It’s well known beyond Winnipeg that that city has a burgeoning jazz scene thanks to the University of Manitoba’s jazz program. But given the breadth and size of Canada, the talents that trained at U of M don’t make it out to play for the country’s jazz audiences to the east or west of Winnipeg — at least as often as listeners might like.

Winnipeg guitarist Keith Price, however, is making the effort later this week to bring his music to southern Ontario — namely Kitchener (The Jazz Lounge on Oct. 30), Ottawa (Options Jazz Lounge on Oct. 31) and Toronto (Gate 403 and the Emmet Ray on Nov. 1 and 2 respectively). He’ll be playing with his long-time collaborator, New York-based drummer and Winnipeg expat Curtis Nowosad and Toronto bassist Mark Godfrey.

Below, Price, 32, discusses the effort he’s making to play this week beyond Winnipeg, and discusses the breadth in his music, which can range from covers of Neil Young, Radiohead and Nirvana to jazz standards to originals.

Why are you making such a lengthy trip for these four gigs? How do you make all the traveling work financially?

Two thousand kilometres seems like a long way to travel for a short tour but I felt like touring out east was a bit overdue for me and it will be nice to see some old friends so I’ve just found a way to make it happen.

My plan was to play my way to Toronto as part of VIA Rail’s Onboard Entertainment program but it turns out that I’m just too busy right now. So I decided to fly (it takes two days each way and they only have a few trains a week). VIA has been very good to me and many others in the past and my Neil Young covers usually go over well so it’s kind of shame to fly but it’s more practical.

I’m really trying to keep costs low and that’s why I hired Mark instead of traveling with my usual bass player Julian Bradford. Mark is an excellent option on bass so although I like to play with the same people every time, this trio just makes sense  — I can afford to bring up Curtis from NYC because he’s riding an all-night, 12-hour bus.

Touring out east is more difficult than going westward (I’ve been lucky to tour out west a few times) because of how huge Ontario is and how few jazz gigs are available on the way. To get to Toronto from Winnipeg 24 hours of straight driving later (although it is really beautiful), you need to have a couple of strong anchor gigs or you’re sure to lose money. It’s kind of a shame because there are many amazing and creative Canadian Jazz musicians that we don’t get to hear too often in Winnipeg and in other words, each region of Canada seems to miss out on what’s happening in the other regions.

To what extent is Winnipeg’s jazz scene isolated from the jazz audiences to the east and west of it?

I think the Winnipeg jazz scene is almost completely isolated from the east and the west of Canada but I don’t think it’s only a Winnipeg problem. The problem of isolation is a general issue in Canada. I don’t get the sense (and maybe this is just a Winnipeg perspective) that the jazz scenes of any Canadian cities really “talk” to the others.

Tell me about how you first got into guitar and music when you were younger. When did jazz enter into the picture?

I first felt the urge to learn the guitar when I was in the sixth grade in 1993. At the time, I was really interested in bands like Queen, Wings, and The Beatles. My grandfather had a couple of acoustic guitars which he lent me and I began lessons at a local music shop. As I became a young teenager, my musical taste moved towards the heavy sounds of bands like Nirvana, NOFX, and Propagandi. I already played trombone and then bass in my junior high school’s concert band, but I remember thinking it would be cool to play in the jazz band (although I had no concept of what jazz was) and receive credit for playing electric guitar at school. I caught the ‘jazz bug’ in a really strong way when I first heard John Coltrane’s album, Giant Steps. For me, that music had all of the elements that I loved about punk-rock (it was played fast, it was intense and it was raw) but it also had this magical thing called improvisation. Then I found out about Miles and Mingus and Ornette and the whole thing ballooned into full-time jazz addiction by age 15.

I read that you did some studies in Amsterdam and could have gone to the New School in New York. But you chose to stay in Winnipeg instead. Tell me about that decision, and about studying jazz at the University of Manitoba.

When I was growing up in Winnipeg, there were a bunch of great jazz musicians that I went to hear as often as possible. Ron Paley, Larry Roy, Stefan Bauer, Sasha Boychuck, Gilles Fournier, Rob Siwik, and others made for a great local scene but there was nowhere to study jazz full-time at the university level. After high school, I ended up traveling a bit and settled on studying at the Conservatory of Amsterdam.

