Local sax giants combine for big sound

Music fans can expect an exceptional evening of classic jazz when Sax Trio plus Three comes to the Vernon Jazz Club Saturday, Nov. 3.

Sax Trio Doug Sonju

Sax Trio Doug Sonju

Music fans can expect an exceptional evening of classic jazz when Sax Trio plus Three comes to the Vernon Jazz Club Saturday.

Renowned jazz masters Larry Crawford, Doug Sonju, and Sandy Cameron are the “Sax Trio,” plus Okanagan favourites Neil Fraser on guitar, Bernie Addington on bass, and Scott Gamble on drums.

The band’s repertoire is a mixture of standards and standards-flavoured original tunes.

Each sax player brings his own unique sound and style to the band, yet all are stylistically similar enough to blend into a smooth groove.

“We believe this should be a very entertaining evening for the audience,” said Crawford.

All three reed men play multiple instruments, providing a variety of timbres and combinations – from two flutes and a clarinet to three tenors to clarinet, tenor, and baritone.

As well, Crawford, Sonju, and Cameron each have a solo feature number with the rhythm section.

Versatile and talented, Crawford has been playing for more than 40 years. His busy performing schedule includes playing numerous wine festivals throughout the valley, concerts at Penticton’s Dream Café, and regular appearances at the Pentastic Jazz Festival.

With regular gigs as a sideman, recording a CD with the jazz trio Pyramid, and writing for Penticton’s Thursday Night Jazz Band, it’s a wonder Crawford still has time for teaching, composing, and arranging at his Summerland studio.

“I’ve been happily keeping quite busy with the thing I love most – music!” said Crawford.

Principal clarinetist of the Okanagan Symphony since 1970, Sonju has appeared many times at the VJC, leading various combos, performing with the Salmon Armenians, and adding his talents as a popular sideman.

Sonju finds jazz’s spontaneity exhilarating.

“The excitement and danger of playing something not pre-planned, but just unfolding as I play, is the exciting fact about playing jazz. That dangerous unpredictability is what makes jazz worth listening to, especially live,” said Sonju.

A retired teacher from the North Okanagan-Shuswap school district, Cameron has almost 60 years of performing under his belt. Currently, he’s playing in two groups: Babalu, a quintet specializing in Cuban rhythms, and The Cliff Jumpers, a seven-piece Dixieland jazz band.

“Jazz is alive and well in the Okanagan and Canada,” said Cameron. “Here in Salmon Arm we have a vibrant musical scene which includes jazz bands in several genres: Gypsy swing, Dixieland, Afro-Cuban, funk.”

When not performing, organizing concerts, and teaching, Cameron says he enjoys “riding my recumbent tricycle down by the Shuswap lakeshore.”

Recently seen at the VJC with Jazz Handles, Fraser is busy performing with Lent Fraser Wall, and writing and practising for an upcoming solo CD. He is also looking forward to contributing to bassist Bill Lockie’s next CD.

Freelance jazz musician and recording artist Addington has played with everyone from Michael Bublé to Harry Connick, Jr. to Rita Chiarelli. He continues to be involved with the Jazz Café Band in Kelowna.

A popular VJC regular, Gamble is a first call drummer and percussionist, amazing in any style. Gamble was named the B.C. Interior Music Award’s 2006 Musician of the Year.

Saturday’s concert at the Vernon Jazz Club, 3000-31st St, upstairs of Nolan’s Pharmasave, starts at 8 p.m. Doors open at 7:15. Tickets are $20 at the Bean Scene and Bean to Cup coffee houses. For tickets and more information, visit www.vernonjazzclub.ca