R&B favourites return

High octane R&B favourites The Salmon Armenians return to the Vernon Jazz Club Saturday.

Winner of the Okanagan Music Awards Best Blues Band for 2007, the nine-member group can’t wait to unleash their energetic music on the fans.

“We will be playing our usual mix of R&B, funk, and soul from our favourite music era – the ‘60s and ‘70s,” said band leader Lody Kieken. “We all love the Motown, Memphis, New Orleans sound with horns and a tight rhythm section.”

The gig will also feature new originals from just released CD Snow Country Sessions, including reggae flavoured Rhythm of the World by drummer Larry Keats, and trombone player Rich Thorne’s tune In the Mirror, dealing with our consumer society.

With at least nine appearances at the club, the band keeps coming back for more.

“The principal thing that appeals to us is the attentive and supportive audience. It’s a magical cooperative between band and audience which makes VJC events so special to us,” explained Kieken.

Hammond organist Kieken, owner of Acorn Music in Salmon Arm, formed the band in 1997. Chair of the Salmon Arm Roots and Blues Festival, Kieken loves playing R&B.

“R&B has such a special place in most people’s hearts and I believe it’s due to the good feelings it evokes,” said Kieken.

The centrepiece of any Salmon Armenian performance is their signature horn section, including Doug Sonju and Mike Scharf on saxophones, and Rich Thorne on trombone and trumpet.

Since the early ‘70s, Sonju has been the principal clarinettist with the Okanagan Symphony, also playing jazz and commercial rock before adding blues to his repertoire. Sonju has also performed with his own band at the VJC.

Hometown boy Scharf grew up in Salmon Arm, playing sax in jazz bands, combos, and fusion groups, including Electric Lady Land and Liquid Chicken.  He works part time as a firefighter for BC Forest Service.

Thorne started playing trombone in Grade 5, joined his first jazz combo in Grade 9, and was the principal trombone in the prestigious University of Idaho Symphony. Retired from teaching, Thorne took on the challenging job of arranging and writing the band’s horn charts.

Debbie Reid, one of the band’s two vocalists, has sung in various groups, including Summer Wages and Lilies of the West.  Reid is best known for her work with The Phantoms, Salmon Arm’s most versatile party band.

Vocalist Del Hunter has been singing professionally since 1973. She’s performed for the past 17 years with husband Keith Hunter in the duo Steppin’ Out.

Drummer “Slammin’ Salmon” Keats is an original member of The Salmon Armenians.  Keats shares his music as a music therapist, promoting wellness for children and adults facing challenges.

Bassist Murray Holmes played professionally in Vancouver for eight years with groups like Duster and Ambush.  He also played for 11 years in the Thompson-Okanagan area with Blacksmith.

Guitarist Peter Clark has performed professionally for the last 35 years, performing in country, jazz, pop, and Celtic genres.

The Salmon Armenians take the stage at the Vernon Jazz Club, 3000-31st St., Saturday at 8 p.m. Doors open at 7:15 p.m. and tickets are available in advance at the Bean Scene and Bean to Cup: $20, and $15 for jazz society members.

Dvoira Yanovsky is a member of the Vernon Jazz Society.