Ferdy Belland informs me that way back in the 1960’s Cranbrook was a jazz town (“don’t judge Cranbrook by the sawmill”). I didn’t arrive in Cranbrook until 1976 so I can’t vouch for that but I do know that in the 1980’s there was jazz around town. The big band, The Sounds of the Forties was a going concern as was the band Wham Go the Ducks. I don’t recall any significant local jazz groups since those bands stopped performing. There have been the occasional touring groups that have dropped into the Studio / Stage Door to take part in Gord & Jill Johnston’s Swing Street concert series. The the Key City Theatre featured jazz and blues on an infrequent basis. But, by and large, the town went over to mostly Classic Rock in the bars and now, of course, that scene has largely dried up as well. Over the past 18 months there has been a resurgence in live Jazz in the area. There have been two mini-festivals run by the Kimberley Arts Council that featured jazz groups from as far away as Poland and Belgium. Two local bands, The Jazz Council and The Little Jazz Orchestra, have also kept the jazz flame alive and burning during that period. The Little Jazz Orchestra (featuring Dave Ward on trumpet and Flugelhorn, Jim Cameron on Guitar, Janice Nicli on Bass and Graham Knipfel on drums) is still around and holding down a regular gig (every first Thursday of the month) at the Heid Out in Cranbrook. This was the basic core group for the special Christmas session on Thursday, December 19, 2013. They were Joined by vocalist Shauna Plant, keyboard player Evan Buekert; Bernie Primbs on Baritone Sax, Ferdy Belland on Bass, Stu Taylor on Trombone and Sven Heyde on drums and Congas. In other words it was an all-star cast of local jazz musicians.
Fittingly the band kicked off the evening in a bluesy mood with Miles Davis’ All Blues from the classic album Kind of Blue. That album was recorded in 1959, has never been out of print, has sold over 20 million copies and, nearly fifty years after its original release it is still selling at a rate of about 5,000 per week. “In the church of jazz, Kind of Blue, is one of the holy relics“. With it`s innovative modal approach it forever changed the face of jazz. If there is a need to have only one jazz record in your collection then this is the one. But, I digress, this tune was a classic start to a classic evening and it set the stage for what was to follow. A wonderful evening of live, free wheeling jazz that leaves one pondering “how do they do that?”. Mostly working from lead sheets the group played a wide selection of Jazz, and non-jazz standards. From time to time the guest musicians took centre stage for tunes such as Besame Mucho, My Funny Valentine, St. Thomas, Lagrima Negras, some Christmas ambience in Let it Snow, Let it Snow, I Wish you a Merry, Merry Christmas, and A Charlie Brown Christmas. The country tune Walking After Midnight featured the wonderful voice of Shauna Plant and Janice Nicli (also on vocals) rocked it out on Jump N’ Jive. The old time jazz classics featured during the evening included Bill Bailey Won’t You Please Come Home, Ja Da (written in 1918) and Duke Ellington’s C-Jam Blues. The stand out tunes for me were Sonny Rollin’s St. Thomas and, with its shades of a New Orleans funeral, the old Gospel tune Take a Closer Walk with Thee. Classic Rock and Blues are fine but there is nothing quite like the snap and crackle of straight up jazz in a wonderful venue like The Heid Out. Thanks should go to Heidi, the staff and the musicians for a wonderful night of music. Here are some images from the evening:
And now for a touch of the surreal – The Condensate on the High Windows