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Jazz musician Cory Weeds mixes business and pleasure
Cory Weeds doesn’t have a romantic story about him being destined to be a jazz musician when he was barely old enough to hold up a tenor sax.
The one-time Capilano College music student gradually developed an appreciation for jazz. All it took was one song, “Sundown” by Wes Montgomery, and something clicked.
“It was just the feel, the swing, it had congas,” describes Weeds speaking from his celebrated Cellar Jazz Club on West Broadway.
Weeds may have come a long way since his Capilano College days, but he has never forgotten his roots.
“What Cap College did for me more than anything was introduce me to lifelong collaborators,” says Weeds.
He was unsure of what path to take when he left college.
“I didn’t want to practise 15 hours a day and then move to New York and turn the music world on its ear,” says Weeds.
So he did what any carefree 21-year-old would do. Weeds told his parents, “I’m quitting school” and hit the road with the band, People Playing Music.
After a couple years he returned home hell-bent on reinventing the jazz scene in Vancouver, after seeing the upbeat offerings in jazz clubs across North America and overseas.
“It just seemed like there was a real lull in the [Vancouver jazz] scene,” recalls Weeds.
Craving a jazz venue to call his own, he went to BCIT where he learned business skills and specifically how to start a music promotion company.
Opportunity knocked soon after: Weeds was hired by the then-owner of the Cellar Jazz Club to do his first gig.
“I will never forget it,” says Weeds. “I was really sick. I had the flu. But I thought, ‘Wow, the Cellar, what a cool spot.’”
With his heart on his sleeve, Weeds outright said to the owner of the club: “Whenever you are ready to sell, let me know.”
Five months later he read an article in a local newspaper that said a west side Vancouver jazz club was for sale.
Weeds was in his early 20s at the time and also broke. Somehow, he convinced his parents to loan him $80,000 for his nightclub venture.
“I didn’t think it was going to be successful,” admits Weeds. “Why should it be successful? I’m a young punk kid.”
Thirteen years later and Weeds is proving himself wrong. The Cellar Jazz Club is perennially listed among the world’s finest jazz venues by Downbeat magazine.
When he started the Cellar, Weeds figured his foray into club-ownership would put an end to his own career as a saxophonist.
Being around jazz greats only inspired Weeds to continue making music himself. His 2012 album, Up a Step, earned Weeds his first Juno nomination for Traditional Jazz Album of the Year.
And his new project, With Benefits, with Bill Coon, Lewis Nash, and Peter Washington, is proving to be his most successful yet, spending 21 weeks so far on the JazzWeek charts.
Stay tuned for the release of his album Let’s Go featuring a collaboration with renowned trombonist Steve Davis.
From Sept. 26-29, Weeds will celebrate the 13th anniversary of Cellar Jazz Club with a weekend-long party that will see him perform with the legendary, 77-year-old pianist Harold Mabern — a one-time side-man for Miles Davis — and his trio.
Weeds will record with Mabern, one of North America’s surviving jazz greats, later this fall for the Cellar’s award-winning Cellar Live record label.
“It’s something that I am nervous and honoured about,” says Weeds.
Cory Weeds’ Cellar Jazz Club 13th Anniversary Bash will have 8 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. seatings. The cost is $59 which includes a two-course meal. For more information and reservations call 604-738-1959 or visit email@example.com