Dave Haddock is bringing Thelonious Monk to the Old Fire Hall this Thursday night, Steve Gedrose is bringing Joni Mitchell, and you can catch the whole show for five bucks. It’s called Jazz in the Hall, and there may be nothing like it anywhere in the world.
Jazz in the Hall is Jazz Yukon’s monthly showcase of local talent. Each show opens with “an educational vignette” from Gedrose, co-producer of the show, followed by a feature performer, and then an open jam session. “We had been presenting Jazz on the Wing for a long time,” says Gedrose, “and that was always about bringing in Outside performers. Usually we’d have one local performer per series, and we just had the idea to maybe change the venue, change it up a bit, and present only local performers. We decided to have it at the Old Fire Hall and only charge $5, and see if we could attract a different audience, and that’s certainly how it’s worked out.”
The new show brings in people who like the cheaper ticket price, the convenience of a downtown location, or the fact that the musicians are local. It’s also popular with aspiring musicians who want to try their jazz chops in a supportive environment.
“It’s a broad range of people (who come to jam),” says Gedrose. “It’s certainly people that wouldn’t necessarily be performing in public if it wasn’t a jam situation. We’re encouraging people to come and play along. Sometimes it’s younger musicians who don’t get a chance to play this kind of music in their school band, or in their musical circles. A lot of times people don’t get a chance to play with other people much, so this is an opportunity to play with a proper rhythm section, and have a chance to perform without having their own group.”
Gedrose illustrates his “vignettes” by spinning a few discs related to the theme of the evening. “I try and talk to the performers ahead of time and see what they’re going to play,” he explains, “and work the talk around that. This week we have Dave (Haddock) along with Daniel Janke on bass and piano and Ken Searcy on drums. Dave is doing tunes by (American pianist and composer) Thelonious Monk, and his main inspiration is an album called Carmen Sings Monk. It’s a Carmen McRae record. All of Monk’s tunes began as instrumentals, and through the years people have put lyrics to them.”
It’s Haddock’s first appearance as the featured artist at Jazz in the Hall, though he’s been in the band “a number of times.” He’s been interested in jazz throughout a three-and-a-half-decade career in music, but didn’t get much opportunity to pursue it in the early years. “I was in dance bands and rock bands, and jazz just wasn’t so popular in that context. And nobody had the time or interest in rehearsing that much. Jazz takes a bit more rehearsing.” During those years, he “sort of dabbled” in jazz, and then “I came back to it more recently, when I started gigging with (bassist) Anne Turner.”
Like many other Yukon musicians, Haddock makes his living at a wide variety of tasks, from playing restaurants and weddings with Turner to rocking some of the local bars, to giving private music lessons, to leading a weekly Thursday night open mic and jam at the Gold Panner Saloon. He was best known for many years as a singer-songwriter, with three albums of original songs, including such Yukon classics as May the Moon Shine and Keep it Simple, and as a bass player and singer in groups such as the legendary ‘80s rock band Goin’ South.
He has been the musical director, and later artistic director, of the winter song and story gala Longest Night and the musical director of the Guild’s performance of Cabaret. He backs up blues artist Brandon Isaac when he comes to town, and he plays in so many different bands he can’t always remember who’s in them. “The Working Dogs, um Daniel Janke and … let me think for a second, Lonnie Powell, Micah Smith, Jordie Walker. Yeah.”
He’s interested in Monk’s music because of the way it blends well-known structures with unusual rhythmic styles. “Monk uses standard forms, sort of 32-bar standard jazz forms,” says Haddock, “but also 12-bar blues. So it’s kind of familiar, but quirky and edgy, and I find that amusing, kind of funny in a way.”
For Thursday’s vignette Gedrose will be spinning some of Monk’s instrumental originals and then comparing them with the later version with lyrics added. In addition, he says, “This week I’m doing something a little self indulgent. November 7 happens to be my birthday, and it also happens to be Joni Mitchell’s 70th, so I’m playing a couple tunes from her, just to partly show how her style has changed over the years.”
Showtime for Jazz in the Hall is 7 p.m., and those $5 tickets are only available at the door, so don’t be late. Jazz Yukon provides song charts for musicians, so if you plan to jam, you won’t be playing blind. “We’re encouraging people to just play along,” says Gedrose. “You know, just come out and try out a tune.”