Buy a Record, Make a Difference 5: Gordon Grdina

Buy a Record, Make a Difference is a new series we have created to help local musicians generate income during COVID-19. It is based on the principle that we should support and reward the hard work local artists have already put into recordings, as it is an immensely difficult undertaking to be creating new material under current circumstances. There is currently a lot of emphasis on livestreaming and innovation in our industry, and while those things absolutely have their place, we think it’s also important to boost projects that have already been completed.

In each post, we’ll ask a local artist a series of the same questions, give them the opportunity to talk about recordings they’re proud of, and ask them to talk about other local musicians whose work they admire. It’s our hope that you’ll take the time to listen to & purchase the work of local artists, or at the very least share their work with others.


Photo: Gordon Grdina by Jamie-Leigh Gonzales
1. Who are you? 

My name is Gordon Grdina and I’m a guitar and oud player. I play improvised music influenced by the jazz, improv, Arabic and Persian traditions.

2. Describe your music as best you can.

My 5 year old son mostly says it’s scary, but some times it’s like rock n roll… 

I’d agree with that.

3. What’s your latest recording (or a recording you’d like to promote)? Where can people get it?

I’ve got a few new records that have come out this month the first is Resist by the Gordon Grdina Septet, with fellow Vancouver musicians Kenton Loewen Jesse Zubot and Peggy Lee and from San Diego Tommy Babin, LA Eyvind Kang and NY Jon Irabagon.

It is the first time I’ve released an album of a long form composed piece. It is the most orchestral sounding album I’ve done I’m really proud of it. All of the musicians are world class and they played beautifully on it. You can buy it here.

The second is Safar-e-Daroon with my group The Marrow that’s with Hamin Honari from Montreal, Mark Helias and Hank Roberts from NY, as well as a new addition on this album, Josh Zubot from Vancouver. It is a mix of Arabic and Persian Influenced contemporary pieces. It is a beautiful and lyrical record that I think is the most fully realized record I’ve made in this direction. You can buy it here.

The third is a new collaborative project led by Petr Cancura (Ottawa) called songs of tales. It’s with Jesse Zubot and Jean Martin (Toronto), and it is different than anything else I’ve been a part of ⁠— really worth a listen. It is simultaneously the most out I’ve played on a record and the most accessible… those guys are nuts…

Then there’s The Nomad Trio with Matt Mitchell (NY) and Jim Black (Berlin) that came out in January. It is intense and intricate and constantly developing. We’ve also recorded a new album that will be out for the next jazz fest season.

4. Is there another local musician whose work you’d like to give a shout out to? 

There are a couple!

Lisa Miller at NOW and 8East. She is really building community and creating a home for the music internationally in our city. She’s a fantastic pianist and organizer. She is putting together this online international improv fest in June! 

Cole Schmidt is an incredible musician, composer and facilitator. He’s involved in so many different projects and is a selfless scene creator. 

Two extremely important artists Aram Bajakian (has a new collaborative project honouring the anniversary of the Armenian Genocide) and Tony Wilson (who needs no introduction and is part of the back bone of our scene in concept, playing and dedication to the music) are also on here…

Also Chris Kelly, an unsung hero who has been quietly creating electronic and improvised group music for years and has gotten very little press. He’s launched a new Soundcloud where some of his music can be heard. He’s been a part of so many projects and scenes… please check him out. 

And Elisa Thorn — she’s been playing all over the place throughout contrasting scenes creating her own space for the harp in unconventional settings… something I can definitely understand … and she put out 4 records last year!