The interview with Bill Street last week was a bit of a riot. He joked about being famous in popular British comics and national scandal newspapers in his Monty Python-type deadpan style, then abruptly interrupted himself with heartfelt reflections about the growth in the popularity of jazz music in Comox Valley.
“We are blessed with some great jazz musicians. Most small communities, even bigger towns and cities rarely often lack such a wealth of talent to call upon as we find in this corner of the world. To our added luck we find new players choosing to live here almost every year.”
Bill should know, since he’s the guy who handles regular bookings for Georgia Straight Jazz Society.
“At times it’s like herding cats,” he commented.
But this time, the boot was on the other foot because the pressure was on him to provide some serious material about his appearance at The Avalanche this coming Thursday at 7:30.
“Swing Street is a new band, and I expect it to be around for a long time. It is my delight to play with these fine players. Even rehearsals are a knockout!
“I have always been a devotee of West Coast jazz. As a teenager, living in London, England, I was engulfed in that wonderful cool sound with which players like Stan Getz, Chet Baker and Gerry Mulligan regularly presented us. That sound is as modern today as it was in the 1950s and I have always wanted to re-create it.”
So Bill embarked on a mission to build such a sound, based on the wealth of talent in our region.
“When considering people for my new band I had the wonderful opportunity to ask several players who I know and enjoy, for their wonderful musicianship,” he said. “For example, when the amiable Mike Eddy (keyboards) first graced my ears he was a customer at a local venue where I was playing. He sat in on that session and we were all knocked out. Since then we have performed many times together. Mike is a fantastic player of many genres of music and an accomplished arranger. He is an excellent organizer and a nicer chap you could not meet. His time and effort with Swing Street has been exceptional, and his swinging style is perfect in this setting.
“I first heard Carrie Fowler (tenor saxophone) when she played a gig in Courtenay with the Little Big band. I later joined that band myself and one good reason was to play with Carrie. In recent years she has been very busy attaining her nursing qualifications and I was overjoyed when finally she found some precious time to come and join us. Carrie possesses a true west coast tone and her playing has a superb relaxed swing that is pure perfection. Her ballad playing is outstanding.
“The ever resourceful Jay Havelaar is with us on trumpet. He is very well schooled in music and this shows through in his ideas, coupled with a west coast tone that is second to none. He is a true swinger. Jay is to me a new Chet Baker.”
Bill went on to applaud the work being done at VIU in the jazz program, and reflected on our good fortune to have such an array of emerging talent just one hour down the road. This triggered his decision to introduce a lesser known face to the lineup.
“On double bass we have a new face in Danny Montgomery. Danny is a VIU graduate, presently living and working in Nanaimo. He is a solid swinging player and he provides the very foundation we all seek, and his style blends perfectly into Swing Street.”
Having built the band, Bill cast around for a vocalist who could round out the cool swing style he sought.
“We are very lucky to have a wonderful vocalist in Jacki Zbirun. I first heard Jacki with the Georgia Straight Big Band. She sounded fantastic and I was determined to seek her involvement in a small group setting. She was delighted to join us. Her pitch and delivery are superb. She brings to the stage a wonderful energy, and sings a song which would make the composer smile. The audience will just love what she does.”
This is Swing Street’s first outing at the Avalanche Bar and Grill, and you’re invited to come and join jazz club regulars for an evening of melody, taste, relentless swing and good musicianship. Admission for this, and all regular Thursday jazz at the Av is $10 for members, and$12 for non-members. Annual membership is $15 for individuals, and $25 for families. Memberships can be purchased online by PayPal.
For information about the Jazz Society and its forthcoming acts, please visit georgiastraightjazz.com or visit us on Facebook.