Mitton Village, typically serene on a Sunday afternoon with most shops shuttered, experiences a surge in parked cars, hinting at an unexpected gathering. The draw? Jazz music.
Within the walls of Maud’s Variety, the ambient hum of a gathered crowd intertwines with a musical tapestry wafting through the air. Concluding a saxophone solo, applause erupts, signalling appreciation. Jazz transcends demographics in Mitton Village.
"It’s the universal language,” says Al Weiss, a former music teacher and lifelong saxophonist.
Jazz, it seems, speaks to Sarnians of all ages and backgrounds during the live performances held every Sunday.
Exceptional musicianship is a significant factor behind jazz's growing appeal. Musicians, like skilled artisans, invest decades honing their craft. The amalgamation of such talent in an intimate setting like Maud’s creates a unique and captivating experience.
Spontaneity is another key element, ensuring each performance is distinctive.
"Playing live is exciting, as no two solos are the same from night to night,” said Weiss. “The energy from the live crowd fuels the band."
This fusion of skill and improvisation renders jazz both thrilling and accessible.
During a break between sets, local guitarist Gene Norland reflects on the transformative power of jazz.
"Many people have approached me after a performance and said, ‘I didn't think jazz sounded like this... I thought I hated jazz!’”
Norland, along with his original trio (Tim Tanner on drums, Alex Deuzeman on bass), played a pivotal role in the expansion of the jazz program at Maud’s. Beyond performing, they forged connections between Maud’s and other jazz musicians.
“Performing this music in an environment like Maud's, where we can feel free to take the music wherever we want, is a rare privilege that our group is grateful for,” expresses Norland.
Co-owner Josh Walters echoes the sentiment, emphasizing the effort invested in creating a conducive space for musicians.
"We’ve worked really hard to create a room that sounds good and a culture that genuinely supports musicians. And I think word is getting out."
What started as a local initiative has blossomed into a broader jazz network. Maud’s matinees showcase talents from the wider region, including Chatham, London, Windsor, and even across the river in Michigan.
“It's really nice to see the mounting enthusiasm and support this music has received,” says Norland.
The jazz matinees, hosted at Maud’s Variety (125 Mitton St.), are free and run from 2 p.m. tp 5 p.m. almost every Sunday. For a complete schedule of matinees, visit their social media on Facebook or Instagram.