While I was out there, Steve Kirby moved to Winnipeg and started a Bachelor of Jazz Studies program at the University of Manitoba. This new program brought a lot of excitement to the community and I remember feeling quite happy and proud that things were blossoming in my hometown and I wanted to be a part of it. One of the first things I witnessed after returning from Europe for the summer was an incredible jam session at a restaurant (that no longer exists) called the Osborne Freehouse. The band on stage was Wycliffe Gordon, Miguel Zenon, Herlin Riley, Bernie Senensky, Steve Kirby, and maybe a few others that I can’t remember right now. The air was electric and since the restaurant was over capacity (I think they could fit 300 people in there; it was a huge room), people were hopping the fence and sneaking in the side door; it was an amazing event! The scholarship offer I received from The New School was good for my confidence at the time but I just didn’t feel like (and I know this sounds funny) leaving the excitement of the Winnipeg scene for the high cost and high stress of New York and it’s not a decision I regret.

Studying at the U of M was inspiring. I got to study the guitar with my hero Larry Roy and I learned a lot from Steve Kirby, Anna-Lisa Kirby and from the world-class musicians who rotated through the faculty like Alvin Atkinson, Terreon Gully and Jimmy Greene (not to mention all the great master classes we received from Stefon Harris, Joe Lovano, Lionel Loueke, and many others). At the time I wasn’t really concerned with academics. I was only concerned with improving at music and if my studies of other courses got in the way, I simply ignored them. I completed most of the “playing music” courses at the U of M but I never did graduate. I’m thankful to say that I’ll finally be graduating this spring from Brandon University where I’ve been studying with the incredible pianist and composer Michael Cain (yes, there are two great jazz programs in Manitoba!).

When it comes to playing guitar and composing, who are some of the musicians that you most look up to, and why?

The first jazz guitarist that I was really inspired by was Lenny Breau. I love the way he mixed styles and was free-flowing with his musical ideas. I always felt that his playing was coming from a really honest place and it was really cool for me to think about how he also grew up in Winnipeg. I later went through phases of Wes Montgomery, Pat Metheny, John Scofield, and I really looked up to Kurt Rosenwinkel for a few years. Sometime in my mid-20s I really got hooked on the music of Neil Young and it totally changed my idea of what I thought was good in music. I thought, “How can he be so impactful when he can’t play the guitar very well and wrote many songs with the exact same four chords?’’

 

I didn’t enjoy Bill Frisell in my earlier years, maybe because his music didn’t seem like real jazz to me at the time. Then one day, after a few years of trying to make my jazz music more straight-forward and emotional, I heard Bill again and realized that I was, in a way, trying to do what he’s already been doing for 30 years. I love his music — the blend of styles and the honest playing. I also like his compositions and the way he seems to always be composing when he’s improvising. I’ve never thought it was good to sound like someone else, so I’m not trying to sound like Bill Frisell, but I think his approach sets a good example of the way I’d like to play and compose.

How long have you been playing trio? How long have been playing with Mark and Curtis? Your record Gaia featured a slightly larger band — what are you going for with your trio?

The trio started out in 2007 or 2008 with a weekly gig at a venue called, Le Garage. We lasted one year before getting the hook.

Curtis Nowosad was a part of that group and we co-led a quintet before that for a few years, so I guess we’ve been playing together for almost a decade now. I remember, in the early days, he would sometimes have to cut class to play an afternoon gig because he was still in high school. But he was already so good! We bonded right away over our love of traditional jazz but also over our wide-ranging influences from popular music.

Mark Godfrey is a friend who I only played with a few times when I lived in Toronto in 2010 and 2011. I really like the way Mark plays and I know he also has a relationship with Curtis from NYC and somewhere else (The Banff Centre?) so I’m excited to hear how this new trio sounds on the road.

I like switching up the settings in which I play. The quintet from the Gaia/Goya album is always an inspiring group to play with but I also enjoy playing in a trio setting because it leaves a lot a space for the instruments to resonate. I sometimes find it easier to be patient with improvisation in a trio setting because there is less input from other musicians (1/3 each) and you don’t have to worry as much about stepping on someone else’s toes. I’ll also play some solo pieces on this tour, which is something I also love. For me it’s a challenge like, “Am I able to convey the complete idea of a piece with my own musical limitations and just six strings?”

