Winnipeg's Jazz Magazine


November/December 2015: Grace Kelly

Rent Party 6: Kirk MacDonald, Curtis Nowosad, and the Big dig! Band

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Eleven years ago, I held the very first issue of dig! magazine in my hands. It was the result of a lot of grit, a couple of writing parties in my living room, a leap of faith from a designer, and some good business advice from Randall Kinley. A lot of people circled around to make those first issues a reality, because I didn’t know much about magazine making—I was a newcomer to Winnipeg, a bass player with a new job and big dream, and I wanted this city to become excited about the jazz scene that was already in their midst.

Fast forward, and this little magazine is turning eleven. For over a decade now, Charlene Diehl and I have been gathering the jazz news in this city, John Funk has worked his design magic, then Jazz Winnipeg has shepherded it through the production maze. You’ve picked up the magazine at local cafes and band rooms and Starbucks, and some of you subscribe and grab it from your own mailboxes. We have enjoyed so many conversations with you in grocery stores and concert lobbies and via email. I can’t tell you how grateful I am for your enthusiasm—it’s really what keeps us going!

As we rev up for this year’s Rent Party fundraiser on November 21, I’m thinking about the ways old projects and new projects come together. This year, our Rent Party band is—fittingly—the Big dig! Band, a kick-ass community orchestra that Derrick Gardner and I put together at the beginning of this year. The premise is pretty straightforward: we call in the best players in the city, and raise the roof with terrific arrangements of big band repertoire, from old classics to brand new compositions. Part of our mandate is to invite musicians in our community to bring big band charts to the band—our first sets are open rehearsals that allow us to work through new material, and share the process with interested community members.

So the Big dig! Band will provide the soundtrack for this year’s Rent Party—and we’re excited to welcome our first featured artist to the bandstand. Kirk MacDonald is an elder statesman in this country, one of an elite group of world-class tenor saxophonists here. He’s someone who’s taken a great ability to perform jazz and put a distinctly Canadian fingerprint on it. In his playing, you hear a true Canadian sensibility—a little less edge but tons of wit and intellect, and a particular kind of fire.

MacDonald is a sought-after big band composer-arranger too, and we’re really looking forward to sharing a couple of his charts at the Rent Party. His arrangements are both challenging and beautiful. I hear a line back through Rob McConnell to Stan Kenton and Maria Schneider—you have this lush orchestration sitting on top of a swing element. I think Winnipeggers are gonna be thrilled by his sound, both as a player and as a composer.

We’re also welcoming Curtis Nowosad back for this gig. Curtis reaches back to the very start of my life here in Winnipeg. He was just a kid then, and now he’s a huge talent, on the rise in New York. We want to do as much as we can to promote his sound, and we sorta like to keep him close to us—he’s a reminder of what we have going on here!

If you’ve been to a previous Rent Party, you’ll know that the concert is always a kick, but that we have lots of fun before the show and in the intermission breaks. In the Park Theatre lobby, there’s a big rainbow auction, a photo op in front of our dig! banner, and small ensembles showing their stuff. It’s true that we host a Rent Party so we can pay the proverbial landlord—we really depend on the funds to carry us through the year—but we also look forward to hanging out with all of you, our friends in this supportive community of jazz lovers.

Way back at the start, I called out a friendly challenge: “I say Jazz, you say Capital.” Here we are eleven years later, a great community of jazz lovers sharing music—and magazine—in the Jazz Capital of Canada. Thank you for all your support. I hope you will join us for the party!


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