COVID has unofficially declared 2020 to be the year of the introvert. Social events are few and far between because of precautionary measures and an understandable unease. This just makes the Saturday Gin and Jazz events all the more special.
For Crystal Shaw and Chad Ball, the weekly Gin and Jazz events couldn't have started at a better time. "It just happened organically," said Shaw, the food and beverage director at the Hilton Garden Inn in downtown Fredericton. "That's just the word I was going to use," responded jazz musician Chad Ball.
Earlier this fall, I was lucky enough to see one of the last Gin and Jazz events that took place outside. Set at a makeshift patio in the hotel’s valet area, the large open space in front of the hotel's gin bar was turned into a makeshift performance space. I was seated at a table with a personal fire pit.
“It was a great way to start making Fredericton look like a legitimate urban center for music,” said Ball when questioned on how Gin and Jazz fit into Fredericton’s pandemic cultural scene.
Bridge, a jazz duo consisting of Ball’s bass and Nick Gummeson’s keyboard and vocals, provides the musical backdrop for Gin and Jazz. My first time seeing them live was sublime, with Nick's crooning vocals bringing life to a city otherwise devoid of a damn thing to do.
Recently, with the temperature dropping, the event has been hosted indoors. A limited number of seats were made available in an adapted lobby space next to the Shake bar. The improvised space meant the band was performing just underneath a staircase.
The energy that evening was lifted by two friends of the band seated at the table beside us. Giddy and eager to call out requests for "More Cole Porter," the band was happy to oblige.
The food served at Gin and Jazz is just as worthy of review! I had a delicious bean burger, lightly charred to give it a solid, crunchy texture. The vegan poutine did not skimp on the mushrooms, and my partner's Duck Poutine was apparently to die for.
As we ate our meal, I was witness to a beautiful event. An older woman who had been watching the musical performance and eating by herself was approached by three young women. They didn’t appear acquainted, but they introduced themselves and proceeded to make friends. Throughout the evening I could spot them all in fits of laughter and shared joy at the atmosphere and music. It was a perfect example of how music brings people together.
Currently, Shaw and Ball are planning a New Year’s Eve event featuring a performance by Bridge.