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Forum Home > Your news items > Jazz Generation weekly at Imperial Pub

John Grimley
Site Owner
Posts: 472

They've played here for years, with few knowing of their existence.
They play mainly for the joy of getting together to play the music they love. There is no tip jar, no cover charge; they earn no money.

The musicians of Jazz Generation (Simon, the Ozzie trombonist, stresses there is no "The" in the band's title) are all retirement-age guys. The important exception is their singer, Melissa Smeets, who is much younger than her on-stage partners. Melissa sings with passion, bang on key and holds the note remarkably well on the difficult slow numbers. She makes it sound easy.

Will they make Carnegie Hall? Not likely, if only because their aspirations do not lie in that direction. They clearly just like to get together and play some jazz for a little while each week.

Vic (clarinet and alto) is quick to point out that he is not the band's leader, despite being the defacto on-stage arranger. A gregarious ex-Londoner, he affirms he's done too much of that in the past to want to get involved again now. 
Don, tenor sax, by contrast, doesn't say a word. He lets his instrument do all his talking.
Off-stage leader is Malcolm, on piano.

To give an idea of what to expect, here is a list of their first six tunes at a recent visit, with Melissa singing sweetly on numbers four, five and six:

I got rhythm
Gone with the wind 
A foggy day in London town
This can't be love
Funny valentine
Slow boat to China

By song six, their opening number seems almost racey. 'Nice and easy does it'. 

With seven up there, the small stage is crowded, to the point that Malcolm risks nudging Vic's elbow to reach the high piano keys. No room for Melissa, she must sing from a microphone stand on the floor. A second mike is used for announcements and occasional vocal by Jay (electric guitar), who clearly loves to play and sing the blues. The band is otherwise acoustic.

There is seating provided for about thirty patrons in the darkish "Backroom", of which just a third are occupied on this occasion. This is of little concern to the players, who are there more to play music together than to perform to a big audience. There is room to dance on the stone floor but no-one gets up. 

There's no bar service in here. Go into the main bar to get a beverage, where the beer selection is thoughtful and the food plentiful, hearty and good value from the busy little kitchen. The Imperial is a 50-year throw-back to the days of "Gentleman & escorts" bars that used to sell little but multiple small glasses of nameless "draft" beer and rye whisky. Although just a few paces away outside, no-one could ever confuse the Imperial Pub with the Jazz Bistro. 

The after-work crowd and some Ryerson students in the main bar seem oblivious to the live music playing in next room. Upstairs, the 'Library' lounge plays 1950s juke-box ballads. A cold incessant November rain outside contrasts with the pub's friendly, welcoming, old fashioned atmosphere. The jazz beckons one to stay inside, warm, dry, content. 

Jaymz Bee makes a brief cameo visit half way through the gig. He clearly knows the band and vice versa. He gives the band show-biz style salutations then sweeps out again with his jazz tour entourage. This contrasts with laid-back mood of the session.

Jazz Generation has played, all but anonymously, in here for years, shunning the limelight and the neon lights and headlights of the thick traffic outside that is Dundas Square.
It seems almost criminal to let the secret out of the bag.

Fridays, 5:30 to 7:30 pm. Imperial Pub, 54 Dundas Street East.


November 28, 2015 at 6:58 AM Flag Quote & Reply

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