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Putting the World into Victoria’s (Jazz) Beat

April 29, 2009

029420701e8a6a91b328ecd55da739cdLatin Jazz Pianist Turiya Mareya Launches a New Weekly Jam Session at Hermann’s

Latin jazz pianist Turiya Mareya, who hails from Mexico but has spent a good chunk of time in Toronto, Vancouver, and Victoria, is on a mission to bring, as she puts it, “a new community” to Hermann’s Jazz Club in Victoria.

Mareya, who first came to Canada in 2005 in search of another female Latin jazz pianist (Vancouver’s Kathy Kidd, who, unbeknownst to Mareya, had passed away five years earlier), found instead a whole country that has embraced her. “Victoria and Canada have been so good to me and I just wanted to give back to the city,” she says.

Giving back means creating a gift that will keep on giving in the form of an established worldbeat and Latin jazz jam session every Sunday night that Mareya hopes will draw younger players and a more ethnically diverse audience into the club and get them interested in jazz.

“It’s a fantastic venue,” she says of Hermann’s, noting that club owner Hermann Nieweler is incredibly open to new ideas. “He’s really young at heart,” she notes, adding that he is fully supportive of the sessions that begin Sunday, May 3 at 8pm.

Mareya thinks a lot of younger people who might otherwise come to the club are intimidated by the seriousness and complexity of mainstream jazz. “A lot of kids would like to get into jazz, would like to improvise, but they feel intimidated because they don’t know the tunes.” To counter this, she plans to set up a descarga (a Latin jam session) each night, that is far less formal than a traditional jam, and won’t require that players already know certain standards.

Players will find a rhythm section already in place that will create the jazz equivalent of hip hop “beats”, something Mareya points out young people really understand. “The youth can relate to this because they are all into hip hop…actually we’re going to be setting up beats with live musicians,” adding that the kids (largely university students) can then come and try improvising to these rhythms.

Mareya, who has a lot of respect for traditional jam sessions such as the one that has been run by Tom Vickery for years, says the descarga produces “more of a body music” that emphasizes danceable rhythms that are as important in world music as melody and harmony are in mainstream jazz. As such, it’s less intellectual and more approachable for people unfamiliar with the jazz idiom.

At the same time she emphasizes, “we’re going to play the tunes,” specifically standards like Night in Tunisia and others that can be performed in a Latin jazz format.

Mareya, who organized the recent Latin Jazz Festival at Hermann’s that featured Canadian jazz great Jane Bunnett and did an earlier show back in the winter with Adonis Puentes, also plans to draw more attention to local women players by including a women’s showcase. “I really think it’s so important that women’s voices are heard, and I really love empowering women and giving them an opportunity on an equal basis.”

During May and June, each evening will open with a set by one of these players, followed by the open jam session. The event has attracted some powerful performers including Maureen Washington, Louise Rose and Anna Lyman who will appear in May along with other performers.

Mareya says that her main goals are to “enlarge our palate in Victoria” and “build community,” although she does confess to a certain selfish motivation as well in that she really wants to enjoy her last two months in Victoria before she heads off on a major tour of Israel, Egypt, and Europe before returning to Mexico for a time.

Fortunately for the local jazz scene, she does plan to return to Victoria next year and guitarist David Harding will continue organizing the descargas while she is away.

Check out the Hermann’s calendar at www.hermannsjazz.com for more information. As well, you can learn more about Turiya Mareya and hear some of her music at http://www.myspace.com/mareya

– Rick Gibbs

© 2009 Rick Gibbs and Island Jazz
Categories: Events, Profiles
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