Two Canadian Jazz Giants Perform at Jazz Vespers
Pianist/trombonist Hugh Fraser and saxophonist Campbell Ryga, two of the most highly regarded players in the country, appear this Sunday in a special duo jazz vespers performance at the Church of the Advent in Colwood.
Between them, Fraser and Ryga have appeared on more recordings, garnered more awards (including multiple Juno wins and a pair of Grammy nominations), and performed in more countries than probably any other similar pair of musicians on the Canadian jazz scene today.
Fraser is a dynamic performer on both of his instruments but is particularly exciting on piano – which he will be playing at the gig – with an explosive, percussive style that jazz audiences love to watch. This man plays with a truckload of passion.
On alto saxophone, the understated Ryga is an acknowledged grandmaster who produces remarkably fluid lines and a tone that even other highly accomplished sax players would likely kill for.
Fraser and Ryga, who are close friends, have been playing together in multiple settings for nearly thirty years, and Ryga is a founding member of the Hugh Fraser Quintet, which has garnered many of the awards they’ve received.
The opportunity to see them as a duo is special indeed, largely because as friends and players they are so sympatico. In a 2007 interview with Brian Nation in Vancouver, Ryga talked about his creative relationship with Fraser. It’s worth quoting here:
“You’ve had a long creative relationship with Hugh Fraser. When and how did that come about?
Well, Hugh and I are brothers on all kinds of levels. We’ve been through pretty much every conceivable situation together. His limitless enthusiasm was the first quality that struck me about him and it still boggles my mind today. That’s not to say Hugh doesn’t get down, tired or pissed off about things. He just has a tremendous respect for the music and the musicians, and that’s the philosophy he lives by. He doesn’t know the meaning of the term “half-way”. He simply lives by the the word “passion”.
We met at VCC, at a big band rehearsal directed by the late Dave Robbins in 1980. After that I used to hang out with him at the house he shared with some other musicians our age on Mons St. in East Vancouver. We’d play well into the wee small hours just about nightly and the Mons house was where VEJI (Vancouver Ensemble of Jazz Improvisation) was ultimately conceived about 6 months later. But before that there were other smaller groups that we played in such as The Jazzoids. VEJI was a mere twinkle in Hugh’s eye at that point. Well, the rest is the long road of life’s adventure, well traveled. We know how to work together.There’s a formula that we share and there’s really something to be said for being able to read each other’s minds. I really love Hugh and I value his friendship tremendously. As long as he doesn’t finally get tired of me, I’d be happy playing with him for another 5,000 years.”
You can read the full interview with Ryga at http://vancouverjazz.com/inview/ryga.shtml
The jazz vespers gig gets underway on Sunday, April 19 at 7pm at the Church of the Advent in Colwood. Admission is by freewill offering during the service. For more details follow this link. http://www.colwoodanglican.ca/jazzvespers/jazzvespershome.htm
And if you’d like to know more about the jazz vespers scene on the south Island, or are unsure if it’s for you, read my Boulevard Magazine article, which is available on page 98 of the current issue here:
Above all, get out and hear these players – both are national treasures.
– Rick Gibbs