Vocalist Melinda Whitaker, who moved to the Island from Vancouver a few years ago, performs this Friday night (May 24) at Hermann’s with the Brent Jarvis Trio and guitarist Henry Young. Island Jazz posed five questions to Melinda so we could get to know her a little better. Here’s what she had to say:
1. If you could take only one jazz album with you to a desert island, which one would it be and why?
I’d take Seattle jazz vocalist Ernestine Anderson’s “Never Make Your Move Too Soon” with Monty Alexander on piano, Ray Brown on bass and Frank Gant on drums. Ernestine is my all time fave. She is soul incarnate.
2. What was your worst gig ever?
I was playing a gig with top drawer jazz players when we were confronted by inebriated, furious guests who were expecting a heavy metal band. Thankfully the piano player defused hostilities with the now legendary remark, “Don’t worry, we’ll play something with a lot of the same notes.”
3. What was your best?
That’s got to be when I was opening for The Ray Brown Trio at the Vancouver Jazz Festival, 2001.
4. How has your move to Vancouver Island worked out musically for you?
To my delight, I’ve found Vancouver Island to be a musical oasis. Some of the country’s top jazz musicians have chosen to make their homes here, and I count myself fortunate to be sharing the incredible Island vibe. Every player but one on my recently released album Lucky So-And-So!, produced by iconic jazz Islander Phil Dwyer, is from the Island and all are West Coasters. In a very real sense it’s a Pacific Northwest tour de force. So I’m happy to say that my move to Vancouver Island has, in your words Rick, given me the ‘expansive musical sandbox’ of my dreams.
5. What should Victoria fans know about guitarist Henry Young?
There is literally nothing that jazz guitarist Henry Young has not accomplished in his career. He spent decades touring with the legendary Nina Simone and has played with some of the biggest names in the industry, Ray Charles and Roberta Flack among them. Add musical director, composer, arranger and recording artist credits and he brings a brilliant depth of technique and soul rarely accessible to jazz aficionados these days.
The show gets underway at 8pm. Tickets are $25. You can read more about Melinda at melindawhitaker.com
I’ve been meaning for a long time to highlight Kerilie McDowall’s jazz radio show Rhythm’a'ning broadcast in Nanaimo on CHLY.
What better occasion than her two hour interview with bassist Ken Lister recorded on April 29. It’s a great interview with a wonderful mix of music. I encourage you to have a listen.
McDowall, a former jazz guitarist and composer, describes her show as an eclectic mix of new sounds with “fun ventures into the past.” You can tune in live on Mondays from 5-7 pm at 101.7 FM in Nanaimo or on the internet at www.chly.ca
Nordine, who hails from Salt Spring and teaches at VIU in Nanaimo, recently moved to Victoria, providing an opportunity for Island Jazz to sit down and ask a few questions about Departure and its musical direction.
IJ: How did Departure get started?
MN: Departure started out as a writing project when I first showed up in Nanaimo. I still have the first recording I made with James McRae and Phill Albert. We each wrote a few tunes and jammed them at James’ place, then recorded with Rick Salt in Nanaimo. Each of us had unique offerings, and from the original sessions my tune “Instep” remains and also Phill’s tune “Sireusly Mean”. “Instep” later morphed into a different kind of tune when Sherry Clayton (drummer) and I used it as a vehicle for improv. She was working out a funk feel in 3/4 and I brought my melody to her feel – just thought it might work, and it did!
IJ: Why did you call yourselves Departure?
MN: We needed a name. Phill suggested Departure after Departure Bay. James and I liked it… Afterward I realized it had other connotations, and liked that too.
IJ: Tell us more about those connotations.
Point of departure. Departure physically from one location to another. Departure from the norm. hmm…… there are a few. I think this band is definitely a spring board for me and that’s how I’d like to make it work. As a point of musical departure.
IJ: What’s the group about musically?
MN: When Brent joined me in this endeavor it became a different kind of band. Partly because of his personality and set of skills, and also because with a chordal instrument things are just different. Brent and I had talked about doing a project together in past years, and base it on original material. So that’s what it became about at that point. It was my suggestion to bring in the Fender Rhodes and I knew that he was into the sound of that instrument… and in fact owns 2 Rhodes keyboards: one for gigs which stays “in the box” and the other set up in his studio. With the Rhodes there is the “throwback” to other bands, specifically Chick Corea. Curiously, we don’t cover any Chick. We’ve been covering Keith Jarrett a bit maybe because of my influence… its hard to say. Brent wrote a chart for “Questar” and I brought in a few others that we’ve not recorded yet. So we’re an original jazz quartet with a fusion influence is the easiest way to describe it.
IJ: What do Ken Lister and Buff Allen bring to the group?
They each bring their own thing to it. Buff is the nicest drummer to work with musically that I could dream of. He’s just an amazing accompanist, very intuitive and easy to communicate with. He really has a gift. And as far as the sound of the drums, it’s like a beautiful palette. Ken is new to the group, so with Ken, there’s this wonderful solidness to the time. With his fluidity it’s just so easy to play with him – I don’t have to work at all on time – its all taken care of. Ken is the ultimate sideman. I’m hoping that over time we’ll hear more of him in the sound of the band.
IJ You say you are fusion influenced. For some traditionalists “fusion” is a bit of a dirty word. Care to comment?
MN: Fusion is what jazz is. Jazz originates from the fusion of European and African music. It couldn’t have happened any other way. So if fusion is a dirty word then jazz is dirty stuff, because as I said the origins are a fusion of styles, and ever since it began it’s just drawn from everything around it because its an improvised art form. It even brought classical influences in with the arrangers such as Gil Evans to bring it full circle and rock and roll came from jazz and blues in the first place so why not use it in jazz?
