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It was a good year for city's jazz fans

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Despite fears of the end of the world in 2012, it was a very good year for jazz in Winnipeg.

One of the best jazz acts to perform here, the Vijay Iyer Trio, did so during the TD Winnipeg International Jazz Festival audience in June, but on a venue away from the main festival.

Pianist Iyer, bassist Stefan Crump and drummer Tyshawn Sorey had to move their performance to the Park Theatre after the festival discovered the original venue -- the new, so-called Winnipeg's Cultural City Hall -- was unavailable on the eve of a week's worth of shows booked there.

Former Aqua Books owner Kelly Hughes had told Jazz Winnipeg the new venue on Princess Street was ready, but its renovation was incomplete and it was unusable. Jazz Winnipeg had to scramble to rebook shows. It happened again in July when the Fringe Festival had to do the same. The non-profit Cultural City Hall still isn't open for business.

The move didn't hurt Iyer, at least, as a good audience found its way to his two Park shows and was rewarded by playing that bristles with energy and imagination. The trio was touring to support its new CD, Accelerando, one of the best recordings released this year.

A surprise treat was the November performance of Cyrille Aimée, the Brooklyn-based French singer who appeared with the Hot Club of Detroit as part of the Izzy Asper Jazz Performances series.

She was a great fit with a band celebrating the great Gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt and a revelation for those of us who got their first taste of her beautiful voice, delivery and sense of humour.

Singer Gretchen Parlato's emotional and languid style captured her jazz festival audience.

She made every word count as she performed her unique, wistful style of jazz, in which the substitution of sounds for words makes her as much an instrumentalist as a singer.

When bass virtuoso Christian McBride comes to town, it's time to rejoice and ride the tight groove.

For his October Asper series shows, he led a great band of alto saxophonist Steve Wilson, pianist Peter Martin, vibraphonist Warren Wolf and drummer Carl Allen through mainly McBride compositions.

McBride's playing and writing are so good, so top tier, that every tune grabs your attention and you'd like the concert to keep going, and going...

This year also saw the appointment of Will Bonness as the new assistant professor of piano in the jazz studies department of the University of Manitoba's faculty of music.

Bonness, in his mid-20s, is a graduate of the program, studied in New York and Boston, and is simply a versatile, great pianist.

He's been around the jazz world for along time, though. He started at 17 by going on a world tour with Maynard Ferguson's Big Bop Nouveau Band -- a sign of the big things ahead.

-- -- --

As I take a look back, Jazz Winnipeg is looking ahead and inviting local musicians to apply to be a part of the 2013 TD Winnipeg International Jazz Festival.

"Programming emphasis is obviously placed on jazz music, but pop, blues, roots, indie, R&B, soul and urban music are also important parts of the event," the producer of the annual June festival says in a statement.

"Submissions should demonstrate forethought about repertoire and personnel. Please tell us what you plan to do, how it is different from your local performances throughout the year, and why it should be a part of this exciting event!"

Jazz Winnipeg added its Nu Sounds Series will be returning for a eighth season, from December 2013 to May 2014, at the Park Theatre.

It invites "Manitoba jazz musicians to develop unique performance concepts for presentation in this series. Some considerations might be collaborations with musicians you don't normally work with; unconventional material; improvised work; concept-based work. The idea is to invite you to explore material in an intimate concert-setting that you might not ordinarily have the opportunity to present. Preference is typically given to projects that focus on innovation and new ideas."

Proposals can be submitted by email to by Friday, Feb. 22, 2013 at 5 p.m.

"Proposals can be fairly informal and should consist mainly of two to three paragraphs outlining your concept and a short bio for each of the musicians involved. If appropriate, please also send music selections. If your technical requirements are out of the ordinary, please also make a note of these," festival organizers say.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 24, 2012 D3

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