Big Band thunders into the Avalanche

The Nanaimo Musicians
The Nanaimo Musicians' Association Big Band thunders into the Avalanche Bar this Thursday.
— image credit: PHOTO SUBMITTED

Excitement mounts as the Nanaimo Musicians’ Association Big Band takes the stage at the Avalanche Bar stage at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday for the first time this season.

It would be easy to say the excitement is all about a terrific 17-piece jazz band (which it is, of course), but it is equally about the return of Sydney Needham, who many consider to be Vancouver Island’s most talented female jazz singer.

During her last appearance almost a year ago, when she was pressured into one more encore from a wild audience she said, “Well, you asked for it!” and delivered what currently stands as the wildest vocal performed on our stage. The song title doesn’t look decent in print, so you will simply have to be there to hear it in person.

Sydney is the most powerful vocalist in this part of the world; her vocals are full of expression and passion. This young woman is bound for greatness, and this is your chance to see her before she becomes another great alumnus.

Overall, the excitement is due to the calibre of the act; NMA’s previous appearances at the Avalanche on the extended stage have been stunning.

Quite a lot of folk have asked, “How’s it possible to accommodate a big band on that stage?” Well, you’ll just have to see (and feel) the difference.

With the stage thrusting into lower floor area, the sound is amazing, and the atmosphere electric. The last NMA concert in April drew an audience of 130 jazz fans who needed a fix, listening to some of the most talented band instrumentalists on Vancouver Island.

The group has served the mid-Island for more than 40 years. Famous alumni include Diana Krall, Ingrid and Christine Jensen, and Phil Dwyer.

In addition to some of the established big band players from the Mid-Island region, its sound is rounded out with some of VIU’s top students from the music program.

New members include Hans Verhoeven, who is now the drum instructor at VIU, trumpeter Dave Stewart, and tenor Theo Hughes-Ridgeway (originally from Courtenay).

For Thursday’s concert, the band’s repertoire ranges from old standards from the Buddy Rich and Count Basie bands, to modern compositions by alumnus, Christine Jensen, whose Montreal big band won a Juno Award in 2011.

For more information about the Georgia Straight Jazz Society and its forthcoming events, as well as an anthology of past concerts, you are invited to visit www.georgiastraightjazz.com or see us on Facebook.

— Georgia Straight Jazz Society

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