Winnipeg's Jazz Magazine

March/April 2013: Freddy Cole

Greg Gatien

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Saxophonist Greg Gatien grew up in Halifax, and after receiving his undergraduate degree at St Francis Xavier, he headed south to Boston and Rochester to study and teach. For the past few years, he has been on faculty at Brandon University, sharing his love of jazz and his passion for teaching. He also directs the Jazz Camp at the International Peace Garden, and holds the lead alto chair in the Winnipeg Jazz Orchestra. – Charlene Diehl

Tell us about your entry into music.

I started in public school in Halifax—it’s getting to be such a long time ago that I don’t remember what grade! There was something about the saxophone that called my name, and the point where I knew that I was in it for the long haul was after listening to a Cannonball Adderley recording, Things Are Getting Better, with Milt Jackson.

What musicians get you most revved up?

There’s a list of folks that mean so much to me. Cannonball shares top billing with Sonny Rollins. I’m drawn to the heart of the jazz tradition these days, so Shirley Horn, Herbie Hancock, the Harmons (John, piano, and Zach, drums), Benny Carter, Lee Konitz, Wayne Shorter, Joe Henderson. Also, I’m listening to more singers than when I was younger—Joe Williams, Frank Sinatra, Abbey Lincoln, Betty Carter…

In terms of personal contact, Bob Brookmeyer and Michael Cain have had the biggest impact on my musicianship and person. Brookmeyer, who died last year, has been on my mind a lot lately—he understood swing and was such an honest, practical teacher and friend.  I have also learned so much from Michael, and it is a joy that I now get to work with him.

What do you most enjoy about teaching?

I feel very fortunate to get to work in my current environment. I most enjoy the interaction involved with teaching—the conversations that take place as part of the learning process on a daily basis, both with the students and with my colleagues. It’s a privilege to help young musicians, and it’s endlessly challenging. It’s also pretty inspiring when you listen to a student performance and become aware of the incredible distance that the student has covered in a relatively short period of time. We get to work with young people at a period in their lives when they process a great deal of information, mature as players and thinkers, and make such noticeable progress.

What are the big life lessons you take from jazz?

I think that jazz—both my understanding of it, and the incredible people that I have met because of it—has taught me an enormous amount about life: how to treat other people, how to care about something bigger than myself, how to deal with adversity, how to see and hear beauty in things, how to find humor in almost any situation, how to be flexible, and—maybe most importantly—how to work hard in a variety of settings.

Tell us a bit about the upcoming Nu Sounds concert.

I guess you are going to hear the Brandon sound! Joining me are Michael Cain on piano, Eric Platz—my other great full-time colleague—on drums, and an up-and-coming young bass player named John Baron. Undoubtedly we’ll play several of Michael’s compositions, but we’re still finalizing the repertoire. Each of us is so busy it can be hard to get together in one room, but we are looking forward to this opportunity to play!


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