Atkinsons’s head constantly full of musical ideas

Playing in one or even two bands is not enough for someone who lives, eats and breathes music



Playing in one or even two bands is not enough for someone who lives, eats and breathes music.

Musical ideas come to Marc Atkinson even when he’s being interviewed by the local paper about a gig next weekend in Courtenay.

“I just finished teaching a workshop all about living, eating, breathing music,” he commented in an interview from his home on Hornby Island, where he’s lived for seven years.

“Currently, I have two young kids … so that’s pretty consuming. Perhaps that’s why I’m so excited to play when I get a chance.”

He said musical ideas come to him all day long.

“In a way, it would be nice if I could turn it off, but I’m pretty much always thinking about some musical idea – even right now.”

Atkinson plays in the Bills (formerly the Bill Hilly Band) as well as his own trio and quartet. After a recent foray to California with the Bills and the trio, Atkinson hit the road this week with his quartet.

He’s the only guitarist in the quartet, which includes violin, bass and drums.

“It has a slightly fatter sound,” Atkinson said.

The Marc Atkinson Trio plays Oct. 16 at the Elks Hall in downtown Courtenay as part of the Georgia Straight Jazz Society season.

The trio consists of Atkinson on lead guitar, longtime bandmate Joey Smith on bass and relative newcomer Brett Martens on rhythm guitar, spelled on occasion by previous full-time player Chris Frye.

Atkinson said Martens, who also lives on Hornby Island, is a “fantastic guitar player. He’s been here for several years and he plays all the Django Reinhardt material and he’s quite a great lead player in his own right.”

Smith, in the trio from its inception 11 or 12 years ago, “really understands music. He’s been there for all four albums. He’s definitely the backbone.”

Atkinson said the material he’s writing at the moment lends itself to the quartet, so a fifth recording by the trio will likely have to wait until one by the foursome.

Atkinson, known for his wonderful acoustic playing that is influenced heavily by Reinhardt’s gypsy jazz and some classical flavourings, went electric for about a year in a handful of gigs with a drummer named Bill Hicks.

“My audience is generally used to a slightly quieter sound, a gentler sound, and when I plug in, I don’t go halfway … I rock it pretty hard.

“It was very fun, but I didn’t want to alienate anyone who has been a supporter in the past,” he said with a chuckle. “I realized after playing it for a bit that I actually prefer the acoustic. I’ve been playing the acoustic for so long, it’s my sound and I like it.

“My trio, with all the different groups I have going, it’s still my favourite project. It’s all about guitar.”

Atkinson, who loves living on Hornby – where he’s now got a studio – has toured with his trio in North America, England and Europe. They’ve received standing ovations from the Montreal Jazz Festival to the Vancouver International Folk Festival to DjangoFest Northwest.

What can the audience expect at the Elks on Oct. 16?

“The great thing about having the four albums is that we just grab tunes from the various albums these days … we might do one or two of the new ones I’ve written for the quartet.

“I’ll probably pop in a couple of new ones that no one’s ever heard even if they’ve heard all four albums.”

The Marc Atkinson Trio performs Oct. 16 at the Elks Hall at 7:30 p.m. Tickets ($15 for Georgia Straight Jazz Society members, $20 for non-members) are available at Bop City, Comox Videos ‘N’ More, at the Thursday Jazz Club at the Elks, and at the door in the unlikely event that any are left.