On April 30, International Jazz Day, the Bassment club in Saskatoon will play host to DeJong’s celebration of jazz’s unique culture, history and language.
DeJong is a lifelong musician, saxaphone player, and instructor at Mount Royal University in Calgary. He envisions his show, The Story of Jazz, as a portal into the world of jazz. He says there’s much more to it than your average concert.
“In addition to playing music, we’re going to be speaking to some of the various aspects of jazz,” said DeJong, “including some historical context and some important recordings to do with music appreciation.”
The show will examine jazz in many forms through a live performance, discussion, and question and answer period, all followed by a jam session. During the concert DeJong and his crew will discus jazz history and culture and play through a variety of jazz styles to illustrate how it has progressed as a genre throughout the last century.“Mark is the most engaging instructor and jazz storyteller around.”
The Story of Jazz will also shed light on the life of modern Canadian jazz musicians, as well as the processes involved in composing and performing jazz. To help unfold this tale, DeJong will be joined onstage by four of Saskatoon’s most dedicated and knowledgeable jazz artists.
“Everyone in the group are bandleaders and composers in their own right, and we all have recordings, tours, and festival performances to our credit.”
Helping to tell DeJong’s story are Jon McCaslin at the drumkit, Dean McNeill on trumpet, bassist Soren Nissen, and Carsten Rubeling on the trombone.
With the help of his bandmates, DeJong plans to emphasize the value of jazz as an artform that can serve to bring people together. And what kind of celebration of jazz would be complete without a chance for other musicians to get up and play?
“We thought to signify [this unity] we would invite musicians to have a bit of a jam session at the end of the evening,” said DeJong. “Anybody who is interested in coming up at the end of the evening can have a bit of musical collaboration as well.”
Richard Haubrich, venue manager at the Bassment, can’t think of anyone better suited to host this kind of event than Mark DeJong. “Mark is the most engaging instructor and jazz storyteller around.” Haubrich needed someone who could reach out to everybody in the audience, not just jazz fans. This can be a tall order.
It’s easy for musicians and jazz fans to get caught up in their music. But for the uninitiated or “jazz-curious”, getting a feel for the music and the scene can be a daunting prospect. Jazz musicians and fans slip into using a language that other people just getting into the style aren’t familiar with. On stage, songs and solos can fly by without a single word exchanged between players.
Too much exposure to the wrong kind of jazz can turn people off the genre for life.
Haubrich and DeJong are aiming to remedy this all-too-common problem. They designed The Story of Jazz to be an accessible and inspiring introduction to jazz for newbies, while at the same time offer an opportunity for long-time jazz fans and musicians to take away something meaningful.
At the end of the night though, like all concerts should be, it’s going to be fun.
“First and foremost we want everybody who comes down to have a great time,” Haubrich stressed. “I’m hoping that people just have a great experience listening to jazz and checking out a really happening band.”
Tuesday’s show marks the first of what will potentially become a recurring series of jazz community and audience building efforts at the Bassment. The club is pushing to tap into a younger audience of existing or would-be jazz fans who might not normally check out jazz shows on a regular basis.
By hosting free, interactive events like The Story of Jazz, featuring some of the best musicians that Saskatoon and Canada has to offer, Haubrich is vying for a way to let new jazz listeners get their foot in the door.
This is where the Saskatoon Jazz Society has a chance to shine particularly brightly.
Few things are better for a jazz community than bringing the best musicians to the city and making sure that all different types of music lovers, jazz fans or soon-to-be jazz fans alike, find something to enjoy. If it helps to grow the number of jazz fans in Saskatoon, with any luck there will be more events like the Story of Jazz in the future.
Mark DeJong will be back in Saskatoon during the Jazz Festival. You can catch him at the jazz intensive, teaching clinics with some of his bandmates from this Tuesday’s performance.×
Photo: Mark DeJong