Jazz club opens with local guitar great
Cool summer evenings herald the return of the coolest thing of all: a new season at the Vernon Jazz Club.
Its welcome back gig this Saturday night features the terrifically popular virtuoso Vernon guitarist Les Copeland.
Copeland is joined by bandmates Bill Haner on bass and Charlie Fisher on drums. The trio embraces many styles.
“The music that we play kind of goes across several genres – folk, blues, jazz, rock ‘n roll, country – but it’s our take on popular and even some obscure tunes,” said Copeland.
The band features composers like Sonny Boy Williamson, Honeyboy Edwards, Robert Johnson, Django Reinhardt, The Rolling Stones, and The Beatles, to name a few.
“We’ll be playing medium-tempo shuffles and Chuck Berry kind of stuff,” added Copeland.
Copeland will also feature some original tunes.
“Any originals will be mine. For example, we’ll be playing Big Mouth, inspired by a conversation I had with Honeyboy Edwards about (bluesman) Son House,” explained Copeland.
Copeland has absorbed just about every acoustic and slide guitar style out there, from Mississippi Delta stylings to jazz to Celtic folk.
Beginning as a country bluesman with a bottleneck “stuck on one finger,” Copeland developed his versatility by adding jazz and rock to his repertoire.
Hiding his age to play the Vancouver clubs, Copeland was already a professional by age 15, eventually fronting the Les Copeland Band and Les Copeland and the Red Hot Ramblers.
Copeland counts many sources of inspiration for his music.
“I get my inspiration and great joy from discovering various bebop and blues players from the ‘20s, ‘30s, and ‘40s, especially their lyrics. Another one is Vernon’s number one street musician, the one and only Mr. Don Monty – truly an inspiration,” said Copeland.
Copeland is especially passionate about one of his current inspirations, guitarist James Lehmann.
“James is one of the most gentle, innovative, dedicated, and ferocious guitarists I have ever met. He lives and dies by his guitar talent,” said Copeland.
Describing his style as a kind of “musical stew,” Copeland hits his stride when improvising.
“I never play anything the same way twice – there’s always a large component of improvisation. I prefer to play in a train-of-thought style; I don’t like to stay with any one bag too long,” he said.
Copeland is eager to perform at the Vernon Jazz Club.
“It’s a wonderful venue for both musicians and audiences,” he said.
Upcoming plans include a fall tour from Chicago to Mississippi, and a new CD, It Ain’t Easy Being Sleazy.
Haner and Fisher both met Copeland while in their teens.
Haner is an exceptionally talented, self-taught musician.
He played guitar in school bands at W.L. Seaton and Vernon secondary schools and has toured with many different bands over the years. An improviser like Copeland, the two enjoy “generating surprises” during performances.
Fisher grew up in Lumby and started drumming around the time The Beatles appeared on radio.
Totally self-taught, Fisher picked up his skills in the Hastings Street night clubs of the ‘60s and early ‘70s.
Tickets for Saturday’s performance at the Vernon Jazz Club (located at 3000-31st St. above Nolan’s Pharmasave, downtown) are $20 at the Bean Scene and Bean to Cup coffee houses. Jazz Society members will get a rebate at the door. Memberships are also available at the door, which opens at 7:15 p.m. Music starts at 8 p.m.