Winnipeg's Jazz Magazine


Git In Where You Fit In

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Jazz, in many ways, is like life. You have a birthing period, you have a grooming period, you have a professional period—and then you have the back end.

A hundred years ago, you would have accessed jazz through situations where the most important thing might have been buying liquor, or meeting with people you don’t normally mingle with, or doing things you didn’t necessarily want the general public to see. Jazz was the soundtrack for those activities.

As it developed, jazz moved on to something that was more consumable—the settings were a little less gritty, the associated activities more respectable. We call that the swing era. The children of the swing era wanted to be concert musicians, so they created bebop, and bebop in turn inspired musicians to generate modal jazz, avant garde jazz, acid jazz, fusion…

You can see those growth stages in communities too. Here in Winnipeg, our varied performance options fall onto the same kind of spectrum. At the highest end, we have formal concerts like the Jazz Festival or the Asper Jazz Performances series. People who attend these concerts have paid big bucks for tickets—they come expressly to hear the music, so it’s inappropriate to talk. The cue: nobody’s offering food or drinks, you’re not seated in groups of four or eight. It’s a concert, not a social event.

An outdoor concert under the stars is kind of a hybrid. It’s not as formal as a concert, but it’s not quite a social event either—there’s no TV, and you have to bring your own food. If you have to talk, you can move away a bit and not disturb other people.

Much like the early jazz sessions, the Cool Wednesday Night Hang jam session is our incubator. This is where you can find new musicians, half-baked ideas, raucous experimentation—the whole chaos of creation. You’ll find tomorrow’s sound budding there, and since everyone is testing things out, it’s free to get in. Even when the band is cookin’, a jam session is still atmosphere—the real goal is to attract you to the club so that you’ll buy food and drinks. I think band directors and audiences who want people to be quiet in those circumstances are mistaken. These are social gatherings, and it’s totally acceptable to talk and guffaw and watch TV and eat your food—it’s a party!

This summer is full of music, and the fall season is coming right up. You’ve got a whole lot of choices available, and to get the whole experience you should check out everything. You have an opportunity to see tomorrow’s musicians at the jam sessions, and today’s musicians at the concert halls. When you see the most polished ones in the high end venues, you’ll have a better sense of how they got there, what their growth was. You’ll find yourself thinking back to when Will Bonness was just a cherub looking a bit like a deer in the headlights…

I hope to see a lot of you over the next year, in as many settings as possible. If that’s a bit much, we’re just happy to see you git in where you fit in!

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