Just returned from doing two fantastic concerts (with Van Django and Keith Bennett) on Vancouver Island – battling a crazy wind storm to get there and getting the only ferry crossing over that day – what luck! 🙂
This is a short story about what it means to have faith. It all began with a grand piano and the seed of a vision of a small Presbyterian congregation in North Burnaby.
A little more than 5 years ago, that congregation convinced Brian Fraser, Reverend and founder of Jazzthink to join their church in the role of Pastor. It wasn’t easy. Fraser was consulting, coaching, and speaking at the time. In fact, he had consulted with the congregation in the fall of 2009. They asked four times before he said yes and since then their persistence had paid off.
Owing to his ties with his organization Jazzthink, and connection to Cory Weeds (owner of Vancouver’s Jazz Cellar), Fraser heard repeatedly from musicians that the space had great acoustics and would make a wonderful music venue. Thus began a monthly jazz vespers series on Sundays similar to that of St. Andrew’s Wesley’s jazz vespers. Eventually the vespers series moved to Wednesday evenings and started to run weekly.
Last year I was introduced to Fraser via a mutual friend and I’ve had the privilege of performing at the Sanctuary three times. Once with guitarist Jon Roper for a vespers – which is a worship service with short reflections interspersed with jazz songs and very geared towards the musicians – they get to play whatever they like. I’ve also performed for a Sunday Easter service with pianist, Dan Reynolds (who is also Brentwood’s music director) and, amazingly, with my 11 piece R&B band (Top City). Talk about being inclusive of all styles!
Brian tells me that throughout these past 5 years the congregation has grown to represent over 14 nationalities. He’s obviously proud of the multicultural nature of his flock and is excited about the current growth in the Brentwood area. With so many new people moving into the area in the next while, he is looks forward to establishing the Sanctuary at Brentwood as a Centre for the Arts.
Built over 50 years ago, the Sanctuary is discovering a newfound usefulness in the community enabling amazing things to happen. And indeed they’ve been happening. For example, Jazz legend Harold Mabern was featured recently with saxophonist Cory Weeds.
Artist Laura Zerebeski has created a stunning rendition of the space at the Sanctuary.
Brentwood’s congregation not only funded the grand piano mentioned earlier, but also an extension to the stage, new paint throughout and even new comfortable theatre style chairs which allow for a flexible seating arrangement – concert or cabaret. None of the old hard wooden church pews!
A new state of the art sound system has been designed by one of the musicians frequently utilizing the space – bassist and singer Adam Thomas. A benefit concert was held featuring two prominent Vancouver jazz singers – Jen Scott and Jillian LeBeck. It was a great concert.
Going forward there are big plans to install a curtain pipe and drape system, new lighting and even remodel the kitchen and parking lot!
Now maybe when I say small congregation you think – 150 or 200 people. Nope. Not even close. It started with just 15 determined people. And their Reverend of course. Now there are about 30 in regular attendance on Sunday morning and 20 at Jazz Vespers.
When I asked him about the church’s interest in music, Reverend Fraser explained that Presbyterians are well known for the inclusiveness of music in their ministry. “We believe in creating a ‘space of grace’ – a place where people can be nourished via art and music to flourish”.
As for the space itself, adjectives such as warm, cozy, bright, alive – not ‘churchy’! are often used to describe it. I can attest to that. If you want to check out the musical happenings there visit http://brentwoodpc.ca/jazz-evensong. They also have two wonderful Gospel workshops happening, along with a continuation of the jazz vespers through the summer and a new classical music concert series.
I’ll be there August 5th with guitarist Jon Roper and stellar trumpeter Gabriel Mark Hasselbach. For more info visit my upcoming shows page here.
Ok, so maybe I’m a little ahead of the game with my title. But I’ve got a lot to look forward to this year and am excited to tell you about it.
First off a big, BIG Thank You to those who came to see our Van Django Bells concerts. They were a huge success and we just had our first planning meeting for 2015 which means I’ll be back this December – yea! We are also working on creating a beautiful Christmas cd together which will be available on our 2015 tour.
I’m also in the initial planning stages for recording a cd as well as another concert with my quintet featuring the wonderfully talented Jon Roper – more info on that to come soon.
Looking back, 2014 was a great year musically speaking. I had the opportunity to work with so many talented musicians including Jon Roper, Graham Howell, Billy Dixon, Van Django, Ron Thompson, Adam Rohrlick, Top City, Joel Fountain, Andrew Mockler, Bob Mahaney trio, and Melissa Howell and the Angelus Singers to name a few. I want to especially thank both Keith Bennett and Gabriel Mark Hasselbach, two very stellar musicians who gave me much encouragement and mentorship this past year.
I’ve got a couple of shows coming up in early February – I hope you can make it. One is at the fab Ten Ten Tapas and it’s Dine Out that night so a great menu will be available. As well, I’ll be a featured artist for Burnaby’s newest jazz vespers, Jazz Evensong.
As well, there’s talk of my joining Billy Dixon and the fabulous Soul Train Express at the Cottage Bistro for another Rossini’s Reunion in March. It will be guaranteed to be a sell out. And plans are underway for another great night of Soul, R&B and Motown music with Top City so stay tuned and all the best for 2015!
Wow. Didn’t know that little ol’ Whiterock B.C. had a premier music venue! Last night I was privileged to catch my dapper sax player pal Graham Howell (who’s played with the likes of The Powder Blues and Lee Aaron) playing in a David Bowie tribute band.