 

I’m also working on some new music for my double quartet, which is the complete opposite of solo or trio playing, with guitar, saxophone, two keyboardists, two bass players, a drummer, and a percussionist. Hopefully we’ll be ready to tour with that group in a few years.

How would you describe the range of music that you play in trio? I’ve seen clips of you covering Nirvana and Neil Young as well as It Could Happen To You…

 

For this tour we’ll be playing some new original music, some covers, and some jazz standards. The gig in Ottawa will probably be an equal mix of all three, since it’s a four-set night. Maybe the material is a little bit eclectic, but it’s just a mix of music that I love. For me, I don’t see how the jazz musician of today can really leave any of those areas alone. We have to write new music and develop our own voice as artists but I’m not sure if we can ever truly leave the foundation of the jazz tradition aside. The average person doesn’t listen to a lot of modern or traditional jazz so why not bring “the jazz” to them through covers of popular tunes? And it’s not really a new idea — ’50s Miles is full of cover tunes!

Winnipeg Free Press Review of ‘Solo Guitar’

WINNIPEG guitarist Keith Price, more often seen wielding an electric guitar onstage, performs 11 acoustic tunes on his new solo CD.

And as any good Winnipegger should, he admits a debt to Lenny Breau’s style and covers Neil Young’s Old Man.

Price has proven himself as an electric jazz player on mainstream and more avant garde material.

Now, he demonstrates more delicate and laid-back chops on his own compositions and covers of Radiohead, The Weakerthans and Bob Dylan.

Price has a deft, soft touch on acoustic guitar honed, in part, from years of playing for hospital and CancerCare patients.

While it is not jazz, per se, Price’s jazz sensibilities permeate the disc. It’s a craftsman’s recording 4 stars

DOWNLOAD THIS: The Swan

— Chris Smith

Indie Jazz?

Indie Jazz? The Keith Price Trio

by Malcolm Petch

Keith Price is an indie musician. The Keith Price Trio is an indie group. Mention the term “Indie Musician” and what generally comes to mind is a casually dressed individual (i.e. contemporary hippie-type clothing) toting an acoustic guitar, singing and playing folksy-sounding songs they wrote themselves. The term “Indie Group”, on the other hand, usually conjures up images of earnest young men slamming around on electric guitars, playing self-written music that’s got enough of an edge to keep them slightly off-centre of mainstream but still pushing hard for a record deal; and they, too, are often dressed like modern hippies. This is a definition we’ve already (as in previously) tossed around in our newsletter, boys and girls.

Yet as soon as you hear the name “Keith Price Trio” you think, “Hey, what’s this ‘trio’ business all about?’ – and that’s your first inkling that something other than the pre-fab definition of indie group might be in play here.

Most of the promo photos of Keith Price show him in a casual beard. So far, so good. Some shots show him wearing a baseball cap – a trucker-style nylon mesh baseball cap; again, artist apparel that we’re familiar with here at Streaming Café.

But even the casual observer at this point notes that the guitar accompanying Price in all the shots is a lovely hollow-body electric, worn slightly higher on his body than most rockers would be comfortable with. And in pictures of the whole Trio, the bassist is seen with a double bass (you know, those giant violins that stand on a metal spike).

Aha!” you say. “This is a jazz group!”

Well, yes. The Keith Price Trio is a jazz group. (And now the ‘trio’ business makes sense). Price hails from Winnipeg, and has made his musical home in Manitoba by choice, even though he was offered a scholarship at New York’s New School University. Price spent time in Boston studying with guitar guru Mick Goodrick, but when it came time to put down roots, his choice was to spend time in the jazz program established by Steve Kirby at the University of Manitoba.

A jazz group? Aren’t jazz musicians / groups a little too esoteric for the likes of us at Streaming Café?” (SHHH! Don’t let them hear you saying that!!).

Here are a couple of examples of what’s different about Keith Price, and part of why the Keith Price Trio is booked to play SC:

–          Price produced Michael Peters’ latest album; Peters is an indie-pop singer/songwriter who appeared at SC back in the early days.

–          Keith Price Trio’s new album, Gaia Goya, features covers of tunes by artists like Nirvana, Sufjan Stevens, St. Vincent, and Grizzly Bear.

–          Six of the tracks on the new album are a suite that Price wrote while on his last tour, and they’re based loosely on Pink Floyd’s album Animals.

