The Georgia Strait Jazz Society has been drawing big crowds in 2015.

Jazz popularity booming in the Valley

Membership to Georgia Strait Jazz Society has doubled in the past year

The 2015 season of Thursday Night Jazz at the Avalanche Bar has already delivered a broad range of jazz music, ranging from gypsy music through tribute bands, all the way to two big band concerts.

That diversity provides proof of the amazing range of jazz music on offer. Add to that the fact that Comox Valley has now become a retirement destination for accomplished jazz musicians, and the future looks brighter by the year. Membership in the Georgia Straight Jazz Society has doubled in the past year, and attendance is averaging an all-time high. Clearly, word has spread about the quality of music, venue and catering; new and younger faces are joining the regulars as another generation of jazz lovers emerges in our community. Jazz music has been struggling to survive in large parts of North America as music taste has been increasingly shifted to mp3 and YouTube-based formats, with a new generation of consumers which lacks the time to sit and appreciate a concert. Fortunately, mid-Vancouver Island is bucking this trend, and we are emerging as a reputed tour destination for European and North American musicians.

That said, this is a week for regional musicians to thrill us with cool, technical music as Michael Irving (the music director at Dover Bay Secondary School in Nanaimo) returns with his quintet. Michael is better known to jazz fans in this area as the lead trumpet for the highly respected Arrowsmith Big Band and the Nanaimo Musician’s Association Big Band.

Michael brings his talented group to Courtenay on Thursday evening at the Avalanche Bar and Grill on Eighth Street, featuring veteran sax man Cameron Wigmore on tenor saxophone. As regular jazz goers know, and Michael commented, “Cam is one of the most thrilling and accomplished sax musicians in this part of the word.”

Michael continued, “In addition, it’s always a thrill to perform with former students such as Andrew Janusson on guitar, especially since he just won the coveted Fraser MacPherson Scholarship! I’m so proud to share the stage with him.” GSJS members can appreciate this comment, since Andrew has made several appearances on the Av stage this season and wowed the audience with his talent. He’s a musical chameleon: able to blend his guitar playing into just about any jazz idiom.

Rounding out the quintet is NMA Big Band rhythm section Darin Nicolle on bass (a new face to our stage in a small combo line-up), and Hans Verhoeven, drum instructor at Vancouver Island University, on drums. Regulars will recall his wonderful style when he last played for us in January

The quintet will be performing the music of Horace Silver, Paquito D’Rivera, Freddie Hubbard, Lee Morgan, The Brecker Brothers, Joe Henderson and some original music by Michael Irving. As Michael promised, “Be Bop, Hard Bop, Post Bop, Latin Bop, any kind of Bop: you’ll hear it!”

Down beat is 7:30pm, but make sure you arrive early if you want to meet friends for dinner in the club before the music starts. You can find the jazz society on Facebook, or visit our website for more information about forthcoming events.

Admission is $10 and $12 for members and non-members respectively.





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