Sunday’s Juno Awards — the first in-person edition of Canadian music’s biggest night in three years — saw appearances and performances by big stars, but for one Winnipeg musician, the highlight came the night before the televised ceremony.
Jazz pianist and composer Will Bonness — also a University of Manitoba prof — won a Juno at Saturday’s opening night awards ceremony, in the Jazz Album of the Year (Solo) category.
“It’s really cool. I was actually pretty calm leading up to it … but when they actually start announcing the nominees, you get pretty nervous, your heart starts beating,” Bonness said.
“I was pretty shocked when they actually said my name. Then you’ve got to do a speech, which I didn’t plan.”
In addition to Bonness, Manitoba Christian group The Color took home a Juno in the Contemporary Christian/Gospel category this year.
Bonness, who was also honoured for the independently-released Change of Plans album with a Western Canadian Music Award, is the second consecutive Manitoban to earn the jazz Juno.
Guitarist Jocelyn Gould took home the same award in 2021 for her acclaimed Elegant Traveler album, and Bonness said the back-to-back local winners (who perform on each other’s records) may be a result of Juno judges broadening their cross-Canada horizons.
“We’ve always had a strong jazz scene (in Winnipeg),” he said. “I think maybe they’re doing a good job of recognizing people across the country.”
Although Change of Plans has been available digitally for some time, Bonness said he hasn’t yet had a chance to celebrate its release here in the Manitoba capital. Previous attempts at a CD release gig have been stymied by the COVID-19 pandemic, but the pianist will finally hit the stage at the Park Theatre on May 26 for a formal release.
“It’s kind of weird to call it a CD release at this point, but what are you going to do? It’s the third time I’ve tried to do it, and I think it’s actually going to happen this time.
“I haven’t had much of a chance to play the music live, so I’m still looking forward to being able to put together some tours now that that’s a thing again. So I’m not really sick of playing it, but I am tired of listening to it.”
With the Junos behind him and the CD release show on the horizon, Bonness says he’s already getting set to record a follow-up.
“There’s less pressure,” he said.
“I’ve already got (the Juno), so I don’t really feel any pressure at all for the next record, which I’m actually recording next week.”