Winnipeg's Jazz Magazine


The New Normal

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Many of you will remember a time, roughly ten years ago, when the Cool Monday Night Hang had just started in Osborne Village. At that point, there were several small conclaves of highly proficient jazz musicians here who really had a lot going on, despite the perception that jazz wasn’t a big deal here. So I was running around trying to get everyone excited about jazz. I made quite a spectacle of myself, proclaiming that Winnipeg was the “Jazz Capital of Canada,” all the while leading jam sessions that ran off the rails several times a night. Now I realize that the irony and the ensuing calamity were a huge part of the entertainment.

One of the kids that used to come up on the bandstand was a young drummer named Curtis Nowosad. Many times I had to stop him in the middle of a song because he was destroying the groove. I explained to him that it took an awfully good drummer to be better than no drummer at all.

Fast forward to today and not only is Curtis a graduate from our Jazz Studies program, but he has been invited to audition for graduate programs at Juilliard and the Manhattan School of Music. He has just been accepted into the Betty Carter Jazz Ahead academy which is an elite jazz residency in Washington DC. The faculty there are the top poll-winners of jazz, and they hand pick young musicians that they see as world-class talent. Curtis Nowosad is on his way—those two weeks in Washington are going to throw open doors and put him on the map in a big way.


Then there is Luke Sellick who is now a scholarship holder in Juilliard’s graduate program in jazz and a regular on the stage at Smalls and other New York clubs.

Back here at home, Will Bonness is a full-fledged faculty member. Erin Propp is making waves as a singer. So are Amber Epp and Heitha Forsyth—performing now as Sol James. At least half a dozen recordings have come out of local studios in the last year, and the clubs are booked up with young talent.

In the wings: high school saxophonist Connor Derraugh has just been interviewed by CBC television because of his amazing ability, and his coalition of young up-and-comers includes Devon Gillingham, a prodigious bass player who honestly rivals Christian McBride. They’re part of the new energy over at the Wednesday Night Hang, and a whole crew of them blow the roof off the rehearsal hall every Saturday with the U of M Youth Jazz Collective. On top of everything these guys can do musically, they remain humble and open-minded, the very character traits that attracted me to young musicians here in the first place.

Now high school kids here are seeing themselves anywhere they want to be in this world, and believing they can get there through the universal language of jazz.  The new normal for Winnipeg is a young adult who can swing you into bad health!

Now I don’t even have to say it—many are thinking it. Winnipeg is … …. ……. .. …….!

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