The JazzWorks Sunday afternoon jazz jams are moving to a new space with a new vibe this weekend, and hoping to attract a new, broader audience.

They'll be held at Festival House (the Bluesfest School of Music and Art) in Westboro, a more family-friendly, quiet location – and will feature coaching from a series of highly experienced local jazz teachers.

JazzWorks Artistic Director and double bassist John Geggie in teaching mode at the 2008 JazzWorks jazz camp. ©Brett Delmage, 2008
JazzWorks Artistic Director and double bassist John Geggie in teaching mode at the 2008 JazzWorks jazz camp. ©Brett Delmage, 2008

“The primary goal of the Sunday sessions is to get people out playing music. People who have never had a chance, people who love to play and want to play on a Sunday,” said JazzWorks board member Peggy Cameron, who has been involved in planning the sessions.

She said the Sunday jams would be “much more relaxed, much less pressure” than JazzWorks' long-running evening jams.

“People who might have been intimidated by the Thursday night jams – the number of people and the quality of the music – might think, 'Well if I go Sunday afternoon, maybe I can play'. People who have been a little bit fearful maybe in the past, young people [for whom] Thursday night is too late for them. [We want to] get a different bunch of people involved.”

This Sunday's jam, which will run from 2 to 5 p.m., will be mentored by JazzWorks' Artistic Director and double bassist John Geggie. In a posting on the JazzWorks website, Geggie said that this first jam would be “concentrating on the basics”, starting with two easy tunes which work for singers and instrumentalists of all descriptions: a blues, “Bag's Groove”, and George Gershwin's “I Got Rhythm”.

“We can really get into these tunes (at least at the beginning), trying them at different tempi and styles and allowing as many people as possible the chance to experience them,” he wrote.

Geggie will provide guidance and feedback to the musicians, Cameron said, discussing each song performed, ensuring everyone has a chance to play, and providing some ideas on how to approach songs. “You're here to back up the singer and therefore we should be able to hear the singer; the singer doesn't have a loud voice, you need to drop down, or maybe you're a little bit out of rhythm.”

On February 8, saxophonist Mike Tremblay will lead the jam session, followed by pianist Steve Boudreau on March 8. Because each mentor plays a different instrument, Cameron said, each will have a different perspective. “Each have different points of view that you can learn from.”

JazzWorks originally tried out Sunday afternoon jams starting in March, 2013, at the same location as the evening jams: the Carleton Tavern in Hintonburg. They ran there until last June, but ended due to lack of participation.

Cameron said that the space at Festival House, which JazzWorks is renting, will be better for listeners: “There won't be the disruptions of drinkers, football games, waitresses serving alcohol and that sort of thing. The setup is already there. They have the drums, the piano, the sound equipment is already there. It's a nicer environment.”

And the coaching “will be much easier in an environment where everybody is focusing on the same thing, rather than football games, hockey games, whatever else goes on in a bar.”

The Bluesfest School has also advertised the jams on its website, and Cameron said they were “very positive” about them. “They think it's a great idea.”

She hoped the jams would also attract more teenage players, whose parents might be more comfortable with the location. The Sunday jams had originally attracted teenagers at the previous location, she said, but they didn't continue coming out.

The Bluesfest space does not currently have a liquor licence, but water and soft drinks will be available for sale.

Cameron said JazzWorks would evaluate the Sunday jams after the first three months. “And if it's popular and people want it to carry on, then we will.”

    – Alayne McGregor

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