Jazz has long had a history of experienced musicians mentoring younger players, and in the days before formal music education it was an effective way to learn the craft, along with countless hours of playing whatever gig you could get, of course.
Even today, with so many public school band programs and university music faculty jazz programs, learning from a pro is still a great way to hone musical skills.
And then, at a certain point, jazz fans get to enjoy the youngsters and their elders onstage performing as equals.
On Tuesday, at Mardi Jazz, 24-year-old trombonist Christopher Butcher led a quartet that included drummer Curt Nowosad, his contemporary in age and experience, and two men of a certain age: pianist Ron Paley and bassist Steve Kirby.
It doesn’t seem that long ago that Butcher and Nowosad were literally just kids hanging out at the weekly jazz session at the now defunct Osborne Freehouse — a session started by Kirby, director of jazz studies at the University of Manitoba music faculty.
As well as mentors like Paley and Kirby onstage, the audience included a mix of musicians, from trumpeter Darren Ritchie (Butcher’s former band teacher), guitarist Larry Roy and trombonist Jay Harrison to contemporaries such as pianist Will Bonness and singer Amber Epp.
And Butcher, back in town from Toronto where he has finished school and is working as a musician, did his former teachers proud on an array of standards from Wayne Shorter’s Blues On The Corner to Ellington’s In A Sentimental Mood.
If you closed your eyes, you could ignore the fact it was a cross-generational lineup, and just listen to a good jazz band, which, of course, is the whole purpose behind the tradition of passing on the secrets of jazz from one generation to another.
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Jazz on Wheels, the flatbed truck carrying a nine-piece band is on the road for its fifth season. Sponsored by Jazz Winnipeg and organized by Steve Kirby, it will be at the following community events:
Saturday, Aug. 7
Qu’appelle Avenue at Carlton Street
The River Barge Festival
Sunday, Aug. 29
Rossbrook House Summer Games
Wednesday, Sept. 1
Ross Avenue at Sherbrook Street
Sherbrook Street Festival
Saturday, Sept. 11
Sherbrook Street at Wolseley Avenue