Summer ends with some great music

A week ago along with my brother-in-law Dave Auld, I took in a performance by Roger Baird’s Black & White Jazz Trio from Vancouver at Char’s Landing in Port Alberni. Char’s is located in the old United Church on Argyle Street. The recycled building has become an established concert venue for not only local singer/songwriters, but also touring musical groups from across the country.
Let’s see - how can I best describe the band’s style? The simplest way would be to call their music free jazz or perhaps an exercise of collective improvisation. The group’s drummer and leader Roger Baird suggested when introducing his band-mates Miles Black on piano and Scott White on bass, that we close our eyes and let the sounds surround our senses when listening to the band’s meditative musical approach.
Percussionist Roger Baird introduces Roger Baird’s Black & White Jazz Trio at Char’s Landing in Port AlberniFree jazz styled music is not new, establishing itself in the 1950s and 60s. The music habitually involves the abandonment of standard chord changes, normal song construction, and in some cases, predictable tone and technique. Each player is limited only by his imagination. However, listeners and musicians alike often dismissed the approach. I recall in 1961 one of my teachers at music college in Los Angeles basically saying a new recording by saxophonist Ornette Coleman was nothing but garbage. I confess at the time I too found much of Coleman’s music baffling.
As a person who grew up listening to the likes of Oscar Peterson, Duke Ellington, Dave Brubeck and Count Basie, I acknowledge I was well into my 20’s before musicians like Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis and others set my ears afire.
The Char’s concert last week featuring Roger Baird’s Black & White Trio I found, at first, wearying. Some of my old prejudices regarding free jazz were still evident. However, I became more engaged by the second set. By concert’s end, I won’t say I was hooked but knew I needed to hear more of this motivating ensemble. The following day accessing Apple’s iTune site I found a 2007 recording of the trio. The album was titled Spirit Door. I’ve listened to the full recording several times now using the new Apple Music streaming service.
A word about this new online streaming service from Apple. The service allows members to listen to full-length versions of the entire iTunes catalog anytime on up to five devices. Currently I’m signed on for the free three-month trial period. When that runs out the service will cost me $9.99 per month for one device or $14.99 if I want more. Will I be sticking with my single membership? Absolutely! I’ve been listening to dozens of jazz and classical albums this summer. Normally when buying an album I’d be very selective, downloading only something I knew I wanted to hear. Now I can listen to full versions of albums, that if purchased would cost me hundreds of dollars in a month. Apple claims 11million people signed up for their free trial in the first two weeks when the service launched in July. How many keep their memberships will determine the service’s success. I just hope musicians will receive a fair slice of royalties, as the streaming service will be the final nail in the coffin of anything resembling a brick & mortar record store.
However, I digress. After listening to the Spirit Door album by the Roger Baird’s Black & White Trio I have become an unqualified fan of the band. I could never do an adequate job describing their music. If you’re interested in hearing some of their work I suggest you go online at and watch a special Shaw cable show about the band. Type Roger Baird’s Black & White Trio – Shaw story – full version into your search engine. That should get you there.
Twist & Shout Rocks Chemainus
Another musical event attended last week was the Chemainus Festival Theatre’s production of Twist & Shout – The British Invasion. I wish the show was still on so I could tell you to skedaddle down to Chemainus and see it. Unfortunately the show closed on the weekend.
When I saw the posters for Twist & Shout – The British Invasion, I figured it would basically be an evening of Beatle music. Yes John, Paul, George and Ringo made several appearances on stage throughout the evening but the show was so much more. The stage setting was a New York television variety show hosted by Roy Solomon (think Ed Sullivan) who tied the production together introducing the performances of British bands of the 60’s who came to the Big Apple to appear on his “Really Big Show.” One after another they came - Gerry and the Pacemakers, The Hollies, Freddy and Dreamers, The Searchers, Dusty Springfield and loads more. The Mick Jagger impersonation was hilarious.
Full Cast photo of Twist & Shout - The British Invasion At times I realized I was instinctively humming along with the cast on tunes and thought it might be just me. However, casting my eyes around the theatre I could see folks mouthing the words of songs. One gentleman in the centre row was bouncing in his seat with such enthusiasm I thought he might tumble into the rows below.  The energy level in the theatre was electrifying and it never let up.
Being a musician, whenever I see actors imitating the playing of a musical instrument, I naturally watch how well they’re pulling it off. Everyone in the show certainly had done their homework. The ‘lip synced’ drumming was especially well done. Every fill, rim shot and cymbal crash was flawlessly timed with the live musicians who were only just visible behind a scrim. I’m sure most in the audience thought the actors were actually playing their instruments.
Talented keyboardist Nico Rhodes, who doubled as musical director, skillfully led the live band.  Made up guitarist Brad Shipley, bassist Marisha Devoin, 2Nd keyboardist Patrick Courtin and drummer James McRae, all handled the mind-boggling number of 60’s hit tunes with unqualified proficiency.
The Beatles were on stage at the Chemainus Festival Theatre this summer                                                                          Tory Doctor as Roy Soloman (think Ed Sullivan)Together again - The Martin Mars

During a break in the rain this week I nipped out in my boat to take this photo of the two Martin Mars floating together on Sproat Lake for the first time in several years.
In the foreground is the Philippine Mars painted back to its original colours when delivered to the US Navy in 1945. The plane is being prepared for a flight south of the border in the spring as part of a transfer to the U.S. National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Florida.
The familiar Red & White Hawaii Mars is shown in the background. The plane was in the air several times this summer with flights around the Alberni Valley training a group of 14 Chinese pilots and engineers who visited Port Alberni in July to learn how to fly similar large tankers currently under construction in China.
The Hawaii Mars also flew this summer under a 30-day B.C. Government contract that came about after the Dog Mountain Fire at Sproat Lake produced a great deal of bad publicity for the forest service when the Mars wasn’t used. Finally put under contract the water bomber flew forest firefighting missions on the Island, the Fraser Valley and the Interior. The Hawaii set a new B.C. Record at a fire near Harrison Lake on Aug. 2, dropping 108,000 liters of water in an hour. Many in BC want to see the Mars signed to a 5-year contract.
Do you want to Sing, Sing, Sing?
The Timbre! Choir in Port Alberni has openings in all sections for new members for their upcoming 43rd season. Rehearsals get underway on September 14. Contact phone numbers are Pat Venn at 250-723-2380 in Port Alberni or my wife Pat in Nanaimo at 250-390-7508. I have a feeling this may be Pat’s final season as the choir’s musical director. Why do I suspect this? I notice that she’s titled the choir’s spring concert on April 24/2016 Time to Say Goodbye. Hmnn…..