Winnipeg's Jazz Magazine


A City of the World

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There’s an evolution going on in this city and a lot of new things are emerging. Two transformations stand out as particularly significant. One big change is in our narrative. We went from the place in the middle of nowhere to the place in the center of everything. I’m not saying that we are the most important or the biggest or the oldest or anything like that, but there is a new kind of swagger in the air about Winnipeg. In past letters I’ve touted the Human Rights Museum, the stadium, the new airport, the transit system and even the forthcoming Ikea. Those things have gone a long way towards sprucing up our image. I look around and I can tell people are feeling it.

We’re doing our bit in the jazz world to uphold our end of the deal. In an Open House we had just recently at the university, I got a glimpse of how the commander of a naval armada must feel. Our jazz faculty started the show with a performance that presented like a dream I had nine years ago. We were all passion, fire, polish and professionalism. Some of our alumni then came and sat in. They were likewise outstanding, and they offered verbal witness to go along with their musical testimony. That’s something I wanted my mother to hear and see!

After that, Derrick Gardner rolled out his big band and they were like a starship. Significantly there were people in his band from Edmonton, Calgary, Minnesota, Brazil, Michigan and many neighborhoods all throughout Winnipeg. They played with incredible dynamic range and sensitivity. They were followed by Quincy Davis & Promise, an ensemble of top-notch university players—their performance definitely lived up to their name!

The greatest moment of the day came right after the formal presentation when the high school kids in attendance got up to jam with us. They played on and on. They were encouraging and supportive of each other and they interacted with our faculty. They were fearless and fired up. It was like the Wednesday Night Hang only it was late Friday afternoon at the university. Those kids knew what to do! I heard it in the music. I saw it in the mannerisms. This was a far milestone from where we first started in this adventure nine years ago.

Those young musicians were trying things that they heard Israelis do. They were trying things that they heard South Americans do. They were trying things that they heard from Detroit. In the jazz world you’re more effective when you think of yourself as part of the whole world, and that’s what I heard as I listened to them play.

The incoming high school kids have shifted from a local to a global paradigm, and that’s a major transformation. When you think of yourself as American, Canadian, Italian or whatever else, you limit your language, sound, customs and mannerisms. You effectively put borders around your creativity.

Jazz musicians are citizens of the world. It’s exciting to think that through our music we’re creating world citizens right here in our own community.

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