Comox Valley guitarist Christy Vanden opened for the Marc Atkinson Trio, Oct. 25 at the Sid Williams Theatre. Photo submitted

Marc Atkinson Trio, Daniel Lapp, put on outstanding set at the Sid

Submitted by Mark Allan

Beset by technical problems created by a power outage caused by a fierce West Coast storm, a recent live-streamed concert headlined by masterful acoustic guitarist Marc Atkinson almost didn’t happen.

As Atkinson explained during an outstanding set with his trio at Courtenay’s Sid Williams Theatre, they made it to Vancouver Island from their Hornby Island homes one ferry before sailings were cancelled Oct. 25 due to high wind.

Anyone able to watch the concert, which included special guest Daniel Lapp and an opening set by talented Comox Valley guitarist Christy Vanden, got a strong hint of the breadth and depth of musical talent on Canada’s west coast.

Opening tune Honeysuckle Rose set the mood with a nod to the great Django Reinhardt, with Atkinson taking the part of the beloved gypsy jazz guitarist and Lapp in the role of brilliant violinist Stéphane Grappelli.

Like Reinhardt’s original Hot Club of France, Atkinson’s rare quartet played nimbly in this set with an irresistible sense of swing that included important contributions from bassist Scott White and Atkinson’s son Arlo, 14, as a late replacement on rhythm guitar.

Rhythm was a vital part of Reinhardt’s sound. Arlo acquitted himself admirably with wonderful interplay between him and his father. The frequent grins they exchanged hinted at a powerful bond beyond music.

All four musicians clearly love the music they played as well as creating it with each other.

Lapp’s excellence on multiple instruments and his experience playing with the likes of Elvis Costello, Lou Reed, Rickie Lee Jones, Spirit of the West, 54-40, Gord Downie, Barney Bentall, Jim Byrnes and Jim Cuddy made his participation in this special concert, well, special.

His excellent playing on violin and trumpet easily made up for his limitations as a singer.

Throughout, Atkinson’s jaw-dropping technique, compositional skills and superb musicality left no doubt why he was named Instrumental Solo Artist of the Year at the 2021 Canadian Folk Music Awards. A winner of two Western Canadian Music Awards and a Juno nominee, Atkinson deserves multiple Juno Awards, which have inexplicably eluded him and his trios.

In the meantime, he’s busy producing other musicians at his Hornby Island studio.

Better-known for her love affair with Stratocasters, Vanden opened the evening with a set drawn from her coming debut acoustic, instrumental EP Unexpected Road.

Her nimble, triple-picking digits on a pair of Taylor guitars created a musical space that listeners could easily lose themselves in. Her well-crafted songs include a masterful sense of melody and harmonics.

Heartfelt opening tune Grace is named for a beloved grandmother whose death inspired Vanden to write a moving tribute.

Vanden’s focus is clearly on her outstanding playing, which makes sense. The only quibble about her five-song set is that we don’t hear her gorgeous, understated singing. Maybe when she’s promoting her second recording.

Mark Allan has written for the AllMusic Guide.

 

The Marc Atkinson Trio, with special gues Daniel Lapp, performed a spectacular set at the Sid Williams Theatre in November. Photo supplied.