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Big Apple lures talented young drummer

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There could be a free-for-all for young jazz drummers in the fall when Curtis Nowosad heads to New York City to work on a masters degree as a fellow of the Manhattan School of Music jazz institute.

Nowosad laughs at the image, but recognizes he's an in-demand drummer.

"That's a good question; who'll play all my gigs here. There are a lot of good young drummers here," says the 25-year-old who was accepted into six masters programs, including the Juilliard School.

Nowosad says the full scholarship that comes with the Manhattan fellowship was a deciding factor. He adds, "I'm really looking forward to working with John Riley, who will be my private teacher." Nowosad knows Riley from his work with the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra and as an author of drum instruction books.

Nowosad, who will relocate to New York with his wife Megan, a nurse, already has made a lot of musical friends in the jazz mecca. As a teen, he hung out at a weekly jam session, he met many New York-based musicians offering workshops through his jazz studies degree at the University of Manitoba and/or performing in the Asper jazz series, through a Banff Centre workshop and a recent Betty Carter's Jazz Ahead workshop in Washington, D.C.

Spending two years studying and performing in NYC will give him "a better perspective on the New York jazz world," Nowosad says.

He will join other Winnipeg musicians in New York: bassist Luke Sellick is studying at Juilliard and teen Devon Gillingham, the Transcona Collegiate student who recently won the first Essentially Ellington Gerhard W. Vosshall Student Composition/Arranging contest, will attend the New School in the fall, Nowosad says. Before that he will get to see and hear renowned jazz musician Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra in New York City record his piece at the Essentially Ellington festival May 10-12.

Will we see the drummer again once he's seen the bright lights of the big city?

Well, he says he'll be back in the summer, and even if the stars align and he sees a chance to remain in New York and make a living after the two years of study. "I've been part of this community too long to simply say, 'See you later.'

"I've invested too much here to take off and never look back."


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Winnipeg drummer and jazz studies professor Quincy Davis will join his pianist brother Xavier onstage for the first concert of the upcoming Izzy Asper Jazz Performances series, which starts in the fall.

They will be part of a band supporting trumpeter Brian Lynch and tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander (along with bassist Steve Kirby, director of jazz studies at the University of Manitoba) in a concert called Best of the Blue Note (Saturday, Sept. 28, 8 p.m., and Sunday, Sept. 29, 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., Berney Theatre).

Lynch and Alexander are top-tier players who will pay tribute to the storied jazz label.

The second concert, Yesterdays: An Evening With Billie Holiday, features singer Vanessa Rubin singing some of Holiday's signature tunes such as My Man, Strange Fruit and God Bless the Child (Saturday, Oct. 26, 8 p.m., and Sunday, Oct. 27, 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., Berney Theatre).

The Brubeck Brothers Quartet pays tribute to the siblings' father, Dave Brubeck, the great pianist and band leader who died in December, with Chris (bass and trombone) and Dan (drums) updating classics such as Take Five, Blue Rondo a la Turk and In Your Own Sweet Way with new arrangements from the band's album Lifetimes (Saturday, March 8, 8 p.m., and Sunday, March 9, 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Berney Theatre).

Latin Explosion (Saturday, April 12, 3:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m., Winnipeg Art Gallery) sets the stage on fire with percussionist Poncho Sanchez and His Latin Jazz Band playing a mix of Latin jazz, swing, bebop, salsa and soul.

The series closes with The Music of Fats Waller with New York singers Catherine Russell and Allan Harris reprising a program performed at Lincoln Center. The tribute will feature classics by Harlem stride pianist and composer Waller such as Ain't Misbehavin' and Honeysuckle Rose (Saturday, May 3, 3:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m., Winnipeg Art Gallery).

The Asper shows are largely a subscription series, although tickets are available for single shows. Ticket information is available at or 204-477-7534.


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Trombonist Wycliffe Gordon and saxophonist Steve Wilson are coming to camp this summer as special guests at the 20th annual University of Manitoba Jazz Camp, which runs Aug. 18-24.

The two American musicians will join jazz studies staff Steve Kirby (bass), Quincy Davis (drums), Derrick Gardner (trumpet), Will Bonness (piano) and Anna-Lisa Kirby (vocals) teaching at the camp aimed at musicians, junior and senior high school students, university students and educators.

Information on the camp program and fees is available at

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 22, 2013 D3

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