Share story

Most parents discourage their children from going into the arts, but when Canadian saxophonist Cory Weeds graduated from high school, his father promised to pay his first year of tuition — if he went to music school.

“Usually, it’s the other way around,” says the 39-year-old jazz man, who’s playing at Tula’s Thursday.

But Weeds’ dad loved jazz and could see his son had talent.

“I think he had designs that I would become a band teacher,” says Weeds. “If he had known that later I would be going into business, he probably wouldn’t have paid.”

Unlimited Digital Access. $1 for 4 weeks.

The business Weeds refers to is Vancouver, B.C.’s, longest-running venue devoted exclusively to jazz, the Cellar. But that’s just one of the hats this Renaissance jazz man wears. He has a thriving career as a touring musician, heads a record label and hosts his own radio show.

“Jazz is my life,” he says.

When Weeds started the Cellar 12 years ago, he was pretty sure it would spell the end of his playing career. But his two vocations turned out to be symbiotic. In 2003, through booking the club, he met Hammond B-3 organ master Dr. Lonnie Smith, and they wound up touring and recording together.

“The Doctor Is In” was recorded at Weeds’ club, on his label, Cellar Live. So in one fell swoop, Weeds was launched — as a musician, club owner and label head.

Since then, he’s gone nowhere but up. His first CD as a leader, “Big Weeds” (2008), was nominated for Album of the Year in Canada. A disc with another Hammond B-3 organ great, Joey DeFrancesco, hovered in the Top 50 on the JazzWeek radio play chart for 10 weeks.

Weeds’ upcoming Seattle gig came together when he invited the great trombonist Steve Davis (Chick Corea, Art Blakey) to the Cellar. One thing led to another, and pretty soon they had a 13-city tour backed by a Canada Council grant.

The tour culminates with an appearance at New York’s Upper West Side bebop mecca, Smoke, where the band will record live.

As a player, Weeds is strictly straight-ahead — all about blues, swing and bop. His big, burly sound on alto saxophone takes the hairpin turns of Cannonball Adderley and revels in the bluesy juice of Lou Donaldson.

“I’m not out there trying to turn the world on its ear,” says Weeds. “That’s not who I am. I like to play straight-ahead.”

Ironically, when his dad played that kind of music for him when he was a kid, Weeds turned up his nose.

“I hated it,” admits Weeds, “probably because he liked it. But it finally took hold of me.”

Apparently, it’s not about to let go.

Paul de Barros: 206-464-3247 or

Custom-curated news highlights, delivered weekday mornings.