Trumpeter with York roots plays Toronto Jazz Festival

York Guardian


Trumpeter William Sperandei and jazz great Wynton Marsalis have more than just the trumpet and their appreciation for classical music in common.

Both hate to fly.

This became a real bonding moment for the men when they embarked on a European tour together in 1992, when Sperandei’s band opened for Marsalis.

“If we were playing in Rome and had to go to Switzerland I would take a train with him and everybody else would fly,” said Sperandei.

“So I got to hang out with him a lot and I learned a lot of things. We talked a lot about the music business, books and women – all sorts of things.”

Luckily for Sperandei, who grew up in the Bathurst Street and St. Clair Avenue area, his latest gig with the Toronto TD Jazz Festival is just a short drive away from his current home in Georgetown.

The 26th annual festival is set for June 20 to 29 with more than 350 concerts popping up across the city. More than 1,500 musicians will be performing and Sperandei, along with his band mate Amy McConnell, is one of them. The duo will be performing in the Distillery District Tuesday, June 25.

The two have recorded the album Stealing Genius that has a list of well-known songs that they’ve given a jazz twist. They’ve covered artists ranging from Leonard Cohen to Led Zeppelin.

“We play well together. And she’s a great singer,” Sperandei said. “We do some mellow stuff and some more aggressive things. It’s big mix of styles and genres of music.”

Sperandei said he was inspired as a teen to pursue music as a full-time career the day he heard the Miles Davis album Kind of Blue.

“It changed things for me,” he said.

He took an interest in the more classical sound of the trumpet and credits that curiosity with developing his tone and sound, which he describes a “darker sound, very full and classical.”

“It’s not like a blaring or shrill trumpet sound. It’s a sound that people want to listen to

He began mastering the trumpet late in high school, and was accepted into Wilfrid Laurier University’s music program on a full scholarship, then decided to pursue it further through the University of New Orleans jazz performance program.

“School was great, but it was more about hanging out in the clubs and watching people play,” Sperandei said. “That’s where you learn everything, you know?”

While in New Orleans, he became a part of a band that consisted of the top students in Elis Marsalis’s class, who were given the honour to go on a European tour with his son, Wynton.

“For me it was great,” said Sperandei. “It was my first time doing a tour of that kind.”

The best moment on that tour for Sperandei was when he played in Rome, where the majority of his family lives. He moved from Italy to Toronto when he was five with his mother and father. The rest of his family stayed behind, but they all came out to watch him play in Rome that year.

“Everybody’s there and they all came out and that was a really great moment.”