Cellar Music Group’s investments in jazz music and musicians enables creativity and opportunity to thrive

Feb 27, 2023

BC’s own Cellar Music Group has over three hundred musical releases to its name. As of this year, at least one of them has been graced with a Grammy Award.

Cellar Music Group founder Cory Weeds.

In 2001, jazz saxophonist Cory Weeds created Cellar Music Group to showcase contemporary and traditional jazz music to the world.  Weeds launched the label by simply rolling the tape at his beloved Cellar Jazz Club in Vancouver, BC to capture the city’s fine jazz musicians and visiting players live on the bandstand. The label steadily grew to include studio recordings, documented from Vancouver to New York City, and further afield.

Whether it’s through live recordings via Cellar Live, studio sessions through Cellar Music, or the careful restoration of archival recordings through Reel to Real Recordings, these distinctive (and thoughtfully aligned) operational imprints make Cellar Music Group now one of North America’s most active and successful independent jazz labels. The group has received recent support from Amplify BC’s Music Company program. 

Jazz saxophonist Ornette Coleman performing at the original Cellar in 1957.

The original Cellar Jazz Club was a Vancouver hotspot for cutting-edge music and musicians, and continued to nurture the careers of a host of local and touring musicians from its inception in the 1950s.

The specific Grammy-winning selection in question was for Best Large Ensemble Jazz Album, put together by duo Steven Feifke and Bijon Watson.  Feifke and Watson’s Generation Gap Jazz Orchestra is aptly-named: Bijon Watson has shared this album and award, “…symbolizes the importance of embracing diversity throughout an ensemble, while also bringing visibility to the mission of promoting inclusion in jazz and arts education as well” 

Album cover for The Ostara Project.

The recent Grammy win isn’t the only award show to recognize a Cellar Music Group release. The Ostara Project – one of Canada’s leading female jazz supergroups, spearheaded by Music Arts Collective’s Jodi Proznick and Amanda Tosoff – also received a nomination at the 2023 JUNOs for Vocal Jazz album of the year.  This heavyweight group has received 9 JUNO nominations to date, with three wins.

When asked about their impact on – and alignment with – Cellar Music’s broader, long-term efforts on behalf of jazz as an idiom, Weeds notes that, “…these  incredibly powerful and talented women came together and made a poignant album. Hopefully, it signifies a change in attitude around gender equality in jazz.”

As both a label and a force in its own right, Cellar Music Group provides support, resources, and opportunity for jazz and jazz musicians from coast to coast to coast. In doing so, what Cory conceived just over twenty years ago continues to ensure that the future for this unique art form is both vital and vibrant.

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Photos and artwork courtesy of Cellar Music Group and CBC News.

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