Winnipeg's Jazz Magazine


The Voices Normally Unheard

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That was some winter, eh!? They say it was the coldest one in eighty years. Usually there’s a break every once in awhile, but that one came fully loaded. There was nothing but seamless, cold and brutal temperatures for roughly two and a half months.

It was certainly a lot of pressure. I watched a lot of my friends and relatives slowly start to go a bit stir-crazy. It’s funny how -10 degrees can seem like a heat wave after those experiences. I guess you get used to this stuff.

I think it really affected our neighbors to the south. They invented a new term for it: “the polar vortex.” Canadians didn’t feel the need to call it anything but a really cold winter that produced snow all the way down to Florida. I think it’s funny that my relatives in Atlanta Georgia were freakin’ out over the amount of snow it takes to lightly powder a brownie.

While I mull over the misfortune of my previous word choices, I’m reminded of how relative things are. I’m also reminded both of how much Winnipeg has changed me and of how many changes I see happening in The Peg.

On February 13, I was doing “spring break” auditions—which is ironic, considering that we were all navigating temperatures of -27 degrees and below, with 4 to 10 foot walls of snow everywhere. Anyway, a young auditionee from Steinbach rolls up on the stage all decked out like the latest Prada or Dolce and Gabbana fashion model with a matching, uniquely-colored guitar. I’m thinking: “I wonder whether she can even play that thing?” She not only played well, she played a transcription arrangement that surprised everyone on the panel, including myself. She was channeling Grant Green—this was choice jazz connoisseur material! Another person sat down, strummed a guitar, and sang like a Spanish Billie Holiday. The entire panel swooned.

This is the kind of stuff you hear only occasionally in New York. Nothing like this ever happened ten years ago in Winnipeg.

This is a changed community. One notable new venture is the jam session that happens every Friday at a local high school. I haven’t been to it yet but many members of my staff have. They say that students from all over town come there because they are too young to get into the Wednesday Night Hang. Many of these kids have been to our jazz camp and now want to continue their pursuit of the music. They are finding their own way.

Jazz is an art form the gives voices to the normally unheard. Our young people are picking up on that and you can hear them speaking through jazz techniques. That’s one really great way to manage the oppression of a harsh and brutal winter. They are seeking each other out through the warmth of jazz communication.

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