Jazz on Wheels is about to kick off another season of great music in Winnipeg’s inner city neighbourhoods. This will be our ninth year of bringing the bridge-building power of music and fun to kids and adults who don’t always get to experience live music!
If you haven’t been in the crowd at a Jazz on Wheels performance, it’s a little hard to describe. We roll up with a flatbed as our stage (thank you Maxim!) right in the midst of the action. What happens next is part performance, part story-telling, 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, and dancing in the streets and school yards.
The Jazz on Wheels band is a machine again this year. I’m on the bass and microphone—two of my favourite things! Curtis Nowosad is back in town for the summer, and I’m so happy to have him sitting at the drums. Derrick Gardner and Neil Watson are my front line on trumpet and saxophone. Carter Graham is on keyboards and Gabriela Cardenas Thomas on guitar. Anna-Lisa Kirby and Brooke Van Ryssel are out front with vocals. I’ve got my eye on a couple of high school musicians who are ready for the challenge, and I’m really excited to be folding in young musicians from the new Jazz on Wheels Academy.
We’ve hand-picked seven or eight kids who have been thriving with Neil Watson in the Bridge program at Hugh John Macdonald or really impressed me and my pedagogy students in the new jazz option in the CanU program at the U of M. Thanks to the new Jazz on Wheels Academy, they’ll have some one-on-one instruction to work up some repertoire to bring to the Jazz on Wheels band. These kids are just learning to play, but they’re inspiring! In many ways they’re actually the core of the band because they embody the Jazz on Wheels dream: they come from these underserved neighbourhoods and are now stepping in to make music come alive for their peers and families.
We’re still confirming our performance options. We’ll be connecting with the wonderful kids in the CSI program, and we’ll be doing a neighbourhood festival or two. In the fall, we’ll hit a couple of schools to stir up even more interest among potential young musicians who can start dreaming of playing or singing with others, making music that lets them share their voices with the rest of the city.
Jazz Winnipeg will keep you posted about our shows. Everybody is welcome—we’re all one big community!