Musicians tend to work best in collaborations, which is exactly what is happening at Theatre 1308, the art space which helped debut the new Calgary Jazz Composer Collective for their Jazz @ 1308 series.

The collective held their first concert, titled Vol. 1, on Nov. 23 to a full house of fans. Each time the group plays, they plan to arrange new members and perform original pieces with like-minded musicians. The Collective gets a different ensemble of performers and instruments for each show, making each night unique.

Theatre 1308 offers an environment that is intimate, says Jonathan McCaslin, a jazz drummer who performed and helped to make the collective happen.

“Only seating 90 people, it’s much different than playing into a giant auditorium or something,” said McCaslin.

Theatre 1308, just off of 12 Ave and Edmonton Trail, offers a cozy environment that is welcoming to anyone. The venue creates a pleasant ambience with soft lighting on the front stage for the performers and beverage service in the basement.

Having that close environment as opposed to the gandure of a bigger venue helps the performers get a better feel for the audience.

“I really feel a nice connection with the audience,” said McCaslin.

McCaslin started playing the drums as a kid and has been a part of bands ever since. After discovering his passion for jazz, he moved to Montreal at 18-years-old to pursue music at McGill University. McCaslin said it is difficult to explain what drove him to music.

“I really love the feeling first and foremost and it’s sort of hard to describe exactly what that is, but that’s really what drew me to the music in the first place,” said McCaslin.

Theatre 1308 is a new venue that is helping the jazz scene grow. Graham Neumann who helped organize the event says it is a unique and exciting addition to the community.

“The idea here is to support the artists in the city and support generally progressive art. We have experimental music here, we have world music and things that are just a little bit out of the box, an opportunity to have a place for those artists,” said Neumann.

Theatre 1308 is making use of its venue for live jazz performances by local musicians, watch the first event from the Calgary Jazz Composers Collective.

While this is not the only place in Calgary to play jazz music, it is one of the few non-profit venues in the city that places value on the art and the artist. Compared to other cities across Canada, the demographic of people who are interested in the jazz genre in Calgary is much smaller, said Neumann.

“If you’re a city like Toronto, or Vancouver, or Montreal, you can have a pretty good portfolio of clubs, where they’re for profit businesses that have a lot of jazz,” said Neumann.

Unlike those cities, Calgary does not necessarily have the luxury of having an assortment of venues for jazz musicians.However, based on this different model of doing business not for profit, Theatre 1308 is trying to build up that community.

“It’s hard to do that and so what’s been working is venues that are more volunteer base, then they’re non-profits,” said Neumann.

Because of 1308’s different model, artists are able to play their own music, some of which was inspired by personal experiences. This helps artists connect with the audience.

“I think this is important because the artists are given the chance to play the music on their terms, and it’s also a listening environment that the audience is coming here to listen to music,” said McCaslin.

Offering a more intimate experience gives the performers a real way to interact with the audience, which in McCaslin’s mind, is a worthy cause.

“It’s not like a bar, or lounge, or a restaurant, [where] people are going for other reasons…the music is front and center and the focus here and I think musicians appreciate that.”

The result is a local scene, supported by local music fans.

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“I think a lot of people come out to [hear] jazz [for] the big-name acts that come in from New York or wherever and this is great to see local musicians at a local venue,” said Wes Laftorne, an attendee.

This is the first event to come out of this jazz collective and McCaslin said there are definitely more to come in the future.

“This project will certainly happen again. It may take a different form, different artists, certainly different music,” said McCaslin.

Theatre 1308 not only benefits the people who enjoy jazz music, it also helps the artists who are looking to make a bigger impression in the city.

Performers get the chance to be closer with their audience which can mean people who are coming to this event also have more of an opportunity to connect with the artists.

“These guys live here. They make a living here, so it’s local people supporting them,” said Laftorne.

“They’re certainly going to bring their best when they’re playing to a full house to an attentive audience, people who are listening and come to appreciate what’s going on artistically,” said McCaslin.

To stay updated on all performances, you can follow Theatre 1308 on Facebook.

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Editor: Chelsey Mutter |

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