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August 18-31
VOL.14 ISSUE. 26

The Beat Is Back

Nathan Raine
Published Thursday November 12, 06:43 pm
Art Jam event aims to rebirth classic beatnik culture

Photo Credit: Illustration by Evgenia Mikhaylova


Wednesday 18


In the late 1940s to mid-1960s, the beat generation became a movement that went on to send ripples of influence throughout history. The beat movement was heavily entrenched in jazz, as artists like Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie influenced the great beat generation writers like Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg — fusing art and jazz as a way of life, a completely different and improvisational way to approach the creative process.

The beat movement was also associated with violence, heavy drug use and pseudo-intellectualism. But we won't get into that part.

On Nov. 18th, an improvised art event called Art Jam hopes to reintroduce some of the creative approaches and collaboration found in the beat generation.

“The way I’m branding and promoting this event is 'rebirthing the beatnik culture,' the movement where poets, philosophers, musicians, artists, all types of people were coming together and sharing ideas and inspiration,” says Irene Elliot, chair of education and outreach at the Saskatoon Jazz Society.

“I think artists should be inspiring each other and sharing ideas, not sticking in one clique or community. It’s been done quite a bit in history when artists will come together, and a lot of cool things have come from these kinds of movements. So I'm hoping to create that in Saskatoon.”

The Art Jam, an event presented by the Saskatoon Jazz Society, is a live improvised event which unites music, poetry, visual art and media art. The event will feature a myriad of artists — vocalists, poets, audio-visual artists, musicians from the symphony and, of course, the house band from The Bassment.

“It was an idea that's been percolating over the last year and half,” says Elliot. “What I'm essentially trying to do is make jazz hip again — to network different art communities around the city to improvise together, jam together.”

The idea is partially a take-off from the monthly jazz jams at the Bassment, which brings in guest musicians and vocalists to perform with the house band. But Elliot wanted to expand the concept. It was when David LaRiviere and Reilly Forbes of PAVED Arts became involved that the additional elements of visual and written art became a reality.

“Reilly and David at PAVED were really keen on the idea. [Other artists] had tried to do similar events without much success. So having organizations like PAVED will add some structure, as well as hopefully help bring more artists together,” she says.

Elliot says one of the major goals of the project is changing people's conceptions of contemporary jazz. It's more than just your grandpa's dusty old Benny Goodman records (which, by the way, are still amazing).

“We want to make jazz cool again. People think that jazz has to be very straightforward, but jazz is still very modern and has moved into hip hop, soul, funk and fusion. Jazz artists are working with contemporary artists. I think there's a lot of music out there in the jazz world that people would be interested in, but they just aren't educated on it.”

Local talents making jazz cool again include vocalist Denise Valle, percussionist Kyle Krysa, bassist Nevin Beuhler and Elliot herself. But when asked about the particular highlights of this wide array of talents, Elliot was quick to point out a certain artist and Planet S employee.

“Evgenia [Mikhaylova] — naturally I wanted her for this. She's an artist I really admire, and we were able to work together at Nuit Blanche in 2014,” says Elliot. “She very comfortable in her own skin and being in front of people, and would thrive off the audience. Watching her improve and create art with the music will be great. She will thrive in that environment.”

If this all sounds like some hipster-laden, exclusive event, don't be mislead. It's for artists, enthusiasts and casual observers alike.

“It's for everyone,” says Elliot. “It's for all levels of participants, from learners to [professional] artists, or you can be an audience member. It's like watching a show at Amigos; there's still very much a performance element. It's very much open to everyone — it's not just an elite thing.”

Elliot hope that this will be the first of many Art Jams. So whether you’re an artist, a member of the audience, a pseudo-intellectual or a real one, the Art Jam should provide you with a new tradition.

“This is kind of a pilot for a potential series that will happen two or three times a year,” says Elliot.

“It's something that's never really been done here before. I think it's a very positive thing — bringing people together and sharing ideas. It does the community good. So people should be there to witness what the hell is going on here! This is not your usual event.”  

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