The Juno-winning and Grammy-nominated jazz artist Jane Bunnett has not only managed to garner international acclaim for her music, but she has even been honoured with an appointment to the Order of Canada. Much of this success started at her and husband Larry Cramer’s cottage, which is found on a remote piece of waterfront property in the Hastings Highlands. The Toronto soprano saxophonist, flutist, and bandleader shared with us how the central Ontario forest helps inspire the Afro-Cuban jazz she’s known for.
Cottage Life: What’s the first thing you do when you get to the cottage?
Jane Bunnett: One of the first things we do when we get there is take a walk around, sometimes to avoid the hyper-ness of unloading the car, you know, that whole commotion that occurs when you have lots of stuff in the vehicle and it’s a big rush to get it in the cottage. When we get there, we like to take a walk around the property and down by the lakeshore just to take it all in.
CL: The cottage is actually where you’ve managed to write some award-winning tunes…
JB: Yeah, it’s a place we get to really decompress and do creative things. It’s one thing to practice your instrument, because you can do that anywhere. But for me, and I think for my husband Larry too, you really need to quiet yourself down to write music. It’s a different kind of process, a more meditative process, and the cottage is a place that really allows that to happen.
CL: How does an area like the Hastings Highlands inspire music like Afro-Cuban jazz?
JB: It’s a very rootsy, rugged area, which is inspiring because the weather conditions are pretty drastic. You could have a thunder storm in the morning and by the afternoon the sun is out and it’s absolutely beautiful. It’s constantly changing, so the dramatics of the weather almost affects you emotionally. I find Afro-Cuban music to be very moody, so there’s definitely some parallels there.
CL: Is there anything in particular about the cottage that inspires your music, or just the overall setting?
JB: I would say the sound of the birds is probably number one.
CL: Where’s your favourite spot at the cottage to sit and play?
JB: We have a gazebo at the far end of the property that’s away from everything else. I have my keyboard, my paper, my pencils, water and a couple of little spots to lie down and close my eyes there. Often I’ll be working down there and a deer will walk by or I’ll see a fox, so it’s a beautiful spot. I just love it.
CL: Do you guys pull out less typical instruments around the campfire as well? A flute, for instance?
JB: We usually play recordings around the fire, but we just bought an old piano from the church that I’m pretty excited about. It’s going to be at the very front of the cabin on the screened porch we’re planning to build. We’re going to be able to sit outside at night and look at the campfire and somebody can be up there playing some tunes. We have a few musician friends who play really great piano. Who knows, maybe we’ll even have a few concerts out there.