Pianist returns to Vernon accompanied by jazz giants

Swing, blues, Latin – the Ron Johnston Quartet, featuring Dylan Cramer, has it all at the Vernon Jazz Club Saturday, May 19.

Saxophonist Dylan Cramer joins pianist Ron Johnston and his quartet in concert at the Vernon Jazz Club Saturday

Saxophonist Dylan Cramer joins pianist Ron Johnston and his quartet in concert at the Vernon Jazz Club Saturday

Swing, blues, Latin – the Ron Johnston Quartet, featuring Dylan Cramer, has it all at the Vernon Jazz Club Saturday.

Johnston’s quartet includes Cramer on saxophone, Bruce Meikle on bass, and John Nolan on the drums.

Johnston and the band offer a varied repertoire of musical selections from a period spanning over seven decades.

Performing a collection of classic jazz standards, fiery Latin tunes, and blues-drenched ballads, the quartet features the music of jazz masters Antonio Carlos Jobim, Miles Davis, Grover Washington, Irving Berlin, and Harold Arlen.

Tunes include Arlen’s Over the Rainbow, Washington’s Winelight, and Jobim’s Triste.

The quartet also highlights contemporary composers such as Stevie Wonder and Carlos Santana.

Playing and performing piano for 40 years now, Johnston is well-respected in the Canadian jazz scene.  He’s performed with every major Canadian jazz musician such as Moe Koffman, P.J. Perry, Terry Jacks, and Rob McConnell.

Jazz has been a refuge and a joy for Johnston.

“At first, what drew me to jazz was my desire to escape into the piano as a means of coping with early difficulties in my life,” recalled Johnston. “Then I met Tommy Banks and he was awe-inspiring to me, both as a musician and a person.”

At 18, Johnston had the opportunity to study piano with Oscar Peterson at his Advanced School of Contemporary Music in Toronto, further increasing his ambition to be a jazz musician.

Johnston also counts Bill Evans and Keith Jarrett among his inspirations.

“I was stunned and captivated by their eloquence and sensitive piano playing, along with their commitment and integrity,” said Johnston. “I patterned myself after them, always trying to create melodic, sensitive, and rhythmical beauty in my piano playing.”

Johnston is involved in many musical projects as a freelance musician and is also a charter member of the Dylan Cramer Quartet.

He recently released his own CD, Remembering Tomorrow, with bassist Torben Oxbol and drummer Nolan, receiving critical acclaim and airplay on CBC Radio.

Johnston is pleased to return to the VJC this spring.

“I’m looking forward to seeing some old friends and fans, and playing the new piano,” said Johnston.

Cramer appeared with his quartet at the VJC last spring. He is well known for his smooth, soulful, and sophisticated sax style. Cramer’s quartet performs regularly in Vancouver at The Jazz Cellar where he was first exposed to jazz.

“I was first influenced by my father, Barry Cramer, one of the original owners of The Cellar, a jazz and poetry late night club in Vancouver in the ‘50s and ‘60s,” said Cramer.

Cramer is presently hard at work with Johnston on his fifth CD, due for release in 2013.

Bassist Meikle has been performing in both the classical and jazz worlds for the past 30 years. He has played with the Victoria Symphony and is an ongoing member of the Dylan Cramer Quartet.

Nolan is one of Vancouver’s top drummers, freelancing there and in Los Angeles with many top musicians and bands as a performer and studio musician.

The Ron Johnston Quartet plays the Vernon Jazz Club, 3000-31st St. (upstairs), Saturday at 8 p.m. Doors open at 7:15 p.m. and tickets ($20, $15 Vernon Jazz Society members) are available in advance at the Bean Scene and Bean to Cup coffee houses.