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).
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. This fall, Janice is releasing her long-awaited 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. Newly-minted University of Manitoba grad Erin Propp lends a dreamy heartfelt voice to
Remember Me, a touching song written by Janice after visiting a beloved relative afflicted with
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
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 remains an active private instructor. She also teaches school workshops, jazz
ensembles and jazz appreciation courses for the general public. She is a long-time member of the
University of Manitoba's Jazz Camp Faculty and has been an active music festival adjudicator for
more than 15 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.