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Reykjavik fest worth the trip for pianist

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HANNES BIRGIR HJALMARSSON
From left, Will Bonness on piano, Richard Gillis on trumpet and Bjorn Thoroddsen on guitar.

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HANNES BIRGIR HJALMARSSON From left, Will Bonness on piano, Richard Gillis on trumpet and Bjorn Thoroddsen on guitar.

SOMETIMES booking two jobs close together, and worlds apart, makes for an arduous commute.

You wonder why you accepted that jazz fest gig in Reykjavik, Iceland, just before you were due to teach at a weeklong jazz camp in Winnipeg.

The trip, one-way, is just over 4,500 kilometres with a 15-hour flight there (20 hours coming home, including a long layover in New York City each way) but it was worth it for Winnipeg pianist Will Bonness to perform at the Reykjavik Jazz Festival on Aug. 16.

The pianist and professor in the jazz studies department of the University of Manitoba music faculty made the trip for a one-hour concert with Icelandic guitarist Bjrn Thoroddsen.

Bonness enjoyed performing with Thoroddsen, a musician "who does his own unique thing," even though he had to make a quick turnaround to fulfil his teaching commitment at the U of M jazz camp last week.

The pianist wasn't the only Winnipegger in the band. Trumpeter and fellow music professor Richard Gillis was already in the Icelandic capital working with Thoroddsen, a popular musician here from his frequent trips to Winnipeg.

"It's not a big fest, but good," Bonness said, adding it's impressive for the size of the city and country. For instance, Bonness went to a jam session the night before the Thoroddsen performance and ran into top-notch U.S. musicians such as pianist Aaron Parks and drummers Jim Black and Ari Hoenig.

But after arriving the day before the concert and leaving the day after, Bonness says, "Hopefully I'll stay longer next time."

 

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Winnipeg singer Amber Epp has added a couple of new awards to her resumé for her solo work and with Trio Bembe.

The latest batch of Global Music Awards cited Epp for her work with guitarist Rodrigo Mu±oz and percussionist Scott Senior on Trio Bembe's Oh My Soul and her own jazz CD Inside Outside.

There is no televised awards gala, Epp says, but the honours are designed to recognize independent artists and give them a leg up as they pursue their careers.

The California-based Global Music Awards states its "goal is to celebrate truly independent musicians, rather than being like other music talent competitions that honour only the bestselling recording artists. GMA is a showcase for original music, unique voices and emerging artists.

"Our goals are to provide talented musicians with our stamp of approval and generate buzz about their music. We will announce the GMA winners to our proprietary email list of 28,000-plus musicians and industry insiders."

Epp, who heard about the awards through Manitoba Music and applied just a couple of months ago, won a silver medal for outstanding achievement in the world music and beats category for Oh My Soul, and a bronze medal in the "Musicians Being Followed" category for Inside Outside.

Epp views the awards as something that can lend credibility to artists as they sell themselves. "I can show promoters I've won a Western Canada Music Award and Global Music Awards," the singer says.

She adds, with a laugh: "They help people out who aren't Justin Bieber."

 

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You can catch videos of singer Erin Propp and drummer Curtis Nowosad on Manitoba Music's new Loft Sessions series (www.manitobamusic.com/search/q:loft+sessions).

Propp performs He Cries (The Breathing) from her Juno-nominated CD with guitarist Larry Roy, Courage, My Love.

The singer is backed by Roy, Will Bonness on keyboards, Nowosad, Luke Sellick on bass and Rodrigo Mu±oz on percussion on my favourite song from the Propp/Roy recording.

Nowosad can be seen and heard on Dialectics, the title track from his upcoming CD, to be released by Vancouver's Cellar Live label. He is backed by Bonness, Steve Kirby on bass, Derrick Gardner on trumpet and Niall Bakkestad-Legarre on saxophone.

The Loft Sessions is a well-done series and a good chance to see and hear local musicians in action.

 

chris.smith@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 25, 2014 D5

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