Alto saxophonist Dylan Cramer brings his quartet to the Vernon Jazz Club Saturday.

Alto saxophonist Dylan Cramer brings his quartet to the Vernon Jazz Club Saturday.

Saxman remembers his start at The Cellar

Smooth, soulful, and sophisticated, Dylan Cramer brings his celebrated alto sax to the Vernon Jazz Club Saturday.

Joining Cramer is Ron Johnston on piano, John Nolan on drums, and Bruce Meikle on bass.

The underlying note to Cramer’s quartet is featuring the alto saxophone in all its glory, crossing any musical genre to do so.

“My musical style is totally based on revealing the beauty of the alto saxophone,” explained Cramer. “My only criterion in selecting what to play is that the song must move and inspire me, regardless of the idiom it is from. Then I adapt it to the saxophone and my quartet.”

Featuring the music of jazz alto legend Sonny Criss, Miles Davis, Frank Sinatra, Grover Washington, and Antonio Carlos Jobim, among many others, the quartet will perform a mixture of blues, swing, and Latin songs.

Selected songs include Bumpin’, Theme From A Fistful of Dollars, Body Heat, Moonlight Serenade, All Blues, and many other classic jazz songs.  Cramer will also perform some tunes from his upcoming CD including Reed Seed, Winelight, and One Note Samba.

The quartet has a busy schedule, with a European tour in support of the release of their first CD Remembering Sonny Criss and an upcoming June performance at the Vancouver Jazz Festival.

Cramer’s quartet also performs regularly in Vancouver at The Jazz Cellar, source of Cramer’s original introduction 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.  “My father and his brothers were hooked on jazz and Frank Sinatra and I remember many Sunday afternoons when they would meet at my house and listen to records all day.”

At 19, Cramer moved to Los Angeles in 1977 to study with the legendary Sonny Criss.

Criss’ influence can be felt in Cramer’s lyrical approach to interpretation.

“Criss was emphatic that whenever I played a song that had lyrics, that I know every single word of the song. He told me, ‘If you don’t know the story, you don’t know nothin’ boy!’” said Cramer.

After Criss’ death, Cramer took up studies with studio saxophonist Phil Sobel, remaining in L.A. until returning to Canada in 1986.  Along with his busy performing and recording schedule, Cramer teaches the saxophone full time.

Pianist Johnston is very busy in and around the Vancouver music scene as a freelance musician, playing with many of Canada’s finest musicians.

A charter member of the Cramer Quartet, this is Johnston’s 14th year with the group.

Nolan has been one of Vancouver’s top drummers for more than 30 years, working there and in L.A. with many top musicians and bands.  Also an original member of the quartet, he leads two groups and is busy in the recording studio.

A recent addition to the quartet, Meikle has been playing bass for more than 35 years and has been active both in Vancouver and with the Victoria Symphony.

The Dylan Cramer Quartet takes the stage at the Vernon Jazz Club, 3000-31st. St., Saturday at 8 p.m. Doors open at 7:15. Tickets are $20 ($15 for VJS members) at the Bean Scene and Bean to Cup coffee houses.

–– Dvoira Yanovsky is a freelance writer who previews the Vernon Jazz Society’s upcoming concerts for The Morning Star.