Everyone who regularly attends Thursday Night Jazz at the Av knows Bill Street.
Aside from his charming and humourous repartee as an occasional emcee, his rotund physique is unmistakable. Although Bill plays drums with one of the local big bands, tucked away at the back, what many of those people don’t know is that Bill is a wonderful drummer in his own right. He’s had a lifelong love affair with jazz music, dating back to the 1950s and Ronny Scott’s Club in Soho. On that journey Bill has played with some of the great British and American jazz greats. His most recent commitment to jazz has been his dedicated service to Georgia Straight Jazz Society as the Board member responsible for booking Thursday Night Jazz performers.
While no one was looking, Bill slipped his own combo, Deja Blue, into this Thursday’s slot. Some might consider this a conflict of interest, but Bill shared his story about how Deja Blue came about.
“In 2006 I travelled by road to Puerto Vallarta in Mexico replete with drum kit. Having established a few musical contacts in that city I met with the operator of a seaside bar called the Blue Martini. Guitar player Mo Davenport from Quadra Island was also along for the ride and together we met at the bar to discuss possibilities of playing there.
“All we needed was a good bass player. Incredibly, a young American walked into the bar, said he was a bass player and Bingo! A new band was formed. We presented ourselves to the operator as an established combo.
“He asked the name of the band, and ‘Deja Blue’ just flashed through my brain! Neither of the other musicians showed any surprise when I uttered the name, so it stuck.”
Deja Blue played at the Blue Martini two more seasons, five nights a week, and became well known in that sunny Mexican city.
“Four years later the same musicians weren’t available, so I asked bassist Don McKay, and pianist and vocalist Ralph Barrat if they fancied a trip to Mexico? They said yes, and Deja Blue was reborn.”
But their luck almost ran out. By 2011 harder economic times had hit Mexico and initially the band could not find the gig they were looking for.
“However all problems were swiftly solved; Deja Blue offered to play an outdoor street gig for an art gallery and many people turned out for this fun gig. Among the crowd was an American bar owner who was looking for a live band for his restaurant/bar. Kent, the bar owner signed Deja Blue on the spot……the boys then commenced a new five night a week gig which was a huge success! It’s a great way of escaping British Columbia winters.”
This Thursday Deja Blue will make a rare Canadian appearance at the Av. Bebop Jazz will be mixed with some old favourite tunes with Ralph, Don, and special guest guitarist Grant McClellan. Bill will still be in the kitchen, but just a whole lot more visible than when he’d tucked away at the back of a big band.
“This will be a fun night just the way it was in Mexico, so please join us all in fiesta mode at the Av, as the hot summer starts.”
Mind you, Bill didn’t offer any weather guarantee. But you can be guaranteed that this will be an entertaining evening, with four seasoned musicians. Showtime is 7:30pm. Arrive early if you want to come for Jazz Night Special al la carte Greek Dinner offered exclusively at the club, and get the best seats in the house.
Also, serious jazz aficionados, mark your calendars for next week’s season closer: Jennifer Scott and Rene Worst.