Winnipeg's Jazz Magazine


January/February 2017: Warren Wolf

Michael Petkau Falk: Stepping Up

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Last issue we shared some memories of Jazz Winnipeg’s long-time Executive Producer Paul Nolin. With this issue, we’re happy to introduce you to Michael Petkau Falk, the organization’s new Artistic Director. You might know Mike from his time fronting the popular Winnipeg indie band Les Jupes, or his period as Artistic Director of the West End Cultural Centre. He’s an adventurous musician, and knows a lot of about the music industry from the inside—as a recording artist, a recording engineer and promoter (has his own studio and recording label), and an event producer. No doubt he’ll be bringing all these experiences to bear in his new role. Welcome aboard, Mike! ν Charlene Diehl

What makes you want to take on the Artistic Director role for Jazz Winnipeg?

As a teen I loved making mixtapes, and that has informed my love of curating musical experiences for people as I’ve gotten older and grown into different music industry roles. I like being able to give people new experiences, and explore the way we listen to music or the role it plays in our city life and cultural life. I like being able to support and raise up music I love, and be an advocate for those pursuing excellent art.

What will you do to move jazz forward here in Winnipeg?

I think there’s a lot of really exciting new music being made right now. I want to work with the community to grow our numbers and expand our listening horizons. I’m interested in discovery and appreciation within a framework of how the music impacts our lives and our culture… Music promotion isn’t an island activity unto itself, but instead it informs one of our most beloved cultural activities: discovery.

I love it when I stumble onto something that totally changes how I think or feel. Music that moves me and makes me wonder how a mind or heart could ever come up with that. A lofty goal, but I want to help foster those experiences for our community.

Art is only as effective as the audience it impacts and connects with. We are not islands, and so strengthening the relationship between artist and audience is crucial.

I love it when I stumble onto something that totally changes how I think or feel. Music that moves me and makes me wonder how a mind or heart could ever come up with that. A lofty goal, but I want to help foster those experiences for our community.

Art is only as effective as the audience it impacts and connects with. We are not islands, and so strengthening the relationship between artist and audience is crucial.

How do you see jazz in the fabric of the city?

I see a community that has some really strong anchors, but with a few steps still to take. The activity at the U of M, Asper Series, the jazz orchestras, and Jazz Winnipeg is all pretty solid for a city our size. The festival is able to bring in some notable acts, and there’s a strong foundation of talented musicians in the city.

Questions I ask myself: Can we foster more artists to grow from local sideperson gigs towards actual touring careers as artists? How can our artists better connect with audiences? Can jazz be more culturally relevant in today’s world? What does that look like locally, and would it help reverse its declining North American market share?

There’s also no home base—no jazz club that the community calls its own, that can be counted on for consistent programming and a quality night out for patrons. Jazz often fits into the corners of restaurants, and I’d like to see more opportunities for it to be featured and celebrated, rather than only accompany some other activity.

Who are your favourite jazz artists?

In terms of classics, I’ve always loved Mingus and Chet. Those are my guys. Great combinations of heart, brain, and willful abandon. I sometimes wonder if music students today take too many classes and not enough drugs. (Ha. Please don’t tell their parents I said that!)

Bowie’s Blackstar record introduced me to the brilliant playing of Donny McCaslin, whose new album is blowing my mind.

And I love so much of the ECM records catalogue, especially British saxophonist Iain Ballamy and his band Food, a partnership with Norwegian percussionist Thomas Strønen. Oh, and I can’t overstate my mad, mad love for everything Vijay Iyer has ever touched!


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