Trombonist Peter Turner is one of many Ottawa musicians who are fans of Bill Gordon. Bill recently retired as manager of Vineyards, the jazz-flavoured wine bar in the ByWard Market and Peter decided to throw a party for him.
He invited musicians who had performed regularly at Vineyards to his home and many attended. Bill established a rotation of local musicians at Vineyards, most of them playing once a month. When a place showcases jazz three times a week, that’s quite a few musicians.
The reason so many showed up is that Vineyards, under Bill Gordon’s management, which began in 1980, was a place that was respectful of musicians. They were paid a decent wage and treated well by Bill and his staff. As anyone who has performed in bars and restaurants can attest, this does not always happen.
It’s not a perfect place to play. There is not a proper stage and the performing area can’t accommodate more than two musicians at a time, yet most of the best musicians in Ottawa have been part of the duos that performed at Vineyards over the years.
No doubt they appreciated the fact that Vineyards was willing to take a chance on jazz and support it on long-term basis, three nights a week.
At the party there speeches and no small amount of wisecracks. There was the usual exchange of anecdotes about rowdy customers and other impediments to jazz performance. After a few of those, I asked Bill if he had any musician horror stories. He said he couldn’t think of any: the musicians had always been co-operative and professional. That’s probably because Bill helped create an environment in which they could be at their best.
We’ll miss him. The good news is that Vineyards carries on its jazz policy, Bill Gordon’s legacy, three nights at week.
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About this blog
Tune Up won't be a calendar of events — Ottawa Jazz Happenings takes care of that. But it will discuss events and issues of interest to the JazzWorks community. Journalist, author, trumpet player and a jazz camper since 1999, Charley Gordon is a former vice-president of JazzWorks.