Live jazz getting comfy in new home

INDIGO JAZZ will be bolstered by two additions this Thursday for a Georgia Straight Jazz Society concert at the Avalanche in Courtenay. - PHOTO SUBMITTED
INDIGO JAZZ will be bolstered by two additions this Thursday for a Georgia Straight Jazz Society concert at the Avalanche in Courtenay.
— image credit: PHOTO SUBMITTED

Over a month into our new location, the Avalanche Bar is really beginning to feel like home.

In addition to seeing more of our familiar faces, we’ve noticed a number of new and younger people in the audience. Attendance is up, the atmosphere is extremely social and club-like, and we’ve been happy to welcome new members to the society during that same period.

So it looks as though Georgia Straight Jazz Society will be growing again. In the greater scheme of things, Comox Valley is a really exciting exception; live jazz is not only alive and well, it’s well attended and its future looks really promising.

This writer was in Seattle five weeks ago, attending a jazz club on Thursday night — listening to an amazing Afro-Cuban sextet — with only 22 people in the audience. Fantastic music, and limited attendance.

On that same night, in the middle of our homeless crisis, the society rented the lower level of the Elks’ Home in the midst of trying to negotiate a new location, 125 people turned out to listen to a gypsy jazz trio. We have a live jazz music scene in town that leads the way in British Columbia.

Now we’re settled into a great club atmosphere, why not give it a try?

This week would be a terrific opportunity to find out how good small combo jazz performance can be, when Indigo Jazz takes to the stage, fronted by Dale Graham, arguably the most mellow songstress in this part of the world.

Dale is well known to local audiences from five years with Indigo Jazz, as well as earlier work with local jazz choirs, jazz combos, and in folk and Celtic music. Her warm and supple vocals make an effortless connection to the audience, bringing home even the most complex of rhythms and melodies.

As nearly always, Dale’s vocals are interlaced with the incredible sensitivity of Rick Husband’s guitar work. Rick, well known to local jazz aficionados has performed extensively across Vancouver Island, in big bands, small combos, and everything in between. He is a compelling guitarist, highly responsive to his fellow players and he also communicates beautifully with his listeners by integrating improvised lines with familiar motifs and genres.

Equally familiar, John Hyde’s bass playing has become legendary around these parts. John is a retired jazz educator with a wealth of experience in composing, arranging and performing.

Since his move to Vancouver Island three years ago (how fortunate we are that he chose to live here), he has released two CDs and has become one of the first-call jazz bassists in the region. He has performed with Lee Konitz, Hugh Fraser, Phil Nimmons, and Phil Dwyer, among others.

Mike Eddy is making a guest appearance on keyboards this week. Mike retired to the Comox Valley after an outstanding career in music education, marked by honours such as Alberta Band Director of the Year and the Alberta Excellence in Teaching Award.

His classical piano performance background underpins his playing technique, but his passion for the jazz idiom has led to his immediate adoption by several local small combos when he moved here.

To make the evening even more interesting, Indigo Jazz is adding another special guest for this occasion, when drummer Ron Joiner will make a reunion appearance. This performance will mark Ron’s first appearance on stage with Husband for the first time in 10 years, since when they performed together in several Victoria-area groups.

In over 25 years of drumming, Ron has performed with big bands and small combos, led by Victoria jazz scene stalwarts such as Tom Vickery, Jan Stirling, Dave Paulson, and Nick La Riviere. He is active with the Belmont Avenue Beat, a saxophone-led sextet, and with the Belmont Avenue Trio, backing vocalist Pat Selman.

• • •

Jazz fans are reminded that tickets are on sale at Bop City and Red Carpet as well as the Avalanche for the April 14 concert by Worst Pop Band Ever.

For more information, visit www.georgiastraightjazz.com or see us on Facebook.

— Georgia Straight Jazz Society

Malcolm Holt is the president of the Georgia Straight Jazz Society.

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