July has brought a raft of good music to our region, and since the weather has been about as inviting as a wet rag, you might as well hang inside and enjoy some great jazz, particularly when it involves a clutch of Juno winners and internationally acclaimed players.
The Jensen Sisters
One of the mid-Island summer music pleasures is the annual return of Ingrid and Christine Jensen to Nanaimo to teach jazz workshops and present their benefit concert in support of the Karen Cormons Memorial Jazz Scholarship Fund. Established in memory of their musician mother who died in 2003, the fund provides scholarships to up-and-coming young students of jazz in the Nanaimo area.
The Jensen’s, of course, need no introduction. Trumpeter Ingrid has long been an innovative force on the New York scene and beyond, and Montreal-based saxophonist/composer Christine is fresh off a Juno win for her album Treelines, which was inspired by growing up on the west coast.
Joining the Jensen’s this year are Phil Dwyer on sax and piano, young Ben Dwyer on bass, and New York’s Jon Wikan on drums. Phil Dwyer is one of the most acclaimed jazz artists in Canada, and it appears that his hyper-talented son Ben, still in his teens and already a tour de force, is destined to follow in his footsteps.
St. Andrews Presbyterian Church, 4235 Departure Bay Road, Nanaimo, doors 6:30, admission by donation ($15 suggested).
The Phil Dwyer Trio
Pat Selman of Church Mice Productions can always be counted on to produce a great show at Sylvan United Church in Mill Bay. This year she’s landed a special incarnation of the Phil Dwyer Trio with Misha Piatigorsky on piano (see below) and Neil Swainson on bass. Collaborations like this don’t happen often since these performers live far apart – it takes summer on the Island to bring them together for what is bound to be some real jazz magic.
And speaking of sleight of hand, a word must be said about bassist Neil Swainson. I first heard him play in the mid-70s in Victoria with Paul Horn, who heralded the then 19-year-old as a hugely talented young musician. Horn wasn’t wrong. The next time I would hear him would also be in Victoria – 30 years later on tour with the great George Shearing. From learning the bass in his Oak Bay home with a pile of jazz records, he’d gone on to establish an illustrious international career, even leading a quintet at one point that featured Woody Shaw, Joe Henderson, Jerry Fuller, and Gary Williamson.
Nice that he gets back here every year.
Sunday, July 24 at 7pm, Sylvan United Church, 985 Shawnigan Mill Bay Rd. $15/$20
Another major talent who visits the Island every summer is New York’s Misha Piatigorsky. Winner of the prestigious Thelonius Monk Composer Competition in 2004, Piatigorsky has collaborated with everyone from Mark Murphy and Wynton Marsalis to Michael Brecker and Joe Lovano.
Piatigorsky has three trio shows coming up. He appears this Friday and Saturday night (July 22/23) with Kelby MacNayr and Neil Swainson in an Art of the Trio performance at Hermann’s in Victoria (8 pm, $18/$15/$12); with Phil Dwyer in Mill Bay (see above) and with Ken Lister and Jesse Cahill on Thursday, July 28 (8pm), at Moby’s on Salt Spring Island. Piatigorsky has his own magic, channeling jazz through a unique Rachmaninoff and rock sensibility to produce a dense, dynamic sound all his own. Great stuff.
Expect harmonic and melodic fireworks and a lot of warmth at all these shows.