I wanted to know more about the Jazz program at The Banff Centre — figure out what’s lurking at the core of it. What makes it…unique? For the past few weeks I’ve been attending jazz performances in The Club, the Eric Harvie Theatre, late night jams in the Maclab bistro, and what I’ve noticed is that the essence or spirit of Jazz at The Banff Centre is one of openness and collaboration, which might just be the spirit of jazz as an artform.
“Randomly, we all sat down at the same table for a meal, and that was pretty much the instrumentation for creating our band,” says Ben Dietschi, a member of Tunnel Six, a band that formed out of the 2009 Jazz program. “We all decided to book a recording session together, and after we played one tune, we knew. Everybody paused in silence for a few moments, looked around the room, and that’s when we knew we had a band.”
The musicians in Tunnel Six are from all over North America, and before they set out on tour, they use skype and facebook to keep in touch, collaborate on pieces, and give each other feedback, until they actually meet in person and play together. “The fact that we’re all in different places, and coming from different cultural surroundings just adds potency to the projects we create,” explains Dietschi. “When we do meet up, our different backgrounds just add colour to our set and our music.” Like Dietschi, two musicians in the current Jazz program — bassist Patrick Reid and saxophonist/violinist, Angela Morris — also benefit from spending a few weeks a year working alongside and collaborating with a colourful mix of jazz artists. “I keep coming back because this place is sort of like a creative music fairy tale for me,” says Reid, who first came to the program in 2004 and has returned consistently since 2008.
“Not only am I surrounded by some of my biggest jazz heroes (like Dave Douglas), but I also get to find out what goes into other people’s music, what they think about when they’re making music, how they live, and how that influences their work.” The openness of the program enables Reid and fellow participants to explore one another’s style and work ethic in an extremely creative and encouraging environment. “The connections I’ve made here are so unique — the people are so amazing, so open-minded, and so driven” says Morris, who hails from Toronto, resides in New York, and co-leads a sextet called Common Wealth with former Jazz program participant and saxophonist, Jasmine Lovell-Smith. “I met Jasmine in the program, we collaborated and hung out, and now we play together in New York on a regular basis — it’s awesome!”