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Winnipeg musician gets to first bass

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Imagine riding in a car through the streets of New York with jazz great Ron Carter, on the way to a gig of his, and chatting about your favourite albums that the bassist appears on.

Sounds daunting, sounds like fun and sounds like Winnipeg bassist Luke Sellick had the time of his life doing it this fall while working on his master's degree at Juilliard.

Sellick's studies include an hour-long lesson once a week in Carter's home, during which the bassist with decades of recording and performing experience "is very focused, very specific" about the teaching.

But Sellick also gets to ride with Carter to gigs and that's when a more relaxed atmosphere allows the acolyte to shoot the breeze with his teacher.

"It's been really exciting," Sellick said while back in town for the holidays. "He's my favourite living bass player." (Mine, too, only I don't get to ride around NYC with him.)

"It gives me a connection to the history of the music... I'm sitting in a car with him," Sellick adds.

While in New York, Sellick has been busy "learning a lot, developing as a musician. I've been pushing myself, it's very rewarding."

And he has been performing as much as he can. He has played with school bands at the Blue Note and Smoke jazz clubs, taken part in jam sessions at Small's and Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola at Jazz at Lincoln Center, performed with pianist Cedar Walton and saxophonist George Coleman at Juilliard, and worked on a gig with pianist Johnny O'Neal.

Not bad for a 20-something.

Sellick, however, hasn't forgotten how much good music can be heard on Winnipeg stages and he spent a good deal of time performing before returning to New York -- at the Current lounge, at Juss Jazz, at a house party with singer Erin Propp and guitarist Larry Roy and he fronted a quintet of bright 20-somethings at Mardi Jazz last Tuesday.

The $5 cover charge to get into the weekly Centre culturel franco-manitobain jazz show gave the full-house audience a taste of the future of jazz.

If that sounds a bit pompous, it is nonetheless true.

Sellick, drummer Curtis Nowosad, tenor saxophonist Niall Bakkestad-Legare, trumpeter Andrew Littleford and pianist Will Bonness swung hard through some Sellick compositions and material by Walton, Pat Metheny and Duke Pearson.

Bakkestad-Legare and Littleford made a very good front line, Nowosad was sensitive at the drumset and Bonness, the new piano professor in the University of Manitoba music faculty, was himself, simply a great pianist.

Sellick handles the bass like a pro (after all, he was one of only three students picked to study with Carter) as a member of the rhythm section and as leader.

Singer Propp performed a couple of new compositions: one with the band and one as a duo with Sellick. She is a great singer who writes songs that tell real stories and the duo spot was a highlight of the Mardi Jazz show.

-- -- --

The 15th anniversary season of Music 'N' Mavens, the daytime concert and lecture series at the Rady Jewish Community Centre, kicks off tomorrow and runs to March 14. It includes a few shows of interest to jazz fans. Shows are at the RJCC, 123 Doncaster St., at 2 p.m. unless otherwise noted:

Wednesday, Jan. 23 -- Singer Helen White's small choir, inspired by the Four Freshmen, the Modernaires and the Hi-Lo's, will perform vocal and instrumental numbers including folk songs, jazz standards, and pop tunes with arrangements by Jonathan Alexiuk. (Gwen Secter Creative Living Centre, 1588 Main St., 1:30 p.m.)

Tuesday, Feb. 5 -- Songwriting duo of singer Erin Propp and guitarist Larry Roy featuring original music and specially arranged jazz standards.

Tuesday, March 5 -- Victor Hugo Lopez and The Folklorashuns with a mix of Argentine folklore, tango, milonga, jazz and pop. Victor Hugo Lopez, guitar and vocals, Scott Senior, percussion, Amber Epp, keys and vocals, and Gonzalo Godio, bass and vocals.

Thursday, March 14 -- Winnipeg jazz fixture pianist Ron Paley joins vocalist Charlotte Martin to perform The Best of Jazz, Blues, Gospel and Soul, featuring works by Whitney Houston, Aretha Franklin, Billie Holiday and other great African American singers.

Tickets/Concert Passes are available by calling the Rady JCC at 204-477-7510, online at www.radyjcc.com and at the door.

chris.smith@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 14, 2013 D3

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