AE_Allison Au
Allison Au and her jazz quartet make a stop at the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society. The Canadian group has won accolades over recent years. Photo courtesy Allison Au

 

An award-winning jazz saxophonist, composer and arranger, Allison Au has played in San Francisco and the Bay Area before, but this weekend will be her first time performing in Half Moon Bay.

The 10-day tour through California takes Au’s jazz quartet to the coast. It will perform at 4:30 p.m. on Sunday at the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society in Half Moon Bay. Tickets cost $35, $30 for students, and can be purchased at bachddsoc.org

At 33, Au and her quartet have established themselves as standouts on Canada’s jazz scene. She identified her group as contemporary jazz, combining genres of pop, soul and R&B to create her own style. 

The group stars Au on alto saxophone, Todd Pentney on piano, and Fabio Ragnelli on drums. Dan Fortin will be the bassist, as Jon Maharaj was unable to make this West Coast tour. 

In 2016, the quartet took home a JUNO, a prestigious Canadian jazz award. It was validation she did not chase, but received nonetheless. It was her second album, “Forest Grove,” that earned the accolades. Her latest album, “Wander Wonder,” has been nominated for the same category this year. 

Born in Toronto, Ontario, Au creates music that reflects her multicultural background. Her passion for music stemmed from her parents, and while neither of them played instruments professionally, they had plenty of CDs and vinyl records and would play them frequently. Au began piano lessons at age 8, and at the art school she attended as a child, she split her time between arts and academics. It was there she learned the clarinet and saxophone, and was introduced to more musicians and instructors. 

It took Au awhile to see music as a legitimate career path. When it came time for college applications, she knew she wanted at least one year of music school. It was at Humber College in Toronto, amid the city’s jazz and improv scene, that she began to realize the options she had to make music her life’s work. 

She formed a quartet of fellow students after graduating in 2009. It provided her an opportunity to consistently get feedback and work with the same people. 

“After my first year out of school, I just wanted an outlet to write music, and have a platform to practice material that was 100 percent my own,” Au said. 

Her quartet has gained momentum over the years, earning numerous awards and residencies in Canada. Au enjoys the freedom and inclusiveness jazz music allows, and she’s still developing her own style. 

“I still feel like I’m in a place of exploration,” Au said.

“I don’t know what next year will bring. But I always want to keep trying,” she added.

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