Jazz fest concerts not your average garden party

Roaring '20s series recasts Dalnavert as venue for summer shows

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Zachary Rushing wasn’t sure he would get a chance to sing in front of a real live audience anytime soon.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 18/07/2020 (755 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Zachary Rushing wasn’t sure he would get a chance to sing in front of a real live audience anytime soon.

“By Christmas, maybe?” says the Winnipeg-based jazz vocalist. “I had my hopes but I didn’t anticipate being able to play (a show) over the summer — that was a very pleasant surprise.”

Christmas came early for Rushing and a handful of other Manitoba musicians who are slated to play in Jazz Winnipeg’s upcoming live concert series at the Dalnavert Museum amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Matt Duboff Photo Jazz Winnipeg acting executive director Angela Heck, Dalnavert Museum executive director Thomas McLeod and musician Zachary Rushing, who performs July 26, are set for the Jazz Age Garden Party series, which launches tomorrow at the museum.

The outdoor Jazz Age Garden Parties will take place every Sunday at 2 p.m., rain or shine, beginning July 19. The weekly events are Roaring ’20s-themed and capped at 50 people with physical distancing in place.

Rushing takes the stage with the other members of his quartet — Dhiego Costa on keyboard, Jared Beckstead on bass and Kevin Waters on drums — on July 26.

While the group technically played together for Jazz Winnipeg’s virtual Apart Together series earlier this year, Rushing is looking forward to performing with and in front of other humans for the first time since March.

SUPPLIED Richard Gillis Quartet launches the new Jazz Winnipeg series on July 19.

“I miss the act of actually being in a room with other musicians and creating music, there is no substitute for playing with other people,” he says. “I also really miss the audience, when I’m thinking about a setlist or programming music, I’m doing everything with the audience in mind.”

The setlist for the group’s upcoming show will be intentionally fun, with a focus on uptempo jazz and swing tunes; as well as some original numbers the vocalist penned during the COVID-19 lockdown.

Rushing grew up near Portland, Ore., and moved to Winnipeg three years ago with his Manitoba-born partner. Watching the pandemic unfold in the United States and being away from his family has been difficult, but the forced downtime has been a boon for his music practice.

SUPPLIED Sweet Alibi performs its Jazz Age Garden Party series concert on Aug. 23.

“This is the first chance I’ve had to just sit and do anything creative,” says Rushing, who is pursuing a jazz studies degree at the University of Manitoba. “I hit the ground running Day 1 of quarantine and actually had a little bit of burnout. We’re through that now and it’s been really great for my creative routines.”

With the easing of public health restrictions in Manitoba, Jazz Winnipeg decided last month that it would attempt to host a series of small, live events in lieu of this year’s TD Winnipeg International Jazz Festival, which was scheduled to run June 11 to 19.

“It’s come together really quick,” Angela Heck, Jazz Winnipeg’s acting executive director, says. “The workload is nuts but everyone’s doing it with a smile on their face; it’s joyful work.”

On top of the live shows, the organization is also busy recording a number of online concerts at the Alt Hotel to be released on Facebook every Thursday at 8 p.m. starting July 23. Artists include Kelly Bado, Will Bonness, Sheena Rattai, Curtis Newton, Len Bowen and Apollo Suns.

While staff are working at a frantic pace, the logistics are a lot more manageable than mounting a multi-week festival with large international acts.

The summer concerts are being covered by funds allocated for this year’s festival, but Heck says the organization is still looking for donations as it navigates an uncertain future.

“The whole concept of a festival is being redefined as we’re living through this,” she says.

“Being able to present live music is amazing, but we’re still going to be looking at what is the revenue model as this goes on.”

eva.wasney@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @evawasney

Eva Wasney

Eva Wasney
Arts Reporter

Eva Wasney is a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.

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