Jazz hands everybody jazz hands

National Music Centre’s first big summit

You may have noticed that one of our major cultural attractions has changed its name. Cantos Music Foundation is now the National Music Centre and there’s a lot more in the works than just a new title. NMC has some big plans for the future including this week’s launch of the National Jazz Summit.

On the surface it may seem that the summit is just another entry on the slate of activities celebrating Calgary’s 2012 Cultural Capital of Canada status. NMC however has had its eye on this idea for a while. When NMC program director Ian Menzies took the job last year he knew he wanted annualized programming and he knew he wanted jazz programming. So the idea of the summit was born.

“We certainly do have some Calgary 2012 money to help us get it off the ground this year” says Menzies “and that money will not be there next year though we do have other underwriting as well. We feel confident that by getting this one off the ground we’ll be able to enhance that and grow so that we will be able to continue doing it annually.”

Why so confident? Well money aside the summit has some focused programming plans and it has some prestigious partners.

“With the National Music Centre international is not what we are — we’re national” says Menzies. “It doesn’t mean we can’t program non-Canadian stuff but there’s a national focus to what we do. We’re trying to make it more strongly Canadian-centric and nationalistic.”

Second the summit organizers have partnered with The Banff Centre CADME (Calgary Association for the Development of Music Education) and the Jazz Is Society of Alberta. This reflects the NMC’s decision to build on the experience and connections of existing jazz organizations. “I’ve been very forthright and communicative with other pillars of the jazz community in town that we’re collaborating with” says Menzies.

These collaborations have set the tone for the summit and influenced its shape: a deliberate balance of workshops and concerts.

If you’re interested in the educational component there will be workshops in jazz vocals a Canadian composers’ quorum a piano master class and more. “This National Jazz Summit is first and foremost about providing mentorship opportunities about education and workshop opportunities” says Menzies.

“The full plan is to have a full weekend of workshops not just one day and have one day of those workshops in Banff and one day of those workshops at the National Music Centre. We’ve really defined it by these two entities (NMC and The Banff Centre) working together and pulling on the strong reputation that already exists for The Banff Centre’s jazz education piece.”

If you just want to check out the gigs however there are performances at Theatre Junction Grand and The Blues Can including the legendary Oliver Jones and The Banff Centre’s Vijay Iyer along with such well-known locals as Jim Brennan Jon McCaslin Rubim de Toledo and Sinistrio.

Jones and Iyer both pianists are appearing in what is billed as “The Big Show.” The fact that they play the same instrument was part of the plan for this launch year says Menzies. “The Cantos Music Foundation was known for a large and impressive piano and keyboard collection so the piano is identified very strongly with us and we identify very strongly with it. For this first National Jazz Summit although there are a variety of jazz instruments we thought quite early on we should feature the piano. It just makes sense for us especially in the initial year.”