Local Jazz Scene Behind National Coalition

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If something isn’t happening, make it happen. That’s Michelle Gregoire’s attitude. Feeling that there wasn’t much connecting Toronto with the loose network of jazz clubs and promoters in western Canada, Gregoire set out to create a network of her own.

The idea to solidify a jazz network came to Gregoire as she began helping Vancouver-based trumpeter Mike Herriott promote his Winnipeg concert. Inspired to produce other shows, Gregoire then looked to producing a small jazz series featuring touring Canadian artists at the Franco-Manitoban Cultural Centre. Upon communicating with other promoters on Herriott’s Canadian tour, she found there was a tremendous amount of support for a jazz network.

“The response is very positive,” says Gregoire, a Winnipeg-based jazz pianist and composer. “Too often, Winnipeg seems excluded from the touring list. Any participation from us just helps them all the more and reduces that ‘gap’ between Toronto, Montreal and the rest of western Canada. I figure I will start with the centres closest to Winnipeg and go from there, but this has much potential I think.”

A network of clubs and promoters would not only help artists book more gigs but help garner sponsorship and grants. Not unlike the kind of organizations that link of the Canadian jazz festivals, this smaller network would likely have similar benefits for artists. Audiences would, of course, benefit from an increase in jazz performances, particularly from respected touring artists. As well, local artists would have increased opportunities to connect with national artists and broaden their own audience.

“This is great for local jazz artists,” says Gregoire of the potential network. “I would love to have some of [the] concerts feature one of our artists about to embark on a Canadian tour. We do need to get back into the loop and there's nothing like taking a proactive approach. It's great for the industry and for the community because we get to hear Canadian jazz throughout the year, not just during jazz festival season.”

The first step in Gregoire’s plan is the upcoming concert with Herriott at the Franco-Manitoban Cultural Centre on December 4. Local audiences can easily show their support for the planned series and network simply by showing up. Gregoire, herself, is a little surprised by the support that’s already been shown, noting that her plan is “taking on a life of its own.”

Will Winnipeg be the home base of the coalition if it comes to fruition?

“Sure why not,” muses Gregoire. “Winnipeg is the centre of Canada after all.”

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