Ottawa guitarist Tim Bedner has never forgotten how much he learned from playing with the masters.

When he was a student at Berklee College close to 20 years ago, he had a duo gig every Monday night at an Italian restaurant.  Several world-class Boston jazz musicians, including saxophonist George Garzone and bassist John Lockwood, would regularly drop in and play.

"I can look back now and say that this had to be some of the most important musical instruction and development I've ever received," he said. "I'm still assimilating lessons from them. It's an important part of who I am today."

At the time, he was very nervous and wondered how he could keep up, he said. But "we were open and willing to learn and we took direction."

Now he wants to offer the same experience to student jazz players in Ottawa – as thanks to the musicians "who took the time out to play with a couple of students and to help us."

Starting September 28, and continuing on the last Monday of the month until next April, Tim is offering students the chance to be mentored in live performance by some of Ottawa's best jazz musicians. And jazz fans are welcome to come out to hear the result at Café Paradiso.

The first show will feature renowned double bassist John Geggie, who has had many years of experience playing with jazz guitarists, and four guitar students from Carleton University. Each student will play two numbers with Geggie, and will then receive a critique on their performance.

This will be a different experience from a masterclass, Tim said, because it will be in front of their peers and in front of a live audience, in a club where music happens all the time. It will reflect the real demands of playing where "phones are ringing, and the cash register is going, and the cappuccino machine is going".

"That experience is so valuable, and it's not happening a lot in today's scene."

Tim said he picked the duo format because "it's hardest to play", and forces the students to learn more. "You don't have piano and drums to hide behind."

The project is a labour of love for everyone involved. Neither Tim nor the mentors are being paid for their efforts; Paradiso owner Alex Demianenko offered the use of the Paradiso stage on the Mondays at no cost. There will be no cover charge.

But Tim hopes that the entire jazz community will benefit in the long run, if more high school and college students are encouraged to play jazz, and to play at a higher level. He said he was disappointed to see relatively few younger faces at last year's Geggie series or at Roddy Ellias' guitar duo series, because that meant students lost an opportunity to learn from listening to the masters.

"I'm hoping the community comes out for this, because these are students that need the community behind them. We often go to the Jazz Festival and see all these great musicians and the community certainly goes out and supports the Jazz Festival, but the community also needs to recognize that these young folks could be the next whoever playing in the festival. [I hope the community will say] 'We're here and we're going to cheer you on and show that we care about the music and care about your development.' "

"Inside the Music" host Tim Bedner with guest David Occhipinti , Alcorn Music Studios, March 2009. © 2009 Brett Delmage
"Inside the Music" host Tim Bedner (front) with guest David Occhipinti , Alcorn Music Studios, March 2009. © 2009 Brett Delmage

He also encouraged any musicians to come out and listen, because they could also learn through observation.

Emphasizing the series will not just be for guitarists, Tim wants to vary the instrument pairings: for example, piano and sax, or guitar and vocals ("singing with guitar is not as easy as with piano"). "My idea is to cross-pollinate, not just doing the typical standard pairings."

He said he started with guitarists because three of the students had been studying with him and had achieved major progress in the last year. For the following concerts, he will be canvassing local teachers for advanced students who might benefit from the mentoring.

The next two shows will feature guitarist Roddy Ellias (October 26), and trombonist and pianist Mark Ferguson (November 30). Then the series will take a break until the end of January and run until the end of April. He will continue with local jazz masters next spring, but hoped to eventually bring musicians from out of town as well, perhaps integrated with his "Inside the Music" workshop series at Alcorn Studios.

    – Alayne McGregor

Sept. 28 show details.

Students wanted

Tim would be happy to hear from aspiring high school and university students interested in taking part in the program. Students must be at the stage where they can play standard repertoire with other musicians in public and be able to improvise, and he will need to hear them play.

Interested students can contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.