Tony Genge, former head of jazz studies at St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia, performs a matinee concert Feb. 25 as part of the Jazz at the Gallery series. Contributed photo

Art Gallery of Greater Victoria hosts annual series of live jazz

U-Jam brings innovative performances to the halls of Spencer mansion

Nine years ago, Dave Paulson was approached by members of the local jazz scene to bring live music back to the Spencer mansion, part of the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria.

Back in the 70’s, intimate performances there were common. Now thanks to Paulson, local non-profit U-Jam and a slew of West Coast musicians, the house has been alive with music again for close to a decade.

“It’s sort of like being in someone’s drawing room of an old Victorian mansion,” Paulson says. “Because it’s sort of like chamber music, we try to make it interactive.”

Each year, U-Jam – a society of advocates, mentors and educators in the region’s jazz community – have hosted a matinee series the last Sunday of each month featuring local and touring jazz musicians.

“We’re lucky in Victoria to have an outstanding array of not only outstanding jazz music, but people who appreciate the art form too,” Paulson says, adding it’s a different sort of crowd than what you might find on a typical Saturday night at Hermann’s Jazz Club.

It’s an intimate setting and for people who enjoy improvised music, it’s a great show, he adds.

On Feb. 25, Jazz at the Gallery welcomes local pianist, composer and producer Karel Roessingh for “Bird Songs,” a musical portrait inspired by a cross-country camping trip. “It’s very interesting,” Paulson says of the composition. “I was just blown away with the inventiveness and the creativity.”

The series winds up March 25 with “Beauty and the B,” a performance from Tony Genge, the recently retired head of jazz studies at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, N.S. He and Paulson share a love for the Hammond B3 organ, an instrument originally designed for churches, but one that inspired an entire movement in jazz when it burst onto the scene in the mid-1950’s.

“Keyboard players could suddenly compete with saxophonists,” Paulson says of the organ’s impact on the genre. Genge, a “great aficionado of this particular style,” will take centre stage to explore the legacy and songs of the classic organ trios and quartets inspired by the invention of the Hammond B3.

With the Art Gallery currently undergoing renovations and expansion, Paulson suggests to keep an eye out for more jazz to fill its halls. For more details on Jazz at the Gallery or to purchase tickets, call 250-384-4171 or stop by the Art Gallery at 1040 Moss St.

For other details on the Art Gallery, visit them online at aggv.ca.

kristyn.anthony@vicnews.com

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