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The DragonJazz Story

My name is Joel Penner and I am the leader of The Joel Penner Sextet. I have been a trumpet player virtually all of my life. Although I grew up in the jazz tradition, I found myself playing many different types of music in order to support myself. Mostly I played everything except jazz. At the age of thirty six, after years of being on the road and, for the most part being in situations that were neither financially nor artistically fulfilling, I decided to return to school to get my Doctorate in Oriental Medicine. I received my degree at age forty and have had a successful practice for almost twenty years. I continued to play the trumpet sporadically during that time, but did not put in the daily practice necessary to be happy with my playing. It got to the point where I could not stand to hear myself play on gigs because I new I was not playing anywhere near my best, so I decided to stop playing completely. I was literally carrying the trumpet to the garage when I was struck with the strongest feeling that I should not give up playing. It has always been the thing that I have most enjoyed doing in my life. Somehow I knew that if I stopped, I would wither away and die. So, at that moment, I decided to keep playing, but I knew that I had to take it seriously. I got back into a daily practice schedule and decided to form my dream band, doing the music I love, with musicians I enjoy.

About fifteen years ago I met a wonderful arranger named Rick Hils. I told him at that time that I had a vision of the type of band I would eventually like to have and he did a couple of arrangements for me, which I kept but never had a chance to play until 1999 when I started the band. At the first rehearsal of the sextet we played Rick's arrangements, Joy Spring and Jeannine. They sounded great, just as I knew they would, but over the years, I had completely lost track of Rick. I had no idea if he was in town or how to get a hold of him. At the next rehearsal, Bill, my bass player came up to me and said "you'll never guess who I ran into the other day". I said "who" and he said "Rick Hils, here is his phone number." I called Rick right away and asked him to do some more arrangements for me, which he was happy to do.

The band rehearsed, did a few small gigs and recorded the first four tunes of DragonJazz. Originally I had in mind just doing a four tune demo so that we could get work around the area, but finally decided to make it the first four tunes of the eight tune CD. We used the four tune demo and got a good amount of work out of it. During that time we went through a few personnel changes as bands do. About six months later, when we decided to do the second four tunes, we had a new drummer and guitar player.

We used two different studios and two different recording engineers for the two halves of the CD, however through the efforts of both engineers, we managed to get the CD to sound like a unified whole. I have a great amount of respect and gratitude for both of them for their efforts.

Fortunately, DragonJazz was well received by the press and the jazz radio community. Without the support of a record label or professional promoter, we were able to get it played on over forty full time jazz radio stations.

I wish to thank all of those DJs and journalists who supported us, and most importantly I wish to thank you for buying DragonJazz and supporting us at our live performances.


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