royal Visit to Goodenough College

2005

Performance of
Eleven Pieces For Improvising Trio at The Distillery Jazz Festival, the ArrayMusic Studio Leftover Daylight concert series, and at the Tranzac Club

Large jazz ensemble
compositions Black River and Flat Earth Suite premiered by the Toronto Jazz Orchestra at the ArrayMusic Studio

2004

Premier of
Spiral Glider, for chamber ensemble. Performed by the Continuum Ensemble in the Dacary Concert Hall, York University

2001

Music for the film
A Fresh Start by Halifax filmmaker Jason Buxton, which played at the Toronto Film Festival and the Atlantic Film Festival

2000

Premier of
String Quartet, Sextet For Strings, and Three Canadian Poems. Performed by members of Symphony Nova Scotia in the James Dunn Theatre, Dalhousie University

Music For Jazz Quartet performed by Quatrain at the Atlantic Jazz Festival, Halifax, Nova Scotia

Music for
Being Here, a modern dance work by Toronto choreographer Sally Morgan

Performed at the Banff Centre for the Arts as part of the Summer Jazz Workshop

1999

Performed as a member of the Upstream Orchestra for a series of concerts with Symphony Nova Scotia and Peter Weigold, as part of the Open Waters Music Festival

1995-Present

Frequent performances in clubs, restaurants, concerts and private affairs in jazz, folk, and rock ensembles, often performing my own compositions


PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE

2015-Present

Co-owner/operator of
All-Set Editions, a boutique label dedicated to releasing sounds from Toronto's left-field music scene

2013-2016

Artistic Director of the
Somewhere There Creative Music Festival

2012 -present

Board member and President of
Somewhere There Creative Music Presentations

2010

Co-artistic Director of Music(in)Galleries, an annual event that features musicians performing in a series of art galleries in downtown Toronto

2003-2005


Graduate Research Assistant, York University
Archiving audio files for the York University Pop Music Archives and Music Gallery Collection

2002-2003

Assistant Musical Director and bassist, Ship’s Company Theatre, Parrsboro, NS

1996-1999

Musical Director and bassist,
Johnny Favourite Swing Orchestra
Performed in many of the major cities in North America

1995-Present

Self employed bassist, composer, and bandleader

My MA thesis consisted of 11 pieces written for an improvising trio of bass, piano, and saxophone. These compositions became the foundation for See Through Trio, a group I have led since 2004. Our debut album Our Own Devices (2007) includes many of the pieces composed for my MA thesis.
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  1. Follow The Bouncing Ball
  2. Never Tell Me The Odds
  3. Answers
  4. Fictitious Circumstances
  5. Backroad Symphony
  6. Distant Relations
  7. Diorama
  8. Fumbling Hands and Sharp Teeth
  9. After Sunday
  10. Talking To Strangers

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Three Canadian Songs (1999)

Composed for mezzo-soprano and piano, with text by Nova Scotia-born poet Alden Nowlan (1933-83).

Performed by Sarah Myatt (voice) and Walter Delahunt (piano)
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  1. Canadian January Night
  2. Country Full Of Christmas
  3. Canadian Love Song

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String Quartet in Three Movements (2000)
Performed by members of Symphony Nova Scotia



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  1. String Quartet - I
  2. String Quartet - II
  3. String Quartet - III

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See Through Trio - Our Own Devices (2007)

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Tania Gill - piano
Pete Johnston - bass
Mark Laver - saxophone
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  1. Follow The Bouncing Ball
  2. Never Tell Me The Odds
  3. Answers
  4. Bicycle
  5. Fictitious Circumstances
  6. Hymn
  7. Backroad Symphony
  8. Distant Relations
  9. Diorama
  10. Fumbling Hands and Sharp Teeth
  11. After Sunday
  12. Talking To Strangers

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See Through Trio - Lines and Spaces (2009)

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Tania Gill - piano
Pete Johnston - bass
Mark Laver - saxophone
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  1. Waiting For The Punchline
  2. Peter Patter
  3. A Little More To The Left
  4. By Ear
  5. Glider Architect
  6. Ah Ti Tah
  7. Rural Route No 2
  8. Looking For Nancy I
  9. Looking For Nancy II
  10. Looking For Nancy III
  11. Looking For Nancy IV
  12. Looking For Nancy V

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See Through Trio - Near Northern Static (2012)

