Last Call at The Cellar – Feb 26, 2014
As the saying goes, all good things must come to an end.
I can’t really remember the first show I saw at the Cellar. Truth is that I’ve seen so many over the years they all start to blur together though it was before we became friends. Until the Cellar opened I had only seen a few jazz shows live. Some local players and only one or two “big” jazz fest shows. Now I can’t pick up a record without seeing someone that you’ve brought into the club: Benny Golson, Benny Green, Bucky Pizerelli, Chris Potter, Christian McBride, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Fathead Newman, Joey DeFrancesco, Harold Mabern, Steve Davis, Eric Alexander, George Coleman, Farns, Webs, Chief, Jimbo…the list doesn’t end.
But the real pleasure was getting to hear local musicians and friends play on a regular basis and see them form groups and find their own voice. This wouldn’t happen without a regular place to play.
I’ve also had the the pleasure to experience music on both sides of the stage. I played my first ever real professional gig with The Jill Townsend Big Band the night my grandfather died and many times since then. Gigs with The Hummingbird Brigade were always a blast and a few times you went way out on a limb and actually allowed a scrawny trombone player who no one knew to lead a few gigs at the club! Having the opportunity to play my music with some of the best musicians in the world is an experience I’ll never forget and am not sure I’ll ever have again.
Ten years ago when I could barely find the shutter on my camera you gave me opportunity and encouragement to shoot and find my voice. The cover shot for the Crash record was an accident and I stumbled into something that has become a huge part of my life.
What I might miss the most is that time of night when the music is over and most of the customers are leaving. There are a few stragglers and maybe that one couple in the corner. The musicians are packing up and getting one more drink and the servers are closing the club and getting ready for the next show. This is when the community starts. Conversation among musicians is mostly about gigs, how the last set was and what’s new in everyone’s life. The club is much more than a live music venue though clearly that’s what it does best. It has been a central hub for the community of musicians — local, Canadian and international — to hang. Catch up on all aspects of life. There is no end of things I will miss about the club, but this time of night will always be near the top of the list.
You’ve left not only the Vancouver Jazz Scene but also the Canadian and North American one better than you found it. Countless musicians have had their first gigs at the club, their first record on Cellar Live and had the opportunity to play with some of the real legends in the business and prove that they belong along side them. Yourself included.
When you opened the club you told me that you expected it to last one year and that year would just be one big party before you went bankrupt. Cellar Live started with the intent that it was only going to release one record, and now has more than I can count. I’m not sure that there will be another iteration of the Jazz Cellar and if there is, it will undoubtedly be different than the previous; and that’s OK. But I’m positive that you will continue to be a positive force in our collective music scene. Expect to see me there!
See you at the bar,
The last night was recorded by CBC and featured two sets for the public and a 3rd set jam session for musicians. All photos taken from that night.