Aqua Books has hosted many cultural events over the years at its 274 Garry Street location in downtown Winnipeg. Recently, they announced that they would be moving less than a kilometer away to 123 Princess Street, in the Exchange district, very close to their original location of 89 Princess Street. They left that location for Garry Street in 2008.
To commemorate the closing of the current location, which has also hosted many jazz shows and is a very fine sounding venue due to the wood and carpet interior and a lack of windows, a special recording session was organized by drummer Curtis Nowosad and sound engineer Paul Yee. Several of Winnipeg’s rising jazz performers, along with a few veterans, were invited to perform their original compositions. Audience members would be able to purchase tickets that would get them an MP3 download of the album or a CD, which is due out in December, 2012.
This was my first time to Aqua Books, but not to the building. Years ago, it was a Chinese restaurant. The main floor hosts the book store and also the recently closed EAT! Bistro. Upstairs features rooms for writers-in-residence as well as a hall for events that looked as if it would seat about 90 people. While waiting to enter the hall, I met Kelly Hughes, the creator of Aqua Book. He actually called me yesterday to say that he managed to track down a new copy of an out of print book that I wanted. I also found his staff to be friendly and interested in me as a customer. After ditching my jacket, I made a bee line for the back of the room for popcorn and drinks.
The event began with singer Amber Epp and her composition “Inside Out,” accompanied by bass player Luke Sellick. Epp’s soulful and downright beautiful vocals set the stage for the other singers, who were just as excellent but also unique in their own ways. Epp is a member of Trio Bembe, who are well-known as top exponents of Latin music and who have two CDs out, 2009's Trio Bembe and 2011's Oh My Soul. She graduated with the gold medal from the University of Manitoba’s Faculty of Music in the Jazz Studies Program in 2009. Sellick is currently finishing up his degree in Jazz Studies at the University.