Yes, that’s right, a tribute band. Now typically I’m not big on tribute bands, unless they rock the house down with ear massaging musical feats of wonder. And that’s exactly A Night of Bowie did. Syl Thompson (Bowie) was fabulous and his entire backing band was drum tight! Ground control to Major Tom baby…
People, if you want to see and listen to great music in a world class music venue that understands the importance of sound and ambience you can look no further. A state of the art studio awaits you with the latest gear and a beautiful decor and lighting. An intimate amount of seating (100) guarantees a great view and sound. Not to mention the owners of the studio answer calls for tickets personally and remember talking to you when you show up. How cool is that?
Last but not least, hanging out in beautiful White Rock prior to the show at the Washington Avenue Grill drinking great wine and staring out at the sea and the beach wasn’t exactly onerous either (and WAG supports live music too!).
Check out Blue Frog here for their upcoming shows: Blue Frog
Check out A Night of Bowie – here (playing next in Nanaimo B.C. September 13)
They will come! I’ve long had a yearning to put on a concert and so I will be doing just that at the quaint and intimate 100_ year old Anne MacDonald Studio in North Vancouver on July 5th.
And, I’m very excited to be working with some of Vancouver’s hottest musical talent.
First and foremost guitarist Jon Roper – currently busting his musical buns writing arrangements for the show – is an extremely versatile (and funny) musician who, when he’s not rocking out with his indie-funk and hard rock bands, can be found alongside some of Vancouver’s elite of the jazz music scene including cats like trumpeter Al Matheson, bassist Lawrence Mollerup and singer Alita Dupray.
Next, on drums, my fellow VCC alumni Joel Fountain (who is also a terrific singer, songwriter). It’s been a while since we played together but Joel has been tearing up the musical scene here since returning from the U of North Texas. He’s performed worldwide at such notable venues as the Blue Note in New York, Riles in Boston, Ronnie Scotts in London, and Jazz Alley in Seattle, and has performed concerts with The Brecker Brothers, Terry Gibbs, Byron Stripling, Diane Schuur & Slide Hampton to name a few.
Last, but definitely not least, major up and coming Vancouver bassist, James Meger, a grad of Cap U and Montreal’s McGill U, will be rounding out the group. He’s played alongside the likes of pianist Bruno Hubert, vocalist Jaclyn Guillou and has his own jazz Trio Braveheart. Although we haven’t yet played together, my sources assure me this young fellow could make a ‘cry in your beer’ country tune turn into a mean groove and soul city – i.e. – anything funky and he’s on it.
We’re going to do some ‘genre’ bending as it’s sometimes called. Mixing up jazz, blues and pop standards with a little funk and soul thrown in for good measure and creating and performing unique arrangement of some of the world’s best singers and songwriters including Stevie Wonder, Van Morrison, Roberta Flack, Peggy Lee, Eva Cassidy and more.
We really hope you’ll join us – please click here for the details.
Even with one hand tied behind his back (a skiing accident he told me as we arrived), Keith Bennett is still one of Canada’s most gifted harmonica players and an expert on the topic. I had the pleasure of taking the first level of Keith’s in-home courses on playing harp this past weekend with four other newbie players and it was a total treat!
In the photo Keith stands beside a partial collection of harmonicas he’s obtained over the years including a Chinese Sheng – the granddaddy of the harmonica! In his hand is a chordal harmonica (big sucker – it’s heavy!) and in the mouth rack a standard harmonica.
Over the course of three hours I learned about different types of harmonicas, draw vs blow, where the notes and chords are on a C harmonica and how to write them, how to play rhythm over a full blues chorus and solo, how to clean and maintain my new instrument and even how to bend a note – success!
But the highlight? Meeting Boris, a fellow student, who at 80 years young is convinced he can improve his skills – alright Boris! (watch out ladies!)
I love the challenge of learning something new musically and working with a pro like Keith is probably the best way to get a leg up on this instrument. I’m looking forward sitting in on a gig soon with my new mad harp skills.
Contact Keith here if you are interested to find out more about his playing or courses.
A while ago I received a call from a talented music pal of mine, Erick Avila, asking whether I’d consider singing a demo of an original tune he wrote called, It’s Not Enough. He sent me an Mp3 with a scratch vocal. He wanted me to take a run at it which I was happy to do as I loved the song and was just getting my new home studio up and running. We sent files back and forth (Canada to Mexico – or really who knows where the heck they got routed via the net) and eventually Erick was able to use the vocal tracks from my studio to complete the song. Erick played all the instruments and mixed it himself. AMAZING. I’ve been around long enough to remember using DOS and fax machines which used that horrible white shiny paper. You know what I’m talking about people. WAAAAY before Iphones and Youtube. Then Erick suggested we do a video – long distance – and, well, I got out my handy dandy macbook and again files were transferred. Anyway, click here for the result. It’s incredible what’s happening these days technology and creativity wise. (Thanks Erick – you’re awesome!!) 🙂Not Enough – LJ Mounteney, Vox, Erick Avila, composer, musicians
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Wow – another year gone by so fast. And every year for the past several years, I’ve carolled with the Angelus Singers – headed up by the wonderful Melissa Howell – an amazing and skilled trained Opera vocalist. We’ve got some of the sweetest gigs in Vancouver including the lovely Century Plaza Hotel. Come down and enjoy some lovely 3 part harmonies of your favourite traditional and popular Christmas tunes! (And the Century Plaza has the most amazing lunch buffet!) Check out the shows page for days and locations.