Spirit of Kerouac lives on in beat-flavoured jazz suite
Winnipeg guitarist Keith Price found inspiration on the road
Roger Levesque, Freelance
Published: Thursday, February 09 2012
Just as so-called “beat” writers like Jack Kerouac found inspiration in the freedom of jazz music, all sorts of jazz musicians have taken inspiration from the beats.
Winnipeg guitarist Keith Price is one of the latest to pay tribute in a six-part suite he calls Gaia/Goya, which also serves as the title of his recent album release.
“I was traveling around Europe with an acoustic guitar, listening to a lot of indie rock music and reading stuff by Gary Snyder and Kerouac,” he says. “I guess I was picking up a little on the romance of the beats. Instead of playing standards, I wanted to play something more current, something that came from that experience.”
Each part of the suite is dedicated to beat figures like Kerouac or characters in their work, or for Price’s friends or have some other cultural reference. The album also includes jazz covers of Nirvana and Sufjan Stevens.
Price says it’s hard for him to distinguish between straight-ahead jazz and his other musical influences – from chanting to grunge rock.
He grew up listening to various shades of pop and rock music and started strumming his grandfather’s guitar at age 11. But it was the school band director who exposed him to jazz and John Coltrane’s Giant Steps album that first grabbed his attention. Price was fascinated with improvisation, and then he found the recordings of former Winnipeg guitarist Lennie Breau.
“At first it was magic, it was like witchcraft,” he says.
“I wondered ‘how is it possible that they can be making this stuff up?’ and I could hardly believe it. I loved that it was in the moment, but it took me a long time to figure it out.”
After high school, Price attended a conservatory in Amsterdam, took lessons from Mick Goodrick in Boston, and returned to study at the University of Manitoba. He has worked in all contexts from big bands to the Royal Winnipeg Ballet.
His first album Breakfast Of Champions (2009) got him a nomination for the TD Grand Prix Du Jazz and a spot at the Montreal International Jazz Festival. And Gaia/Goya features some of the same musicians – bassist Julian Bradford, drummer Curtis Nowosad, on his current tour out west.
The trio plays the Yardbird Suite (102 Street, 86 Avenue) Friday at 9 p.m. Tickets are $14 for members, $18 for guests, from Ticketmaster (1-855-985-5000) or at the door.