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Tania Gill - piano
Pete Johnston - bass
Mark Laver - saxophone
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  1. Somewhere On Side B
  2. Pocket-sized Lullabies
  3. Second Stories
  4. I Got A Little Sidetracked
  5. Stars and Satellites
  6. Creating A Diversion
  7. On My Sleeve
  8. I Am Not A Committee
  9. On The Square
  10. The Science Behind It

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See Through Trio - Parallel Lights (2014)

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Tania Gill - piano
Pete Johnston - bass
Karen Ng - saxophone
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  1. Blame The Numbers
  2. The Answer Is Slow
  3. Minor Curve
  4. Tomorrow Generator
  5. Tiny Spirits Lifting
  6. Never The Right Angle
  7. Guided By Wires
  8. Thirteen Months Long
  9. Inside Chance

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See Through 5 - Utilities (2016)

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Tania Gill - piano
Pete Johnston - bass
Karen Ng - saxophone
Jake Oelrichs - drums
Mike Smith - synth
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  1. Something Somebody Can Use
  2. Standing In The Dust Since Then
  3. Because Time Is For Living
  4. Not Even The Masons Know
  5. We Have Both Been Dissected
  6. More Faults Than California

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See Through 5 - Margins (2016)

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Tania Gill - piano
Pete Johnston - bass
Karen Ng - saxophone
Jake Oelrichs - drums
Mike Smith - synth
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  1. The Maps Were Right All Along
  2. I Can't Believe These Buildings
  3. Underused Sense of Wonder
  4. Piecing Together That Dream
  5. The Satellites All Point North

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See Through Two - Slow Bend (2016)

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Rob Clutton - bass, fretless Fender bass, banjo
Pete Johnston - bass
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  1. Range
  2. Stack
  3. Lark
  4. Fold
  5. Walk
  6. Truck
  7. Scoop
  8. Park
  9. Trail

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Aurochs - Another Helpful Medicine (2016)

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Ali Berkok - piano
Pete Johnston - bass
Jake Oelrichs - drums, glock
Mike Smith - electronics
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  1. One
  2. Two
  3. Three
  4. Four
  5. Five
  6. Six
  7. Seven
  8. Eight
  9. Nine
  10. Ten

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Aurochs - Rational Animals (2014)

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Ali Berkok - piano
Pete Johnston - bass
Jake Oelrichs - drums, glock
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  1. Catch
  2. Shift
  3. Lock
  4. Ground
  5. Fling

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Johnny Favourite Swing Orchestra - The Life Desire (1998)

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Johnny Favourite - vocals
Pete Johnston - bass
Marty Coles - drums
Andrew Killawee - piano
John Wesley Chisholm - guitar
Dawn Hatfield - baritone saxophone
Colin Hudson - alto saxophone
Craig Sheppard - trumpet
David Christensen - clarinet
Eric Landry - trombone
Wes Mackey Jr - tenor saxophone
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  1. Country Club
  2. Evangeline
  3. Cheek To Cheek
  4. Root Beer and Liquorice
  5. Molly Marlane
  6. Wild Mountain Thyme
  7. We Still Talk
  8. These Foolish Things
  9. 90 MPH
  10. The Life Desire

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Johnny Favourite Swing Orchestra - Last Dances Live (1999)

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Johnny Favourite - vocals
Pete Johnston - bass
David Fitzgerald - drums
Andrew Killawee - piano
Brad Conrad - guitar
Dawn Hatfield - baritone saxophone
Colin Hudson - alto saxophone
Craig Sheppard - trumpet
Matt Myer - trumpet
David Christensen - clarinet
Eric Landry - trombone
Wes Mackey Jr - tenor saxophone
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  1. Intro - There You Have It
  2. Down On The Dark Side
  3. Something New
  4. Kick At The Can
  5. Twisted Road
  6. Any Time At All
  7. Choosing Sides
  8. Last Dance of the Year
  9. Losing The Game
  10. Outro - There You Have It

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Muskox - Gallentries (2008)

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Johnny Favourite - vocals
Pete Johnston - bass
David Fitzgerald - drums
Andrew Killawee - piano
Brad Conrad - guitar
Dawn Hatfield - baritone saxophone
Colin Hudson - alto saxophone
Craig Sheppard - trumpet
Matt Myer - trumpet
David Christensen - clarinet
Eric Landry - trombone
Wes Mackey Jr - tenor saxophone