Kenji Omae plays with John Geggie at the NAC 4th Stage. ©Brett Delmage, 2008
Kenji Omae plays with John Geggie at the NAC 4th Stage. ©Brett Delmage, 2008
Does John Geggie's jazz series at the NAC Fourth Stage have a more Canadian slant for 2011-2012?

More than in the last few years? Yes. A significant change? Iffy.

NAC producer Simone Deneau talked to at the launch on Sept. 22, 2011 about the new "NAC Presents" series, which promotes Canadian music including jazz. She said that she and Geggie had discussed increasing the Canadian content in his jazz series, now on its 11th year at the NAC Fourth Stage, earlier this year in order to coordinate it with NAC Presents. “John was totally keen about the idea,” she said, and thrilled to be adding more Canadian artists. As series curator, Geggie picks the artists and their combinations in his series.

However, Geggie told (via email) that “it is about people and artistic excellence, not geography.”

“The people who I have played with before are there because I like working with them (no agenda involved); it so happens that many of the musicians happen to be Canadian and from either Toronto or Montreal although I am thrilled to be able to do something with Phil Dwyer. I worked with Joe Sullivan years ago when he was living and studying in Ottawa - I have been wanting to do something with him for years; I played with drummer Richard Irwin once years ago at Paradiso and really enjoyed it. Lorne Lofsky is one of Canada's jazz guitar legends.  Pat Labarbera is a saxophone legend all over the world and he has been living in Toronto for years.”

It can take years for Geggie to arrange for a musician to be part of his series.

"I have a wishlist going back years and each season I try to touch base with people and make things happen. Each year, we try to see what the schedules look like; sometimes, a chance meeting with someone brings forward a concert idea. I don't make decisions on whether someone is Canadian or American or whatever...musical considerations only and putting together the right combination of like minded musicians."

However, the stats do show more Canadians in the series this year than in the last two years.

This year's Geggie series concerts will be with:

  • Susie Ibarra (November 12, 2011)
  • Ron Miles and David Occhipinti (January 14, 2012)
  • Phil Dwyer, and Chet and Jim Doxas (February 18, 2012)
  • Joel Frahm, Min Rager, and John Fraboni (March 17, 2012)
  • Pat LaBarbera, Josh Rager, and Nick Fraser (April 21, 2012)
  • Joe Sullivan, Lorne Lofsky, and Richard Irwin (May 26, 2012)

Three of the six concerts (February, April, and May, 2012) are all-Canadian. This contrasts with one in 2010-11 (the packed-house Brian Browne-Mike Rud-Archie Alleyne concert), and one concert of Canadian expatriates in 2009-10. As well, none of the concerts this year include European artists, as happened in previous years.

On the other hand, previous series included a good measure of all-Canadian concerts. In 2008-9, three of the seven concerts were all-Canadian, if you count Canadian ex-pat Seamus Blake. In 2007-8, four of the six were Canadian, counting ex-pats Ian Froman and Kenji Omae. In 2006-7, two of the six were all-Canadian. In 2004-5, one of the five concerts was all-Canadian. In 2002-3, three of the four concerts were all-Canadian. (Series data for other years was not available.)

But, as Geggie points out, the non-Canadians in the series this year "are equally fabulous and if people don't recognise them, they should come out and be surprised."

"Ron Miles is an incredible trumpet player from Denver whose credentials include work with Bill Frisell amongst others (he played with Matt Wilson two years ago at OIJF). Joel Frahm is a stunning heavy tenor sax player from NY, Susie Ibarra is one of the most celebrated free jazz drummers and composers in North America .... and we are all fortunate that the other musicians (the Ragers, Occhipinti, the Doxas brothers, Nick, John Fraboni etc) all happen to have mailing addresses in Canada."

    – Alayne McGregor

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