Karl Schwonik Jazz Ensemble

JAZZ: THE REAL DEAL The Karl Schwonik Jazz Ensemble with the Selkirk Jazz Choir and The Jazz Council at Kimberley United Church, Kimberley BC, Ocotber 19, 2012 7:30pm.

Jazz concerts used to be a rare event in this area but thanks to the activities of The Jazz Council, The Little Jazz Orchestra and The Notables Big Band the sounds of live jazz are becoming more frequent. Thanks to the efforts of the Jazz Council and the Canada Council for the Arts a visit by Karl Schwonick`s Jazz Ensemble during their recent Western Canada mini-tour (Dawson City, Whitehorse, Vancouver Island, Cranbrook and Calgary) added some additional spritely sounds to this area`s jazz palette.

Friday night’s concert was kicked off with a couple of selections by the charming young ladies of The Selkirk Jazz Choir. For those of us old enough to remember they ignited the nostalgia neurons with their rendition of Henry Mancini’s 1969 hit from the movie ‘The Pink Panther’ – you know the one “da dum, da dum, da dum ba dum ba dum” … or something like that. They were accompanied by some deft two finger  piano work by Laurel Ralston. Their second selection was the somewhat un-jazzy, but never-the-less excellent, anthem ‘Hallelujah’ by Leonard Cohen.

The Jazz Council (Laurel Ralston – trumpet and Fleugelhorn; Sven Heyde – drums; Bernie Primbs – baritone sax; Stu Driedger – bass and Geoff Haynes – piano, keyboard) opened their set with Bernie’s love song to his then intended wife, ‘Quieres Casarte Conmigo’. They followed that up with Laurel Ralston’s new composition entitled ‘Broken Drill Bit Blues’. With one of his original compositions entitled ‘Rainy Night Caper’ Joel Kroeker, the former bass player with the band, initiated a Jazz Council tradition of “creepy Jazz”. The current band is more than happy (?) to continue the tradition with an original composition called  ‘On the Prowl’. Fittingly, Sven Heyde provided some really nice brush work on his soft ballad ‘Carrie’. The final tune was Bernie’s funky stomp ‘Everybody Could Use a Minor Funk’ that featured some rollicking organ riffs from Geoff Haynes.

The featured band of the evening was the Karl Schwonik Jazz Ensemble. And Karl, as described on his website  “…. is a drummer who grew up on a farm near Gwynne, Alberta where he was exposed to countless musical situations ranging from polka to jazz. Fresh out of high school, Schwonik embarked on a tour with 2-time Canadian Country Music Award Nominee Heather-Dawn”. From then on Karl has accumulated an impressive set of credentials including studies at the Banff Centre (the youngest participant in their residency program). He has had a busy touring schedule with over 20 tours as a leader.    His third of four recordings on Chronograph Records, 1+4, was #1 on Canadian jazz radio charts for nearly 2 months. Both 1+4 and Schwonik’s first album, Visions From the Farm, was nominated for a Western Canadian Music Award for ‘Jazz Recording of the Year’. The list of his accomplishments and involvement with the music scene goes on and on. For this tour he has surrounded himself with a crew of mostly young musicians from near and far.  James Davis on trumpet hails originally from Texas and is a graduate of the North Texas State Jazz Program. He is now a resident of  Chicago. Bryan Qu is a very young (19 years old) tenor sax player from Calgary who is currently studying with Canadian sax giant Mike Murley while going to school in Toronto. Keyboard player Chris Andrew, originally from Campbell River,  also holds down the “oldest guy in the band chair”. Bass player and band van driver Kodi Hutchinson is a well known player on the Calgary scene. In his spare time Kodi is also the President of Chronograph Records.  For the concert Karl moved the band down from the altar area onto the church floor. It was a good move that improved the sight lines for the audience  and help create a more intimate ambience. From the first syncopated hand clap of ‘Off the Shores’ this band served notice that the audience was in for a night of exceptional jazz. This first composition by Karl Schwonik was a rhythmic juggernaut of hand clapping, hand beaten drum kit and percussive effects (including trumpet valve rattles). Nearly all the pieces played during the evening, including “Escape” by Karl were original compositions. James Davis contributed an outstanding anthem entitled “Cotton”  that was dedicated to his dad and a familiar  area of Texas. A tune that must be causing a royalty nightmare is the piece that drew inspiration and melodic motifs from the TV advertisements  for Wetaskiwin car dealers (“cars cost less in Wetaskiwin”)  and Duke Ellinton’s  ‘Take the A Train’. The only two non-original compositions on the program were Thelonious Monk’s ‘Blue Monk’    and Denzil Best’s jazz standard from 1937 called ‘Wee’. This last tune show cased the tenor sax talents of Bryan Qu and was a fitting end to night of jazz by a band that has been described as one of the best bands on the Canadian scene.

The poor light in the Church made it difficult to get really first class photos. Never-the-less here are some images from the evening.

                                 For this great concert thanks should be given to the organizers for their hard work and also to the Canada Council for the Arts that made it possible for the band to do this tour.



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