Feature/Interview

Canadians in London (London Column from JAZZTHETIK Apr-May 2020)

Sebastian’s regular London Column in April-May edition of the German Magazine JAZZTHETIK, with Estonian singer Kadri Voorand on the cover, looks at Canadians in London: 

What is it about Canadians that makes them different?

The arrival of Canada as this year’s partner country at jazzahead! made me reflect on the subtle but very positive influence of Canadians on the jazz scene in the UK.

One Canadian musician, now sadly passed on, has had a huge influence. Trumpeter/ composer Kenny Wheeler, “one of the most original voices music has ever had” (John Hollenbeck), happened to make his home in London. In the first place it was the Korean war draft that made him come here in 1952, rather than simply heading south across the border into the US. He lived here until his death in 2014. Wheeler was legendarily shy, “unworldly, even a little lost in life’s tumult” (John Fordham).And yet it feels as if this creative giant is still with us. His 90th birthday this January was marked by the London Jazz Orchestra – back in the day he was a founder member of the orchestra. And trumpeter and jazz educator Nick Smart has taken on the role of writing a major biography of Wheeler in preparation. And where is he with this massive endeavour? It is “nearing completion,” says Smart.

I asked a Canadian singer Lauren Bush, finalist in the Sarah Vaughan competition in 2016, and now resident in London what she thinks makes Canadian musicians different. “It’s not that we identify as Canadians, it’s because we are used to being a ‘melting pot’ of people, we aren’t afraid to go out in the world and learn, listen, collaborate and grow as artists. Our jazz industry is tiny and quite spread out (due to how big our country is) so in order to stay inspired and develop as jazz musicians we have to push ourselves to see what’s out there, maybe in the USA, Europe or even just another corner of our country. We are also quite loyal and supportive of our compatriots so we tend to (nicely) shout about the people we know who are talented, book each other, spread the word… I also think Canadians are seen in the world most of all as “nice people” which makes them easy to work with.”

As an example, Bush described one universally-liked Canadian in London, guitarist. Dominic Ashworth: “Dominic represents all the best virtues of Canadian jazz musicians. He always makes sure he’s doing his job well, so that he can elevate his peers. He promotes good quality jazz by spreading the word, playing with the best and always being the best. And it’s no surprise whatsoever that he’s always very popular and always very busy.” Yes, that quiet, Canadian way to be is a very good way.

LINKS: The German version of this regular column is HERE

The list of contents for Apr-May JAZZTHETIK is HERE

Categories: Feature/Interview

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