Nirvana. Pink Floyd. Definitely not your typical jazz fare. Sufjan Stevens. Definitely part of the faves playlist of most Streaing Café aficionados. Maybe this Keith Price Trio is more SC-like than might be first realized.

Keith’s own words to Michael, our talent-booking (amongst everything else) guy: “I’ve really enjoyed watching/hearing my friends Kim McMechan, James Lamb, and Michael Peters perform at the café. The quality of the recordings is always amazing and the vibe of the place seems really wonderful, even over the Internet.”

We like it when people tell us they like what we’re doing. And it’s good to hear that Price is friends with some of the artists who’ve played here (McMechan and Lamb have each been featured here on multiple occasions). And it’s good to know our live streaming has even reached into the land of Manitoba. But is that enough to make the Keith Price Trio someone we would host at SC?

I find the jazz world a little too stuffy these days,” Price says, “and have been wondering: why are the folk musicians having so much fun when we are having very little?”

Price says his newest album is intended to reach beyond the confines of the jazz world. His choice to cover material by artists like Nirvana and Sufjan Stevens in his latest work is an intentional decision designed to bridge the gap between the more every-day music lover and the sometimes hard-to-understand world of jazz.

I’m trying to find a balance with my new music between interesting, creative jazz and material that is accessible to a wide range of people (not just jazz nerds!) without being cheesy.”

Price and his bandmates, Julian Bradford on bass and Curtis Nowosad on drums, have logged a lot of time together. They’ve covered gigs such as CBC Canada Live and the 2010 Montreal Jazz Festival. In a testament to either their courage or their Manitoba hardiness, they’ve elected to tour Canada during these frigid winter months, and they’ll be appearing at Streaming Café on February 11th.

Landing as it does right in the Valentine’s Day season, an evening with the Keith Price Trio might be the perfect chance for a night out, with warm jazz filling the airwaves – yet jazz that is easy to get into even for the non-initiated listener. Keith has done an amazing job of opening up the world of jazz guitar to everyone through his choice of cover material. We think this is going to be a great night! Saturday February 11, live in person at 596 Leon Ave in Kelowna, or live online at StreamingCafe.net

Winnipeg Free Press Review of ‘Gaia/Goya’

By: Chris Smith

Keith Price’s second album, Gaia/Goya, was partially inspired by poet Gary Snyder.</p>
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Keith Price’s second album, Gaia/Goya, was partially inspired by poet Gary Snyder. (SUPPLIED PHOTO

When guitarist Keith Price goes on the road to make music he, well, makes music.

While traveling on his own and with Ron Paley’s band accompanying the Royal Winnipeg Ballet in the United States, he worked on a long-form suite that composes half of his sophomore recording Gaia/Goya, which is being released on Saturday at Aqua Books.

Four of the 10 tracks on the album are indie music, but the 27-year-old guitarist wanted a longer form, more dramatic suite as well. “I used the Pink Floyd disc Animals as an outline,” he said.

Gaia is the name of an ancient Greek goddess who cares for the planet, and of a theory that everything is part of one system, Mother Earth, he explains. While on the road, he read a book of poetry by Gary Snyder that included environmental essays and the suite was born. Part 1 is named Theme for Gary Snyder.

The indie material includes a cover of Kurt Cobain’s Lithium and while it is the first time Price has recorded the Nirvana hit, “it was the first thing I played in sixth grade. It was easy to play power chords,” he says.

The playing has advanced since then, of course, and Lithium and the whole recording sound very good in the hands of Price, bassist Julian Bradford, drummer Curtis Nowosad, pianist Will Bonness and alto saxophonist Neil Watson playing in trio and quintet formats.

The Uniter Review of ‘Breakfast Of Champions’

by Aaron Epp (Managing Editor)

4 out of 5 stars

 It’s fitting that Keith Price is holding a baseball on the cover of this CD, because with these seven songs, the jazz guitarist has hit a home run. Recorded last December, the 45-minute disc proves not only that Price has talent, but that he’s a team player too. The excellent compositions are his, but the collaborative nature of the recording is what makes songs like Warmth and the three-part Zoom Zoom work. Other guitarists might have used the opportunity to get in as many solos as possible. Price, on the other hand, picks his spots to shine and allows the other musicians – Neil Watson (alto sax), William Bonness (piano), Julian Bradford (bass) and Curtis Nowosad (drums) – the opportunity to display their formidable talents as well.