Concordia’s Jazz crew can be found at Upstairs bar every Wednesday
Concordia’s jazz community can be found at the Upstairs Bar & Grill every Wednesday, where Concordia students and teachers will jazz up your heart and soul. At 5 p.m., Upstairs’ stage is reserved for talented jazz musicians to show off their savoir faire. Pianists, bassists, saxophonists, guitarists, drummers and singers are always ready to make you tap your feet. You will hear swing, bebop, blues and, if the night allows it, a little hard bop. You will also be exposed to a new generation of musicians.
Dave Turner, a professional alto saxophonist and Concordia jazz music professor, often shares the stage with his students. “It’s very important for students to perform in front of a public and play with other musicians instead of practicing alone,” he said. “It improves their musicianship and playing with professional musicians is a great teaching tool.’’ Turner has released a total of 10 albums, including Café Alto, which was nominated for a Juno Award back in 1987. He has performed in New York, Brussels, Amsterdam, Rotterdam and at many jazz festivals in Montreal and Toronto. He said his preferences are Latin jazz and hard bop, and when it comes to his prefered songs, you could catch him listening to Tito Puente’s classic, ‘‘Oye Como Va.’’
Along with Turner, you might also see Josh Rager, a great pianist and Concordia music teacher at Upstairs. Rager also performs extensively in Japan, Europe and across North America. In 2005 he was nominated for the Montreal International Jazz Festival’s Prix du festival. In 2007, he played at Carnegie Hall with Nikki Yanofsky, appearing also on her debut, Juno-nominated DVD/CD, “Ella…Of Thee I Swing.”
Concordia jazz student Mathieu Tassie said he recognizes the value in going to the Upstairs jam sessions. ‘‘Performance-wise, you learn a lot, and playing with different musicians every week gives you experience and the chance to build your musical vocabulary,’’ he said. Tassie started playing the saxophone when he was 11 and began playing jazz at around age 13. He said his teacher at the time told him the key element to playing jazz is to listen to a lot of it. Tassie first started to listen to Miles Davis, Charlie Parker and John Lee Hooker. Right now, he said his favourite jazz musician is Sonny Rollins, an 85-year-old jazz legend. More of a bebop player, Rollins has played it all, from swing, blues and bebop to hard bop, pop, R&B and funk. He even recorded with The Rolling Stones on their album Tattoo You.
When performing, Tassie said he first listens to the piece but also tries to sing the melody and the harmony before starting to play it on his sax. He also tries to figure out how the sounds link together to project an emotional reaction. Most importantly, Tassie’s learning tool is transcription, which is when you listen to a song and write out the melody and chords on a music sheet. Transcribing a song is one of the most effective ways to learn music, according to Tassie.He said it helps him understand what the song is all about, by revealing its rhythmic motifs and its intricacies.
To learn more about Concordia’s jazz community and to enjoy the students’ live performances, come by the Upstairs Bar & Grill, 1254 Mackay Street, on Wednesdays at 5 p.m.