As is often the case when I go to a new place, I decided to check out the jazz scene in Calgary. I’ve never been here before, but am just finishing up two days here now and it’s been a good two days.
These days, it’s getting easier and easier to find the jazz anywhere in the world. Not every jazz venue has a great website, but usually there’s some little clue somewhere in Googleland that gets me headed in the right direction. In the case of Calgary, it was a no brainer. There’s one real jazz club in town, Beat Niq, and they’ve got a perfectly helpful website. It’s more than just a jazz club, though. Upstairs is Piq Niq, a bistro that also features ‘small’ jazz sometimes.
Their website listed vocal jazz for last night so I decided I should check it out. After dinner, the rest of the crew was ready for bed (it was a long day), so I went solo. Had a couple glasses of nice Spanish wine and enjoyed AJ’s jazz vocals, accompanied by guitar. Wound up having quite the interesting conversation with her afterwards. It was far too short, but it turns out we apparently share a rather rare interest in the relationship between theology and jazz music… but I digress.
A couple of other fun connections were made last night. At some point it came out that one of the bar tenders was from Croatia. Naturally, I asked him if he knew Bosko Petrovic. The world is just small enough that a Croatian bar tender from Calgary could possibly know the Croatian vibraphone player I played with 17 years ago. Sure enough, he did. Ok, so I was actually quite surprised in a real good way. After I got back to the hotel, I filtered through my pictures and found one I took of Bosko talking with Chick Corea at the 1991 Monterey Jazz Festival, probably right before my could-have-been fateful conversation with Chick that should be the subject of a blog one of these days. I’ll have to email him that picture…
And I wound up talking for a while with Rob, the owner of Piq Niq / Beat Niq, mostly about the jazz club business. He was a great host and was happy to share some of his ‘secrets’ for success in running a jazz club for over a decade. It was a worthwhile conversation and I definitely learned some things from him and just from being there at his place.
One of the things I learned was that the next night (tonight), there would be a jam session downstairs in the club part. No, I couldn’t pass that up. So back I went tonight with my First Officer in tow. They had a different vocalist upstairs while we had dinner (late dinner). The food was what you’d expect from a jazz bistro: Great quality, but pricey. But with no cover, it paid the bills for the music, the atmosphere was classy, and the whole experience was enjoyable.
After dinner, we went downstairs to the club and the jam session had started with just the ‘host’ bass player and guitar player. The sax player was running late and there was no drummer. After one tune, they made it clear that it was an open and welcoming environment. I asked if they had any brushes for the drums which led to me setting up the cymbals (they weren’t set up) and playing along… but not with brushes (none to be found). But I tried to keep it low key with sticks.
The room was decent, acoustically speaking. I’ve been in some lousy rooms and this wasn’t one of them. I’ve also been in some world class rooms and this wasn’t one of them, either, but it was genuine, just right for this local jazz club. The positioning of the drums, the character of the cymbals that were with the kit, and the overall acoustics of the room made it a touch on the loud / live side from the standpoint of balancing the drums with the rest of the band. The drums themselves sounded really nice, though (it was a fairly new Gretch kit).
The guys in the band were a pleasure to play with. The first tune or two that I played with them was just me on drums, Simon Fisk on bass, and Loni Moger on guitar. The time immediately clicked fairly well and I wound up playing around it more than I ordinarily would right off the bat (and it worked, to their credit). Gerry Hebert showed up shortly thereafter to play Sax. We played one tune, I think, and then took a break.
The next set, another drummer showed up and played a few tunes, which was nice. I enjoy both playing and listening, and I didn’t want to leave the F/O sitting there by himself all night. Plus, I had a glass of some kinda local dark beer to drink and I wouldn’t want it to sit all by itself either 😉 After a few tunes with the other drummer (Eric I think was his name), I got back up and helped them close out the evening with several more tunes.
So yes, there’s good jazz at a good jazz club in Calgary. I’ll definitely be back to Piq Niq / Beat Niq if I wind up back here in Calgary… and I hope I do.
edit: refined room description