(Hat tip to Curtis Macdonald for the title of the post)
As I enter my 9th year of living in Montreal, I've been reflecting on the role that community has played in my life here. I moved here in 2002, a time when lots of very important musical collectives were formed. Kalmunity Vibe Collective started up at Sablo Kafé, a tiny little place in Little Italy, in 2003. Another improvisational event, Moondata's monthly LABProjects, happened in O Patro Vys for a few years in the mid-Oughts. The multi-lingual posse of Nomadic Massive started around 2003 or 2004. DJs Scott C and Andy Williams will celebrate the 8th anniversary of their monthly party, The Goods, later this month. Miles Perkin and Sage Reynolds staged a few Mont-Royal Composer's Forum concerts while I was still at McGill, and the musique actuelle scene is held together by communal spaces like l'Envers and the Mardi Spaghetti series at Cagibi.
To a certain extent, I've taken all these organizations for granted. I don't know an artistic reality in Montreal before them, and my own creative path is heavily indebted to these collectives in various ways. I've met a lot of musicians through all of these events; discovered and developed new sides of my own playing; and been turned onto a lot of new music and opportunities. They've also re-inforced the ideal of Montreal that I try to abide by at all times: the collision and collaboration of anglo-, franco- and allophone players; musicians and artists from different scenes creating together. I never really bought into the linguistic divide here, and while I do realize that it exists (given that I really don't know anything about anybody coming out of Université de Montréal, the francophone university here) I don't believe that it has to.
As social media becomes more prevalent and the internet makes the world smaller, this sense of community needs to extend itself. Thanks to my participation in workshops like the Banff Centre, the BMI Jazz Composer's Workshop, and the Red Bull Music Academy, I have been connected to like-minded musicians from around the world, many of whom I can still call colleagues and friends. I feel it's imperative for these connections to be made, through blogs, Facebook, Myspace, and the real world. The unofficial mandate of Trio Bruxo, for instance, is exactly that: because the Brazilian music community in Montreal is vibrant but tiny, I feel compelled to ally the group with similar musicians in Toronto, New York, and now São Paulo. One thing I've noticed in the past couple of months of intensive Brazilian gigs is that there is a split within the Brazilian music community: the audience for our show at Afro-Latin Soul and just a couple of nights ago at Casa del Popolo is not the same as the audience regularly at the Sunday nights at Bobards. There's very little overlap. And that scene is far too small as it is for it to be divided in half.
Patrick Jarenwattananon at A Blog Supreme recently asked about the Great Unknowns in jazz, and one commenter replied that it boiled down to anyone not living in NYC. While it's snarky, it is true. While saxophonists Joel Miller and Samuel Blais have done well in forging links with various well-known American musicians in bringing them up to Montreal, I don't know that it's necessarily helpful in bolstering their own reputation south of our border. That's not even to mention important educators and my own personal mentors like Gary Schwartz, Rémi Bolduc (given some love here by Peter Hum), or Jeff Johnston.
It's impossible to know about everything and everyone, but I place the utmost importance in creating musical communities. I find them fundamental in two ways: on a creative level, they allow for open environments to share ideas; and on a commercial level, they can be brands, attesting to certain allegiances and similarities.