The Obsessions Octet was founded in 2005 by Kent Sangster, a jazz saxophonist, and his wife Joanna Ciapka-Sangster, a classically trained violinist, out of their long- held desire to make music together. This group is the most innovative, ambitious, crazy and satisfying project that they have undertaken to date.
The distinct sound of this group is an elegant blend of classical, latin and jazz elements, performing works by Astor Piazzolla, Chucho Valdes, Cole Porter and a collection of Kent Sangster’s original compositions. The Obsessions Octet has put out four notable recordings: OBSESSION (2006), a mix of jazz standards and works by tango master Astor Piazzolla and originals by Kent Sangster; and MELODIA (2010), including works by Piazzolla, Afro- Cuban influenced music by Chucho Valdes, and more original Latin-oriented works by Kent Sangster, STEPPIN’UP (2016) representing a new direction of the group with 5 originals by Kent, two gems by A. Piazzolla and an adaptation of Prelude by F. Chopin, REVERENCE (2019) which is the most diversified record of the octet, inclufing compositions by Maria Schneider, Allan Gilliland, Chris Andrew, Krzysztof Komeda and K. Sangster.
The Obsessions Octet first release, OBSESSION, earned a Western Canadian Music Award and a Juno nomination for “Best Contemporary Jazz Album of the Year”. Their sophomore release MELODIA was nominated for a Western Canadian Music Award for “Best Jazz Recording” and established this cross-over ensemble as one of the finest of its kind in North America.
In the Fall 2016 the Obsessions Octet released their third record STEPPIN’ UP to rave reviews , with nominations to many different Awards. Most recent release of REVERENCE (Spring of 2019) keeps receiving great reviews and lots of airplay on various radio stations.
The Octet consists of two quartets: a classical string quartet and a jazz quartet (sax-piano-bass-drums). The ensemble plays chamber-jazz over a mix of material that leaves space for improvisation. Although originating in different parts of the world, these eight unique musicians make their home in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
The ladies of the string quartet – Joanna (violin), Yue (violin), Leanne (viola), and Ronda (cello) – conduct busy careers as regular members of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, Alberta Baroque Ensemble, and other musical groups as chamber musicians or soloists. They have also been featured on numerous recordings and are educators involved in various community projects.
The jazz musicians – Kent (saxophones), Chris (piano), John (double bass) and Jamie (drums) – are winners and nominees of various jazz awards, as well as leaders and members of other jazz groups like Edmonton Jazz Orchestra and Bomba!. They are respected educators, members of faculty in Grant MacEwan University, busy recording artists, and talented managers involved in community projects in Edmonton.
The Obsessions Octet made its debut at Weill Hall at Carnegie Hall in New York, on October 6, 2012 at 8 p.m. to absolutely raving reviews. The concert was preceded by a concert tour around Alberta, Canada. In the fall of 2013 the group received a City of Edmonton Arts and Culture Performance Award. In July 2014, the Octet completed very successful 20 days tour to Europe when they performed 12 concerts in various venues, in Greece, Poland and Czech Republic. In the Summer of 2017 the group toured Europe again- this time they performed in London, Budapest and Poland – 8 concerts in 16 days altogether.
On June 25th/2016 the group represented Alberta at the XEROX Rochester International Jazz Festival 2016 in their new “Oh Canada! Series”( with a support of Canada Council for the Arts).Octet’s sold out performance was filmed by national PBS Television.
“Obsessions Octet channels emotions into something more romantic. It’s not romance in a sugary, predictable style, but with a robust sound that supports a flood of musical communication. Together since 2005 the group combines the lineup of a typical jazz quartet (sax-piano-bass-drums) with a classical string quartet in a lush sound that appeals to jazz and classical fans.” Roger Levesque, Edmonton Journal
“Obsessions Octet performed a terrific concert on MidAmerica Production’s chamber music series in Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall. Their acoustic performance in this hall was acutely balanced, nuanced and musically varied. They were well received by the enthusiastic audience eager for their unique musical expressions from this combination of instruments. We certainly look forward to presenting them again.” Norman Dunfee, President, Executive Director, MidAmerica Productions Inc.