Leading up to the launch of the Burgundy Jazz interactive documentary in June, this series of interviews aims to explore the project creators’ vision, as well as reach out to key members of Montreal’s jazz and interactive communities. Our first exchange is the Director and Researcher of the 13 web episodes, David Eng.
How did you first discover your love of jazz music?
I used to play in several bands in high school. One of the guys I played with was the first to get me into different kinds of music like jazz-fusion – Weather Report or late Miles Davis. When I studied music in University, there was no crossover between jazz and classical, you chose your field, instrument, and style. Now things are different, there’s more exchange between classical and jazz. Although I studied classical, I still loved jazz, and would come to Montreal from Toronto every year for the jazz festival.
Tell us a little bit about the characters that inspired this project.
Through Jacques Charette, long-time Little Burgundy resident and President of the Board at the Georges Vanier Cultural Centre, Producer Katarina Soukup and I had the chance to meet many of Jacques’ former musician neighbours who had great stories from Montreal’s jazz heyday. Many of them were getting on in age, and we feared that their stories would be lost if they weren’t preserved somehow. There was a sense of urgency to start the project quickly. Fortunately for us, the community was very helpful and supportive. They opened their homes to us, sharing stories, pictures and giving us contacts of other musicians and former club owners and managers. Many of them are naturally gifted storytellers; very outgoing, friendly and warm, so they made our job easy.
What do you think keeps this community so tightly knit after so many years?
Some members of the community gather monthly for a friendly lunch, although this only started happening recently. Many of them noticed that they only seemed to see each other at funerals, and thought this was a shame. So they decided to meet regularly on the last Friday of every month. Some of these people have associations with music or former clubs, but it’s primarily a friendly community gathering. Many have since left Little Burgundy for NDG, LaSalle or the West Island, so this lunch is their only chance to socialize. Their strong bond isn’t solely tied to music however, but also a combination of a church community, and the shared experience of living through racial tensions in the pre civil-rights era.
What was your best discovery in the process of creating Burgundy Jazz?
Coming at it as an outsider, from Toronto, the discovery of Montreal’s rich cultural history was very rewarding. Montreal’s current vibrant music scene owes so much to the jazz era. It was instrumental in the development of the city’s character and “joie de vivre” spirit that lives on today.