Cory Weeds credits the influential jazz label, Criss Cross Jazz, for his initial introduction to long-time friend and musical collaborator, David Hazeltine.
In the mid-’90s, the Vancouver sax player, impresario and Juno-winning producer had finished his studies at the University of North Texas and returned to his home roots.
Before long, he was spearheading a jazz show called Chasin’ the Train on CFRO, a local co-op radio station “dedicated to talent deserving wider recognition.”
It showcased upcoming players such as fellow saxophonist Eric Alexander, guitarist Peter Bernstein and trombonist Steve Davis.
“All of those guys were sort of label mates on Criss Cross. At that time, Criss Cross was recording all the young guys, and I just really resonated with the concept of the label and the aesthetics of the label, musically speaking and visually.”
Weeds would mail some money in a CD case to the label’s headquarters in Amsterdam, and would soon receive a batch of music product he could play on-air.
“And I would follow up with all these guys and do interviews on my show.”
One of the most-promising (and most-frequently recorded) artists in the Criss Cross stable was Hazeltine, a Milwaukee native who had relocated to New York City on the advice of legendary trumpeter Chet Baker.
Over his lifetime, he has amassed a discography that includes dozens of albums, as well as playing regularly with such groups as One for All and the Hazeltine-Mraz Trio.
Weeds and Hazeltine have played together intermittently over the years, in both New York and Vancouver, where Weeds ran the influential Cellar Jazz Club in Kitsilano for over 13 years, until it closed in 2014.
Two years ago, they teamed up for a special collaboration in the Big Apple.
“I do these tours every year in New York, where I take thirty-five or forty people from Vancouver, or anywhere for that matter. We go to New York and we travel around and listen to music and drink wine and have a good time,” Weeds explained.
During the 2016 tour, they live-recorded an afternoon session at Smalls Jazz Club in Greenwich Village, as the Cory Weeds Quintet, featuring Hazeltine on piano, as well as Joe Magnarelli on trumpet, Paul Gill on bass and Jason Tiemann on drums.
“The record (It’s Easy to Remember) did really well. I’d have to double-check, but I’m pretty sure it made it to Number 1 on the JazzWeek charts, which is a big accomplishment for a record by a small West Coast Canadian,” Weeds said.
“We did a few originals, one of mine and two of David’s. We did four Great American Songbook standards that David arranged, and a couple of hard-bop classics.”
The CD came out on his own Cellar Live label, which already has over 115 recordings in its catalogue.
“There was also a little seven-minute documentary made about the making of that record (available on YouTube). It was really fun.”
Although he and Hazeltine have rarely played together for more than a day or two at a time, this month they embarked on a 16-day tour that will take them from Tucson and Phoenix in Arizona to Edmonton, Alberta and Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.
They will be in Whitehorse on Sunday, September 23 for a Jazz on the Wing concert at the Yukon Arts Centre, beginning at 7:30 p.m.
Weeds has high praise for the Jazz Yukon concert series, both for bringing outstanding artists to a small, remote community, but also for its contributions to keeping the jazz idiom alive in North America.
“Certain musicians become household names for whatever reason. I’m not suggesting for one minute that they don’t deserve to be household names, but there’s only so much room for people on a magazine cover,” Weeds said.
“There are only so many headline spots in jazz festivals around the world, and there are musicians who deserve way, way more than they get. And David Hazeltine would be one of them.”
In addition to the two principals, other personnel on the Canadian leg of the Cory Weeds Quartet tour will be Jesse Cahill on drums and Ken Lister on bass. Except for Hazeltine, all of them have performed previously in Whitehorse.
For more information, go to www.jazzyukon.ca.