Local jazz pro gears up for summer series
By: Alana Trachenko
Original article on Winnipeg Free Press
While he’s performed music all over the world, Walle Larsson calls St. James his home.
The smooth jazz player spends his summers organizing and performing free concerts at the Lyric Theatre in Assiniboine Park, hoping to give Winnipeggers the chance to hear music they might not be familiar with.
“I play a style of music – smooth, contemporary groove-flavoured jazz – that isn’t really well-represented in Canada,” Larsson said. “If you go to the states and turn on the radio in California or Florida, the music is flourishing; I was aware that wasn’t happening here.”
“(When) I was working at a couple radio stations here, the Winnipeg audience was really responding to the music, and then I started playing at the park and I thought this would be an ideal place for people to hear this style of music.”
Larsson approached Assiniboine Park officials 10 years ago with the idea, and thanks to sponsorship and funding, was able to organize a concert series that has run every July and August since then. Larsson performs with his own band – which performs under his name and has put out six albums – and he also brings in international performers.
“It’s kind of a small community of musicians so once you hire a couple of international people, they sort of pass along the word,” Larsson said. “We just started booking artists from L.A., New York, Norway and Spain and we started bringing them in on a regular basis.”
Larsson contacts musicians in the winter months, after which he and his band learn their music and prepare to all perform together. This year, however, Larsson will be shifting gears and featuring as many local Winnipeg and Canadian musicians as possible.
“We have so much talent in Winnipeg and the surrounding area,” he said. “We’re trying to get more of that showcased… We have the U of M jazz program which has really stimulated growth in younger musicians and attracting people to come to Winnipeg to study jazz.”
He said it’s a great way to spend a Sunday evening, and the best part is that it’s free and accessible to anyone who is interested.
“It’s kind of a cool thing to be able to put on free concerts because a lot of music happens in Winnipeg but not everyone can afford to go to the MTS Centre,” Larsson said. “If you’re a music lover and you want to discover a style of music that you can personally relate to, something a little different that’s palatable and enjoyable and has a groove to it, it can be a great introduction to jazz and to something that might inspire or move you.”
Smooth Sundays take place at the Lyric until the end of August every Sunday from 7 to approximately 9 p.m.