The Glen Strickey Jazz Quartet will perform at the Alibi Lounge in Charlottetown. From left are Ian Toms, Alan Dowling, Wayne Dunsford and Glen Strickey.
©Guardian file photo by Sally Cole
The music scene on P.E.I. could be compared to your backyard: vibrant and full of life galore in the summertime, quiet-yet-still-alive in the wintertime.
Indeed, there are “musical evergreen trees” alive all around us at this time of year. And even though these winter performances on the entertainment scene are much fewer and far between than in the warmer months, it can often seem as though — just like the appreciation we feel for that snow-covered backyard spruce — the appreciation level is high for this wintertime musical life that endures.
One strong and highly-appreciated Island musical evergreen that has stood the cold’s test of time over the past seven years is Winterjazz, a well-loved monthly jazz concert series hosted by the Glen Strickey Quartet.
Featuring Strickey on alto and soprano saxophone, Alan Dowling on drums, Ian Toms on guitar and Deryl Gallant on bass, the quartet won best jazz recording at the 2012 Music P.E.I. Awards and hosted the Jazz and Blues Stage at the 2012 ECMAs where they were also nominated for two awards.
The quartet has brought Winterjazz to various locations over these past seven years, including The Haviland Club, The Alibi, Globe World Flavours. It is now settled at its current and fitting location of The Pourhouse, above The Old Triangle on University Avenue.
During this time, the quartet has been the house band for a number of notable performers as featured guests, including Charlie A’Court, Don Ross, Ross Neilsen, Paul Tynan, Coco Love Alcorn, Ian Sherwood, Joey Kitson, Chastity and many more.
This past Saturday, the special guest was Ken Fornetran, a name you may not have heard a lot on the P.E.I. music scene to this point. But it is one that you are bound to hear much more of from now on.
Originally from Windsor, Ont., alto saxophonist Forentran had the opportunity to frequently jaunt across the border to hear and meet many of Detroit’s finest jazz musicians at a young age. Relocating to Toronto, Fornetran has since studied and performed alongside many of the Canadian jazz scene’s leading musicians.
A relative newcomer to the Island, Forentran is also one of Canada’s finest woodwind repair technicians, and he will certainly be a great asset to the P.E.I. music scene both on and off the stage in the years ahead.
With the 1944 Thelonious Monk greatest hit, Round Midnight, the ensemble kicked off the January Winterjazz night at The Pourhouse on Saturday at 7:15 p.m., as the packed room of jazz fans began soaking up the sounds of the grooving quintet on stage before them.
Continuing with standards like There Will Never Be Another You, Stolen Moments, Say It (Over and Over Again), and Charlie Parker’s Confirmation, Fornetran led the group in a skilled and delightful fashion: melodic and enveloping lines of improv in his solos — intricate and dazzling when they needed to be, sweet and delicate when the mood called for it. And all throughout, it was simply a treat to take in his sax playing.
There was also an emotional dedication for the group’s last tune of the first half, as the night marked the 10th anniversary of the death of young P.E.I. jazz drummer Chris Driscoll. In honour of Driscoll, the ensemble dedicated to him its performance of the Caribbean-flared St. Thomas, featuring an epic and spirited solo by Dowling on drums.
Other highlights of the night included second half tunes like A Night in Tunisia and the soulful Mercy, Mercy, Mercy as Strickey nailed a wildly fun solo while the group wrapped things up on a grand note.
On my way out the door that night, I even got a chance to catch a few tunes by sensational blues singer/guitarist Christine Campbell (P.E.I.-born, now Halifax-based), as she rocked out acoustic-style alongside guitarist Blake Johnson on stage as a massive Old Triangle crowd cheered them on.
See what I mean? P.E.I.’s musical garden is still very much alive in the cold — you just have to look for it. And how great the notes can sound amid the calm space of winter.
For another chance to take in an Island musical evergreen, the Winterjazz series continues on Feb. 7, featuring special guest Amanda Jackson.
Next week: I’m headed for an Art Battle.
Todd MacLean is a local freelance writer and musician. If you have a comment or suggestion for a review, you can get in touch with him at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 626-1242. But he won’t be offended if you don’t.
Todd’s weekend picks
1. Songs of the Sea - Dr. Steel Recital Hall, UPEI, today at 7:30 p.m. and Trinity United Church, Summerside, Sunday at 7:30 p.m. The women’s choral ensemble, Sirens, delivers two performances of this program this weekend.
2. Popalopalots Live Improv Comedy - The Guild, today at 8 p.m., featuring Rob MacDonald, Graham Putnam, Jordan Cameron, Ben Hartley, Cameron MacDonald and Dylan Miller.
3. Robbie Burns dinner and dance - Rodd Charlottetown Hotel, tomorrow at 6:30 p.m., hosted by the Belfast Pipe and Drum Band.
4. Art Battle 210: ALL-STARS - P.E.I. Brewing Company, tomorrow at 8 p.m., featuring 12 of the best Art Battle competitors over the past year, with music by Whaleskin.
5. Dallas Smith: Tippin’ Point Tour with special guest Sundy Best - Confederation Centre Homburg Theatre, Sunday at 8 p.m.