Don't just do something, stand there!

Schmoozing is not my strong point. When not in front of a band with a microphone in hand (telling bad jokes, as my musician colleagues will suggest) I'm a bit of an introvert, so I'm not always the best at making small talk. It's been a pleasure, though, getting out and chatting to various people in the music business since I started as Artistic Director back in January. I've been reminded of one of the most important parts of being a member of the jazz community: the hang.

Take this past Wednesday night, for example. I got an email from Mark Laver, a local saxophonist, letting me know about his gig with the Alex Coleman Octet playing the music of Charles Mingus at The Rex Hotel. So off I went, looking forward to a night of fun music. Once I arrived, I had a nice chat with Tom Tytel, the Rex's manager; half-way through the first set Tim Shia (a great local drummer) walked in; and towards the end of the first set local bassist Gord Mowat joined us at the bar. It ended up being a great night - excellent music, fun conversation and new/renewed connections in the community.

I guess in every business establishing and maintaining connections is vital, and jazz is no different. Connections between jazz musicians are established in a number of ways: playing together on gigs and recording sessions; at school; at jam sessions. Connections are maintained in many of the same ways, but the "hang" is vital - that time before a gig, during the set breaks and after the show where musicians can relax, chat, exchange ideas, etc. I had a habit, especially when I was in school, of scurrying off after seeing a show, and so missed out on some great hangs (thus the title of this post). As a result, I heard - but didn't get to experience - stories about getting backstage with Wynton Marsalis, or Arturo Sandoval, or any of the other musicians that would come through town. But when I did stick around, it was worth it - I remember especially sneaking upstairs at the Top of the Senator to say hello to Terence Blanchard one night after his show.

The connections - and the hang - are not exclusively for musicians, though: I've made important connections with random audience members because they stuck around for a few extra minutes following a show, or because they expressed a special interest in what was happening on stage.

So during this year's festival, I encourage you to let it all hang out (err, metaphorically) - stay behind for a few extra minutes after a show, stay up a bit later than usual, and say hello to someone you might not know. You never know who you'll meet, and you'll never know where those connections might take you.

What are some of your most memorable hangs?


P.S. - A great hang is always the festival's late-night jam. We're doing four nights this year at the Hard Rock Cafe - check the listings and plan to be there!

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