A tenor saxophonist with an expressive sound rooted in Jazz tradition, a label owner tirelessly documenting unsung Jazz heroes, one of Canada’s most important Jazz impresarios, the hardest-working man in Jazz business – Cory Weeds is all of these things, and much more.
Weeds may be best known as the founder and owner of Cory Weeds’ Cellar Jazz Club in Vancouver, which he successfully ran for more than 13 years. Weeds built the Cellar to become one of North America’s best Jazz clubs, where masters such as George Coleman, Jeff Hamilton, Louis Hayes, David “Fathead” Newman, Dr. Lonnie Smith, and the finest Jazz musicians from Vancouver and across Canada performed before it closed in February 2014.
But he wasn’t just the club owner. As a saxophonist who studied at the University of North Texas and Capilano College, Weeds spent many nights on the Cellar bandstand as a leader and sideman. He held his own when performing with icons like Joey DeFrancesco and Christian McBride. Weeds has also recorded eight albums as a leader, including: As Of Now (with the Harold Mabern Trio), Let’s Go (with Steve Davis), the Juno-nominated Up A Step (Cory Weeds Quartet), With Benefits (with Lewis Nash and Peter Washington), Just Like That (with the Tilden Webb Trio), The Many Deeds of Cory Weeds (with Joey DeFrancesco), Everything’s Coming Up Weeds (with Jim Rotondi), and Big Weeds (with Peter Bernstein, Mike LeDonne, and Joe Farnsworth).
While the Cellar is now a happy memory, the record label Weeds established in 2001 is alive and well. Cellar Live has put out close to 100 recordings, including many that have spent extensive time on the JazzWeek charts, with many more releases planned. In addition to playing on numerous sessions, Weeds has also served as producer on more than 80 recordings.
On the presentation front, Weeds has founded a new non-profit organization: the Cellar Jazz Society. The Society is dedicated to fostering public education, understanding, and appreciation of Jazz by presenting performances at public venues and educational institutions. CJS did exactly that by presenting its inaugural series of Jazz concerts in April 2014 at Pyatt Hall, a state-of-the-art theatre in downtown Vancouver. The society will present more shows at Pyatt. Weeds is also programming Jazz on Tuesdays and blues on Fridays at 1789 Restaurant + Lounge in Vancouver’s West End.
Beyond Vancouver, Weeds has a strong affinity with New York City. He brought so many of the Jazz mecca’s top players to his club, and has performed, toured, and recorded with many of them. Tapping in to his insider knowledge of the New York scene, he has led the New York with Cory Weeds tour to NYC five times. Weeds leads about 40 Jazz lovers on each tour to Jazz clubs off the beaten track and private recording sessions. The fifth tour happened in February 2015 and the 2016 tour will be announced shortly.
Finally, Weeds has also worked as an educator, leading the BC Music Educators Association’s Honour Ensemble, giving clinics, and teaching privately. He has also been a Jazz disc jockey on Vancouver Co-Op Radio.
Main photograph courtesy: EyeShotJazz