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Jazz for the people

17 Nov 2005

An interview with Graham Reid, Executive Producer of Jazz by Genre

“We see breakjazz as an emerging front in jazz. The way we want to develop it with the turntablist is very much jazz-focused but also genre-independent or cross-genre. Ultimately what we’re trying to do with breakjazz is make it more familiar and accessible to the audience."
- Graham Reid

It was with palpable passion and purpose, that Graham Reid, Executive Producer, of Jazz by Genre, spoke to AfroToronto.com about his concept of "breakjazz."

"What we term as ''Breakjazz'' is essentially something that has been rarely defined but has been in existence in one form or another for many years. This is something that’s been going on. Musicians and DJs have been doing it. It’s really just the idea of integrating a live jazz band, but in this particular case, with a Turntablist." But Graham Reid is quick to point out that he and his not-for-profit company Jazz by Genre didn''t create breakjazz but they are specifically defining it and promoting is as an "integration of a live jazz band and a DJ/turntablist -- who will be positioned as a live musician in a band".

Essentially, "the turntablist will use his turntables as an instrument and, through a combination of improvised scratching, cutting, samples and loops of complementary songs, will integrate seamlessly in the live jazz performance. The scratching is really the improvisational aspect that the DJ will bring to the jazz performance. Because, ultimately, jazz is about the harmonic structure that is improvised" Reid explains.

Concretely speaking, the vision of Jazz by Genre is to expand the range and the reach of jazz music. "The other side of our mandate is also to encourage youth in the study and practice of jazz, promote greater musical and cultural diversity in jazz, develop and leverage the jazz arts and produce world-class events and festivals," Reid adds. Speaking to youth involvement specifically, the concept of breakjazz is an innovative concept which Reid believes will appeal to a young audience and help foster a wider and more cross-cultural appreciation of jazz music. "We want to be a source to help propel and express that music" he says. This union between DJ culture and jazz through breakjazz is a great union because, not only can it help bring younger audiences into jazz but, according to Graham Reid, it will "also bring a level of prestige and sophistication to DJ culture."

Reid sees Toronto, and Canada in general, as a great environment to foster this ground-breaking type of cross-cultural musical experiment. Jazz by Genre is also committed to bringing together various cultural expressions of jazz, from Afro-Cuban jazz, to Asian jazz, and all points in between. He expands: "I think, in part, it was really by virtue of living in such a cultural mosaic that it became clear and obvious that we need to more aggressively celebrate these different musical styles represented through the different cultural or ethnic groups here in Toronto." Graham Reid hopes to someday be able to walk into a record shop and see a vast array of soca breakjazz, rock breakjazz, and soul breakjazz.

All this represents the idea behind the concept of Jazz by Genre''s upcoming official launch on November 27th at the Mod Club, featuring international jazz legend Roy Ayers. "From the time we made the decision to go for the funk, soul, hip hop direction for this particular launch, he [Roy Ayers] was a natural choice," Graham Reid tells AfroToronto.com. With over 62 albums under his belt, "Roy Ayers is a definite icon in terms of representing that blend between jazz and funk." Moreover, the fact that Ayers has been sampled and covered by so many artists is a testament to "the breadth, range and appeal of his music," to quote Reid.

According to Graham Reid, what will make Jazz by Genre''s event different from the other Jazz festivals in the city is that "we essentially apply and showcase jazz through the different styles of popular music. The show will also feature spoken word. According to Reid, spoken word is an important complement to jazz.

What''s in the future for Jazz by Genre? Graham Reid states: "I see Jazz by Genre in Montreal, I see it in Vancouver, I see it in the States and en-route to the Caribbean. We are also looking at developing an online community to foster that growth (of breakjazz). We also want to take breakjazz to the colleges and universities and the high schools because our mandate is to expand the range and the reach of jazz music. At the end of day, we''re all about fostering a jazz renaissance."

Jazz by Genre''s official launch will be on November 27th at the Mod Club and will feature international jazz-funk legend Roy Ayers. Click here for more details on the event.

On Sunday November 27th, the Nu Jazz Society presents: "Gone ''Til November" - a night of Funk/Soul/House/R&B/Hip Hop Jazz...

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