A&E » Arts

A crash course in interactive jazz jams



Who: Crash

What: Whistler Jazz and Blues Festival

Where: Brewhouse Pub

When: Friday, June 13

You know jazz is making a comeback in the charts when a shy, pixie-faced chanteuse named Norah Jones wins Best Pop Vocal Album at the coveted Grammy Awards. Jazz must be so in groove again because Jones scooped eight of the coveted American Music Awards, including Best New Artist and Best Album.

What came as a bit of a shock for favoured-to-win rocker, Bruce Springsteen, came as no surprise to Crash’s lead saxophonist Cory Weeds, who also owns Vancouver’s premier jazz club, the Cellar.

"Jazz has always been cool ever since it was the pop music of the day in the ’40s and ’50s. It’s gone through lean times sure, but it’s always there. A lot of modern music genres wouldn’t exist without drawing from elements of jazz, especially funk and hip hop. Jazz combines all the elements you want. It has a great beat, it has a great feel and you can recognize the intensity when people play," he said.

In explaining Norah Jones Grammy sweep, Weeds said: "She plays the kind of music people love, which is very voca-based and while some jazz purists might not approve I think she’s great for the jazz scene. Norah’s fans might next go buy some of her favourite bands and next thing you know kids are listening to the pioneering legends like Miles Davis and John Coltrane and then they’re fans of jazz for life."

Crash play the type of jazz that gets you moving. With two saxophonists on stage and a full rhythm section in the rear, it’s hard to wipe away a smile or to keep the toes from tapping. The band was formed in 1996 by Weeds, an alto horn player who paired up with tenor horn player and good friend Jerry Cook.

"He’s a good writer, a great saxophonist and we come from two different schools of music, so it’s a lot of fun on stage together."

Add keyboardist Chris Gestrin, guitarist Dave Sikula, bassist Brad Ferguson, and drummer Jamie Kaufmann and you’re looking at a group of seriously influential musicians that quickly established themselves as one of Vancouver’s premier funk jazz groups.

Crash will be playing an interactive jam session at the Brew House next Friday night and the jazz curious or jazz furious just might pick up a lesson or two. I asked Weeds what makes good jazz.

"It has to be tight, it has to be together. Otherwise it’s impossible to put across a funky vibe. Confidence is key because it allows you to open up more and that only comes through passion and practice."

Crash will also appear on the Skiers Plaza stage at the base of the Whistler Village Gondola on Saturday, June 14 at 6 p.m.