It was fingers crossed last Thursday, when the Georgia Straight Jazz Society held its first concert on the stage at the Avalanche Bar.
Despite much planning in the preceding days, no one quite knew what the reaction would be to our new venue, after six years at the Elks’ Home. Well, the planning paid off, and a terrific crowd turned out to listen to Anderson Jazz Syndicate play an evening of cool modern jazz.
And so we look forward with confidence as we settle into a new stage and atmosphere, with great sound and lighting, courtesy of the Avalanche.
Confidence is high on two counts: it’s more than the venue — we have exciting music and great performers drawn from the pool of local musicians who contribute to making Comox Valley the greatest hotbed of live jazz music on Vancouver Island, and one of only a very few in British Columbia.
Take this Thursday for example — a rare treat of jazz violin when jazz violinist Blaine Dunaway takes the stage, accompanied by John Hyde, bass, and Jeff Drummond, guitar.
Where else will you find that kind of music for a modest donation at the door, in a jazz club atmosphere, surrounded by an audience which is not only social and welcoming, but also attending primarily to listen to great jazz, played live?
Dunaway has a long career as a musician, educator, composer and conductor. He has performed with big bands, including the Tommy Banks Orchestra, Hugh Fraser’s VEJI, and Fred Stride’s jazz orchestra. He has performed with Eartha Kitt, Joe Henderson, Julian Priester, Dave Holland, Celso Machado, Marcus Milagres, Bill Coon, and many others.
The jazz or improvised violin is now his specialty.
Comments gleaned about Blaine’s music include, “Blaine is one of the most phenomenal musicians, able to compose, back up anyone else’s music, and he enjoys great jazz fusion. He truly expresses the simple finer things in life beautifully and expressively” and, “Blaine Dunaway is a man easy on the ear. Easily adapting to any genre thrown his way and able to creatively field any musical equation on the spot, he is without rival and an asset to any ensemble fortunate enough to have him in their fold. Oh yeah, a real nice guy, too!”
Blaine’s accompanists are no strangers to Georgia Straight Jazz people.
Drummond is a superb guitarist, producer/engineer, educator and composer.
After graduating from MRU in Calgary from the Jazz performance program in the mid ’90s, Jeff has spent the last 20 years performing, touring, recording and writing music professionally.
As a band leader and freelance guitarist, his musical travels have taken across North America and to the U.K. with notable performances at major festivals and on national television. Jeff’s recording credits span many genres and he appears in all his various roles on countless Canadian artists’ recordings.
Hyde has enjoyed a career spanning five decades as a professional bassist and jazz educator.
His impressive performances include playing with Gary Guthman and the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, Tim Tamashiro, (Juno Award winner) Ranee Lee, Campbell Ryga, Steve Pineo Blues band, Manic Thematic, Brad Turner, Ralph Bowen, Phil Dwyer and P.J. Perry. In the past he has worked with Muhal Richard Abrams, Eddie (Lockjaw) Davis, Lee Konitz, Hugh Fraser, Tommy Banks and Clarence (Big) Miller.
Since every third Thursday is Comedy Night at the Avalanche Bar, we have had to adapt our performance schedule for the remainder of this season’s calendar.
Instead of finishing in mid-June, our season will extend to early July, to accommodate those acts that have been bumped. Keep an eye on the new dates by visiting www.georgiastraightjazz.com or see us on Facebook.
We still have minor adjustments to make as we settle into our new digs, but rest assured: Live jazz lives — and will continue to live in the Comox Valley.
— Georgia Straight Jazz Society