You can learn more about Departure, sample some of their music and buy their album here. Better yet, catch them live on Sunday night (Hermann’s, 8pm, $15). Highly recommended.
Qualicum Beach enjoys one of Vancouver Island’s most innovative and active music scenes, thanks in part to the efforts of musicians like Ron Hadley, who coordinates music programming for The Old School House Arts Centre (TOSH). One of the TOSH programs, the annual Harvest of Music Festival, gets underway on Friday, October 2. Island Jazz sat down with Hadley to learn more about this event, which will feature some class jazz acts, including Phil and Ben Dwyer, the Sara Marreiros Quintet, guitarist Darryl Jahnke, and a special Quintet Concert Tribute to guitarist Wes Montgomery.
1. What is the Harvest of Music Festival?
This year it is six days (October 2-7) of concerts/workshops featuring superb musicians from all over the world in a wide variety of genres. There are noontime concerts, two Saturday afternoon creative dance and mime/masked movement workshops, a Sunday afternoon solo piano recital and special evening events in the gallery of The Old School House Arts Centre. There will also be performances Read more…
You need look no further than the truckload of awards 20-year-old Vancouver saxophonist Eli Bennett has collected to realize that he’ll soon be a major force on the international jazz scene.
About to enter his third year on full scholarship in the jazz program at Humber College, Bennett has been playing professionally since he was 14. At 15, he was named the best high school saxophonist in Canada.
Since then he’s collected Fraser MacPherson, Dal Richards and Oscar Peterson scholarships and grants, the Yamaha Kando award for the best young musician in the country, a Downbeat award, Grammy Foundation honours, and the International Yamaha Young Performing Artists Award for the best international saxophonist in any genre under 21 – the first Canadian to win that award since the program began in 1989.
Most recently he received the CBC Galaxie Rising Star award at the National Jazz Awards in Toronto.
Bennett, who is back home on the coast for the summer, will be appearing with his quartet (Amanda Tosoff on piano, Josh Cole on bass, and Darryl Bennett on drums) in Courtenay this Sunday, June 7,courtesy of the Georgia Straight Jazz Society. He’ll also be at The Cellar in Vancouver this Thursday night.
Island Jazz sat down with Bennett to learn more about him.
1. How did you find your way into jazz?
I first picked up the saxophone Read more…
Saxophonist Christine Jensen is widely considered to be one of the finest jazz composers Canada has ever produced. Much of her writing, which has been performed by ensembles around the world, is inspired by her west coast upbringing in Cedar just outside Nanaimo.
A goal very close to Jensen’s heart was realized in February when the 18-piece Christine Jensen Jazz Orchestra made its debut appearance in a CBC concert recorded at the Amphithéâtre du Gesù in Montreal. The orchestra presented six works, including four compositions that are part of a jazz suite that Jensen will record with the group and sister Ingrid in a Montreal studio starting on Monday.
Island Jazz recently sat down with Jensen to learn more about the orchestra and her latest recording project.
1. How did your newly formed jazz orchestra come about?
I have been working on the project of presenting my music with a large ensemble that includes traditional big band instrumentation for about ten years. I actually started writing for it, well, in my undergrad in the early ’90′s, but didn’t really follow through in organizing my own group of musicians until around 1999. From there I would poke at the project, recording demo’s, and putting on concerts to push myself to compose and orchestrate music for that size of a group. I also invited Ingrid up to play with the group, which I had labeled a big band. So we performed a handful of times at the Montreal Jazz Festival in 2002 and a few self-produced concerts in between. In 2006 I had my first big crack at fully realizing the ensemble, as I had been working with a set Montreal rhythm section. I then invited Read more…
Pianist Karel Roessingh, one of the Island’s most prolific composers and performers, plays two gigs this Sunday, one an afternoon art show opening for Joe Norris and Paul Burke at the Winchester Gallery in Oak Bay, and the other an evening jazz vespers gig at St. John’s United in Deep Cove. Island Jazz sat down with Roessingh to learn more about his beginnings, his influences, his composing and his playing.
1. To give our readers a biographical context, can you talk a bit how you found your way into jazz?
I began classical lessons with Henry L. Peters in piano classes after school, though more informal than the usual. I wasn’t forced to do scales or exams, which suited me fine since I wasn’t particularly a disciplined player. By the time I was ten I was hooked on instrumental pop tunes (there were many instrumental pop hits in the 60s), beginning with Bent Fabric’s Alley Cat, and went about learning every pop hit, ad, or TV theme I heard, from Coke commercials to Classical Gas. I quit classical lessons in my early teens, and my mother found a jazz teacher, Ray Petch, with whom I studied for 2 years while I was in high school. Ray knew many Read more…
Guitarist Marc Atkinson is one of the most successful jazz/roots/world music players to emerge from the Victoria scene. Now living on Hornby Island and touring internationally, Atkinson keeps stretching the boundaries of his own remarkable musicianship with various projects, including a brand new electric band. Island Jazz had the opportunity to sit down with Atkinson (virtually speaking) and ask him a few questions about his influences and his latest projects.
1. What are your most important influences and how has each one been significant in your development as a musician?
Well, that’s a big question because my influences are ever-changing, yet they remain a part of my musical endeavors no matter how long ago the particular phase was my focus. For example, I grew up on Led Zeppelin and Bach, became introduced to Miles Davis and Pat Metheny, and have always listened to new groups such as Radio Head, and old groups such as The Hot Club of France. I am a big fan of Tarraff De Hadouks, Jaco Do Bandolim and many other world groups. In short, I listen Read more…