Winnipeg's Jazz Magazine

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Jazz on Wheels: Rollin’ Out

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Jazz on Wheels has kicked off another season of great music in inner city neighborhoods. We’ve already played at the Ellice Street Festival, the site of our very first outing six years ago, and Hugh John Macdonald School, a place that has become important to us over the past few months. Still ahead are shows at the CSI Summer Learning Institute, Central Park, the Rossbrook House Games, and the Sherbrook Street Festival. We’re sorting out at least one more outing, so it’s going to be a full summer season.

If you haven’t been in the crowd at a Jazz on Wheels performance, it’s a little hard to describe. I think of it as part performance, part music education, part history lesson—and all party. A typical show will take you on a journey that includes an introduction to different instruments and styles of music, stories about the origins of jazz and the characters who’ve created it, lots of improvisation, some crowd participation (we’ve had some impressive lion roars from the under-8 club!), and dancing in the streets.

The Jazz on Wheels band showcases some of the best young players in the Jazz Studies program at the University of Manitoba. Niall Bakkestad-Legare, Landen Seesahai, Luke Sellick, Joanna Majoko, Kristopher Ulrich, and Carter Graham are all names to take note of now—they’re going to be making a big impact over the next few years. Anna-Lisa Kirby and I (and occasionally young Solomon) round out the band.

This year, we are starting to realize the bigger Jazz on Wheels dream, which is to incorporate some of the kids from our target neighborhoods into our band. Some of the great young musicians we’ve been working with at Hugh John Macdonald School for the past few months heated up our stage at the Ellice Street Festival, and will be on board at a lot of our other shows.

The Hugh John Macdonald kids are passionate learners—they bring huge talent and desire, and a tremendously open-minded acceptance of any instruction that comes their way. The U of M kids are a little older and have a lot of performance under their belt. They’re eager to share what they’ve learned. Together these young musicians are literally experiencing the process that created jazz: we’re fusing different styles, voices, and proficiencies to create a new musical identity. Classical training, jazz technique, and contemporary pop sounds blend together nicely to create something fresh—a sound that is raw and funky, but also elegant.

It’s very exciting and extremely gratifying to be a part of this growth process. It’s also the first step toward discovering the unique sound that will come to characterize this part of the world. I hope you’ll join us for as many of our summer outings as you can. It’s your chance to watch history in the making—and to hear some music that will make you glad you live here!

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