Former music store owner riffs on all that jazz

Costumer service was never lacking at Rose Music shop. There wasn’t much in the way of Top 40s though; the focus was on the finer things in…

Costumer service was never lacking at Rose Music shop.

There wasn’t much in the way of Top 40s though; the focus was on the finer things in life — classical music and jazz.

If you were unsure what to buy or wanted to branch out into different artists Steve Gedrose, the shop’s owner, was there to make recommendations.

He’d let you know what was hip and what was square and find that perfect album to continue your musical education.

He might even go on to tell you a bit of history about the album or the artist he helped you select — what the music drew from in the past, what it led to in the future and a bit of the tastier tidbits from the artists life.

If you picked up a Charles Mingus, Gedrose might tell you that he toured with Louis Armstrong and played with the likes of Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker and Bud Powell.

He might tell you how Mingus revolutionized the way bass was played in jazz.

Or maybe that Mingus was also extremely bi-polar and would often vent his anger by punching out audience members and firing his band members.

Unfortunately, Gedrose can no longer share these tales at his shop, which shut down this year.

Instead, he has had to seek other outlets to spread his love for jazz.

Gedrose’s latest project, Radio Jazz Yukon, is a new series airing on CBC Radio One Whitehorse.

The shows are set up as a conversation between Gedrose and Russell Knutson about Jazz history and appreciation.

In the 20-minute segments, the history is broken up into instruments and the significant artists that played them.

The show focuses on the alto saxophone, the tenor saxophone, the trumpet, the guitar and the piano.

There’s no bass however, so there will be no tales of Mingus’ exploits or Gedrose’s own four-year battle learning the instrument.

“I think that’s the best way to find out what you like,” said Gedrose.

“When people used to ask me to recommend music to them, I would always ask them what instrument they preferred.”

Five jazz artists are discussed in chronological order, from early swing music, to bebop and on to more modern stuff.

Short clips of their playing are included — usually familiar melodies with an example of the featured artist soloing.

“It was difficult to put together,” said Gedrose.

“It’s difficult to sum up 100 years of music into 20 minute sessions. You have to cut a lot of stuff out.”

Gedrose’s knowledge of jazz is founded in a profound love for the music.

Although he’s never studied formally, he’s informed himself with stacks of magazines and by reading the biographies of some of the greats.

Similarly, many of these greats never had any musical training themselves.

“Charlie Parker just played whatever sounded hip to him,” he said.

“People took what some of the older guys were doing and put their own spin on it.”

The last show in the series is reserved for Canadian jazz greats.

There has been some great talent to come out of Canada, and there is still a struggling jazz scene here in the North, said Gedrose.

“There are a few places where it’s played here in Whitehorse and a lot of people are interested.”

“At the jazz on the wing series at the art centre it throws some groups off,” he added.

“They’re not used to people hanging off of every note.”

Even still, Gedrose hopes that his radio series will attract more interest in the style.

“It’s a very bizarre dichotomy,” said Gedrose.

“We’ve never had so many music schools, never had so many talented musicians with this extreme knowledge of theory, composition, arranging.

“Yet jazz record sales are down to only a three per cent market share and there are fewer jazz clubs.”

Gone are the days of the music’s roaring popularity.

Gedrose traces jazz’s roots to New Orleans.

In the late 1800s, the newly emancipated slave population and creoles began picking up old instruments left behind by French military bands.

But these instruments were old and battered — some of the horns where so banged up that they no longer held perfect pitch.

The musicians couldn’t hit the right notes, but they learned to work with what they had and learned to make those “blue” dissonant notes sound cool.

The sound grew in popularity and they began hitting those “wrong” notes intentionally.

Musicians incorporated from African rhythms and their traditional use of the pentatonic scale.

The music evolved and grew using elements from blues, classical and later even rock music.

“I could talk for hours about this stuff,” said Gedrose.

Once you get him started the conversation wanders into facts, anecdotes and thoughts all around the general theme of music and jazz.

“That’s how my mind works,” he said.

“Maybe that’s why I’m attracted to that stuff.”

The shows have been airing every other Friday since September 21 at 4:10 p.m.

The fourth installment to the series, the guitar, will air Friday, November 2.

All of the shows are rebroadcast the following Sunday at 6:40 a.m.

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