Alf Warnock in action at this month's jam session.
Alf Warnock bears a heavy load for JazzWorks. Literally heavy — watch him every month dragging the heavy sound equipment down from the second floor of the Carleton Tavern and back up again.
Alf has been doing that and more ever since the JazzWorks jam session moved to the Carleton in 2009. Looking after the sound for JazzWorks jam sessions is not easy. The room is difficult and finding a balance is too. The crowd is noisy, musicians are constantly fiddling with their volume controls and there is no shortage of people offering Alf suggestions.
He bears all this with patience and good humor. Lately he has been bringing in some of his own equipment in an attempt to improve the sound quality. People at the most recent jam session thought it was paying off.
In addition to all that, Alf is frequently on the bandstand with his guitar, in demand as an accompanist and demonstrating a thorough knowledge of the jazz songbook and vocabulary.
As you will have suspected if you’ve ever talked to him, Alf was born in Scotland — Glasgow, to be precise. He began playing piano around the age of five and took up the guitar at 12. Until he was about 18, he played lead quitar in a local skiffle group that morphed into a rock and roll group. Then he dropped out of the band to focus on university studies. During his graduate work he developed an interest in jazz guitar.
Alf earned his PhD in Scotland, then emigrated to Canada in 1967 to do post-doctoral work in Plasma Physics at the University of Saskatchewan. During his 3½ years in Saskatoon, he had a weekly radio program featuring jazz. At the same time he was singing Irish and other songs accompanying himself on guitar, mostly around the house and at parties.
He moved to Ottawa in 1971 to work at the National Research Council in the building acoustics group. Not long after his arrival he became enthusiastic about more traditional Irish music. He began playing mandolin and tenor banjo and still does. When he retired in June 2006, he began playing jazz guitar more seriously. He now plays guitar with the Grey Jazz Big Band and with the Cuppa Soup Combo, as well as being a jam session mainstay.
He still plays for two Irish ceili dances each month and for one English country dance each month but says jazz is now his major focus, for which the JazzWorks community is very grateful.
(photo credit: Lauren Walker)
Comments will be 'approved' before they are made visible. If you are leaving a comment, please sign it with your full name. Anonymous comments won't be published.
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.