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Morgan Childs
interview by Josephine Ochej

Besides being a manically active musician not only in Vancouver, but more and more beyond the city limits, drummer Morgan Childs is a passionate fan of jazz and ardent supporter of jazz in Vancouver. Stop by the Vancouver Jazz Forum and you'll find his opinions and supportive stance all over the section. Below, Childs gives us the lowdown on where he's at and, most importantly, where he's going.

How old are you?

22

Talk briefly about your background (i.e. schooling, training) in music and what lead you to jazz music, in particular.

I grew up in a musical family, and started playing at a young age. Drums at 3, piano at 6. At age 13, I got into jazz, probably through my Dad playing the music of Coltrane, Jim Hall, Kenny Burrell, Monk and Miles in the house, as well as a lot of 60's pop music. I was lucky enough to grow up around the late Don "DT" Thompson, who taught me a lot and introduced me to guys like Ross Taggart, Campbell Ryga and Blaine Wikjord. All those guys were huge influences on me, both at the Okanagan Summer School, and later at Capilano College. I studied with Blaine privately when I was in Vancouver, and then went to Cap when I was 17, where I studied piano with Ross Taggart and Chris Sigerson, and drums with Blaine, Graham Boyle and Dave Robbins. I also studied at the Banff Centre International Jazz Workshop, with Jim Black, Ari Hoenig and Clarence Penn.

What or who are the biggest influences on the music you're making AND the music you want to make?

Thelonious Monk, Duke Ellington, John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins.

Describe your thoughts in general on the state of the Vancouver jazz scene?

Generally I would say the scene in Vancouver, and live music in general is on an upswing. There are a lot of bright, talented young players that can function in a variety of contexts, and are interested in making different types of music. I'm really happy to get a chance to play with all the different people in town. Everyone has their own unique personality musically. Everyone is very proficient... there are a lot of serious virtuoso musicians, but their skill extends to having a personality outside of that that is uniquely them.

Where do you feel you or your music fit in on the Vancouver scene? What do you feel you've achieved on the scene, and what would you further like to achieve?

Right now I'm just working on being a positive influence on the scene. Trying to organize gigs for myself both here and in other place, with all kinds of musicians. As I type this, I'm in Invermere, BC, playing with a band comprised of musicians from Chicago, Toronto and Vancouver. I'm really into cross-pollination and giving musicians from other places an opportunity to play in Vancouver, or wherever. Having a regular gig with my trio (Alvin Cornista, tenor sax; Adam Thomas, bass) and occasionally playing with great musicians like Bill Coon, Mike Allen, Mike Rud and Chris Gestrin, I think has given me a lot of opportunity to grow as a musician.

Do you feel you can make a career in jazz, or other music in Vancouver - what's "THE PLAN"?

Right now, I'm working on forging musical relationships that I know will last my entire life. I feel extremely lucky to be in a position to play with great musicians all over Canada, and I hope that I can just continue working and growing as a musician.

Have you considered the possibility of moving elsewhere to further your career?

Yes, I've considered it. I think every young jazz musician needs to spend time in New York. I haven't made it there yet, but I definitely want to be checking out that scene as soon as possible. I really enjoy the musicians I've played with in Toronto, Montreal and Chicago. I hope I can continue visiting these cities, and also having the musicians I play with out there come here to play with me. This is what's happening right now... I'm actually now at the Beatniq club in Calgary, playing two nights with the same band...

Looking ahead 5 years, what would you have like to have achieved? How about 25? And even 50?

In the next five years, I'd like to keep refining my approach to the drums. I'm trying to be rooted and versed in the history of jazz music... totally. Study of the old masters, and the influence of my contemporaries. I want to be speaking with my own voice, but definitely in the context of representing the sound of jazz within my own playing and with whatever musicians I'm playing with. I just feel like if I give my all to every performance, I'll keep discovering things I didn't know I could do!

You're very active on the scene, very hardcore in the community (regular at vancouverjazz.com, Bogart's, etc.); does that desire to be involved come naturally or is it part of a greater plan you have to connect, learn and absorb all you can? i.e. what IS it about jazz that drives you so deep into it?

Jazz music has always been music that has been passed down as an oral tradition. You want to play it? You have to be constantly seeking out music to learn about, and I have always believed that supporting live music should be the number one priority of musicians. Jazz has always spoken to me. The lifestyle. The hang after the gig. The unique personalities and the knowledgeable and supportive and helpful people that seem to surround the music.

Describe how you got involved with Bogart's and what your role is there, and what it has meant to you as a musician and/or person involved in promoting jazz in Vancouver?

I really lucked out there. I had a gig there with another musician, and nobody came. I convinced Morris (Marcelli, the manager) to give MY band a chance. He really dug the unique personalities (Alvin Cornista, and a rotating cast of bassists that has included Sean Cronin, Jodi Proznick, Paul Rushka and Adam Thomas). I worked hard on him to bring in special guests like Bill Coon, Mike Rud, Mike Allen, Ihor Kukurudza, Terry Deane etc.... and he gives me the freedom to basically play what I want to play. It's GREAT. It means so much to me to have a regular gig. One piece of advice that Brad Turner gave me that I really took to heart was "Get a regular gig!!!" Now that I have one, I'm honoured that he's going to be a part of it during the festival. I think this music is really learned on the bandstand... the more gigs I play, the more I learn about music, and certainly, life. The jazz fest lineup is killing, and I'm there basically every night, playing with a great cast of people I really love to play with including Chris Gestrin, Mike Rud, Jon Bentley, Rob Scheps, Brad Turner, Sean Cronin, Adam Thomas and many others. It will be a great time. I'm proud of what I've done there, because there's another live gig in town that's a lot of fun, and I'm very thankful to Morris and Raf (the owner) for having the faith and foresight to stick out having great live jazz at their place.

 

Morgan Childs photographed at O'Doul's, June 2003, by Brian Nation