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Jazz in the Junction where music lovers and musicians converge

Come and try us out. I think you will be pleasantly surprised by the high quality of music that you’ll hear.

Lovers of all music genres and jazz in particular continue to make their way to the West Ferris Legion to enjoy an evening of live music by performers from near and far, hosted by Jazz in the Junction.

The performances are held on the first Tuesday of every month with the odd exception.

“There are a lot of bands that really would not have too many venues to play if we didn’t exist, especially jazz and swing and Latin. We suffer from a lack of venues in this town. There are really hardly any places to play,” explained Joanne Sullivan publicity director and board member.

The most recent performance showcased Chazz, a five-piece combo with a repertoire including American classics, popular forms of Latin music, with a few other sounds mixed in for good measure.

The evening was an opportunity for the 70-plus people who turned out to hear the resonating sounds of the vibraphone and marimba performed by Charlie Zavitz.

Henry Van Brussel’s love of jazz music led to the creation of Jazz in the Junction.

“It was incorporated as a nonprofit society in October 1996. The idea was to bring musicians and music lovers together by providing a venue for local (and surrounding area) bands, and paying the bands a modest sum and basically keeping quality live music alive in the north,” shared Sullivan.  

“In the beginning, when we first started out it was jazz, it was blues, it was big bands like Glenn Miller, swing, bebop, and the bossa nova. That was what we originally started out as.”

It would eventually expand to include other styles of music.

“Even before COVID happened, we opened it up to most other forms of music. So, we’ve also got classic rock, folk, and bluegrass music. We’re not big into party bands and hard rock country, we leave that to the Legions,” explained Sullivan.

“We haven’t changed our title but on our posters, we’re saying Live Music at the Junction, to open it up because people have the perception that we’re strictly jazz.”

It is also a place where people who have a mutual appreciation of music can engage in conversation.

“That is the nice thing about Jazz in the Junction. It is a warm, intimate atmosphere where musicians and music lovers can meet. I think that is what makes it really special,” Sullivan noted.

“You can approach the musicians, you’re sitting a couple of feet away from them, you can talk to them, and musicians can meet other musicians. It is very personal and intimate, and of course the enjoyment of the different genres of music. I think we do a good job of pleasing everybody.”

Local musician Neil Kennedy enjoys playing in front of a live audience.  

“It is a fabulous opportunity to play before a crowd. It is absolutely the best thing. When it started, it gave a place for people that normally didn’t play in the bars and that type of thing, to have a spot to perform. And they’ve been very supportive of what we have done, and it has helped us all develop as musicians,” Kennedy pointed out.

“The other thing that is great about it is that one of the mandates of Jazz at the Junction, is that they pay the musicians, so we are compensated for our efforts, which is not always the case. You can get all the jobs you want for free,” Kennedy grinned.

Jazz in the Junction has a solid list of performers scheduled to appear this season, including two-time Juno nominated and Galaxie award-winning baritone saxophonist Shirantha Beddage in August.

In July world-class trumpet player Brian O’Kane, known for playing with jazz bands across the country will be performing.

Both Beddage and O’Kane grew up in North Bay.

“They both have roots here, so it is like a homecoming when they come back. They get to see their family and friends. They have a big following,” noted Sullivan.

Jazz musician Sarah Craig who is performing in May, is a recording artist from Sudbury.

Many people are familiar with the Sarah Craig Trio.

“She will bring along Allan Walsh who is a sax player. He is also the artistic director of the Sudbury Jazz Festival.”

Sullivan is also pleased to announce an upcoming performance by Elizabeth Shepherd.

“ She is from Montreal, and she has seven albums. Elizabeth is a jazz artist and we’re providing a rhythm section,” said Sullivan

“We were lucky to get her because she’s touring. She’s heading off to Sudbury so on her way, she’ll perform for us.”

Admission for supporting members is $15, the cost for non-members is $20.

The annual membership fee is $50.

“It helps us with our expenses. The big one is our insurance, we have a big insurance bill. So, membership helps us with that. We have a few sponsors and we’re always looking for sponsors. We’re slowly growing and open to new ideas.”

A list of upcoming shows is available by going to Jazz in the Junction website.

“We’ve had bands from Sudbury, Muskoka, Montreal, and Toronto. We rely on a good turnout because we are a non-profit,” said Sullivan.

“Come and try us out. I think you will be pleasantly surprised by the high quality of music that you’ll hear. The talent has just evolved into something very special.”