With a dulled night scene in downtown Montreal on Sundays, students are usually directed towards a slow dreary evening, wishing that the exhilaration of their weekend could continue. Luckily, Brandon Goodwin, the drummer of Montreal’s very own six-piece jazz band, B’s Bees, brings us the opportunity to abandon our homework—or Netflix plans—by introducing the Sunday Night Jazz Party.
The Sunday Night Jazz Party brings an atmosphere of swingin’ live jazz and social mingling in the Mile End’s Cabaret Playhouse. Goodwin created the event to fill the social abyss that most Sunday nights bring with live music.
“On Sunday nights, there’s really not much going on,” says Goodwin. “But there [are] so many people who live around the Mile-End…because they want to experience the Plateau and everything that the city has to offer.”
The party was in full-swing when I arrived last Sunday night, featuring musical guests as well as local DJs spinning jazz tracks. Goodwin uses this unusual pairing to place emphasis on the event as a party.
“I wanted it to be that anybody could come here for any reason…[The band] is just a part of it… [we’re] just trying to bring in good vibes so when you walk in, you feel comfortable and you can meet people.”
Cabaret Playhouse is the perfect venue for this particular shindig. It features a decent-sized main room and includes space near the back where conversation can occur without being overpowered by the music. The stage effortlessly fits Goodwin’s 6-piece band near the front, and its proximity to the crowd makes it easy to become fully immersed in the music. Sitting and dancing areas are closely intertwined, accentuating the event’s soiree nature.
Jazz saxophonist Al McLean, a McGill graduate and current instructor in the music program, joined the B’s Bees on stage and laid down some impressive solos. During musical breaks, DJ Father Zinger held things down with some eclectic jazz tracks while members of B’s Bees got off stage to join the audience in conversation and laughter.
To pull this all together, Goodwin looks to the glorious era of jazz in the 1950’s as his inspiration for B’s Bees.
“The group that I originally think about is The Jazz Messengers,” Goodwin recalls, referring to the classic hard-bop group of the 1950’s. “Hard-bop featured artists like Charlie Parker and Miles Davis…they brought in more horns and simplified the music so it was more grooving.”
“I mean we can get crazy too,” Goodwin was quick to assure. “But [our music] is more just swinging.”
The band did exactly that—conducting the flow of its set with swinging rhythms that had the audience constantly swaying back and forth.
B’s Bees play a fusion of jazz covers and originals, and their performance last week included a soulful original entitled “Who You Are” by Christopher Vincent, trombone player and U3 McGill music student.
“It’s music that’s not as abrasive as something you’d find on other nights of the week,” explains Vincent. “So it makes for a great evening experience, especially on a Sunday.”
For students struggling with upcoming midterms or unable to brave the freeze of Montreal winter and venture to the Mile End, the shows are also live-streamed every week.
Future prospects for the Jazz Party includes showcasing guest jazz ensembles once a month and a possible collaboration with a local swing dancing school—that Goodwin coyly refrained from revealing.
“[The school] is really well known. That’s a hint,” Goodwin offers. “We’ll do it probably once a month…it will start in March.”
Sunday Night Jazz Party isn’t your archetypal concert rave that makes meaningful conversation next to impossible and leaves you with a crippling hangover the next day; it’s memorable in its groove, quality beer, and relaxed social environment amid high-quality live jazz.
The party is also free of admission, in the spirit of perpetuating live music.
“If people love live music in any way, they can support it by just coming out and show that they want it to keep going,” Goodwin tells me. “Support local live musicians.”