Izzy Asper Jazz Performances
Israel Asper was a renowned jazz impresario. He had a vision of creating a jazz scene in Winnipeg just like New York’s famous 92nd Street Y. In 1999 he approached the Rose and Max Rady Jewish Community Centre — one of the many organizations housed in the Asper Jewish Community Campus — with the idea of partnering to bring jazz greats to Winnipeg to perform.
The idea was an immediate hit with jazz aficionados and The Asper Foundation Performances: Jazz Series was born. The Berney Theatre at the Campus swings from fall to spring with musicians from Winnipeg and around the world. Jazz greats like James Carter, Oliver Jones, Neenna Freelon, Jeremy Pelt, Houston Person, Joe Locke, Jackie Ryan, Allan Harris, Wycliff Gordon, Cyrus Chestnut, Cedar Walton, Clark Terry, Herlin Riley, Peter Appleyard, Marcus Printup, T.S. Monk and Toots Theilemans have thrilled over 50,000 audience members in the 200-seat theatre since the series’ inception. Because Israel Asper had spent 50 years traveling the world listening to jazz, he also brought in relatively little known artists whose amazing performances have overwhelmed their listeners. For the 2000-2001 season, The Asper Foundation updated the Berney Theatre with a state-of-the-art sound system and a Steinway concert piano, donated by Mark and Zita Bernstein and family, and launched a subscription campaign for the series.
For the 2003-2004 season, the series was called the Cool Concerts in celebration of Winnipeg’s first jazz radio station, 99.1 Cool FM and COOL TV, Canada’s first television channel devoted exclusively to exploring, reflecting and presenting the world of jazz in all its diversity. In 2005, the series was renamed the Izzy Asper Jazz Performances. Today, the series continues to be one of Winnipeg’s premier year-round jazz events.
- Adam Makowicz – “Beautiful”
- Junior Mance – “Infectious, exquisite, sublime”
- Buddy Greco – “A crowdpleaser, a legend”
- Bud Shank – “Swings like crazy, solid and inventive”
In 2008, jazz critic Michael Wolch said, “The Asper jazz series has been one of the success stories of the city’s arts community over the past several years.”
The performances continue and have included the following great jazz musicians and vocalists:
- Monty Alexander
- T.S. Monk
- Barbara Carroll
- Vanessa Rubin
- Ray Bryant
- Gene DiNovi
- Louie Bellson
- Carol Welsman