Shake those hips to Vernon Jazz Club

High energy, syncopated hip-shaking Cuban rhythms rock the Vernon Jazz Club this Saturday with Babalu.

Salmon Arm band Babalu play some Afro-Cuban jazz

Salmon Arm band Babalu play some Afro-Cuban jazz

High energy, syncopated hip-shaking Cuban rhythms rock the Vernon Jazz Club this Saturday with Babalu.

Babalu is Sandy Cameron, flute and sax, Arianne Charon, bass and vocals, Jordan Dick, guitar, Jim Johnston, keyboards, and Jeremy Tymkiw, percussion.

Merengue, salsa, bossa nova, samba, mambo, rhumba, Babalu plays all those sweet Afro-Cuban rhythms. They also like to mix in some straight ahead, hard driving swing.

The band’s repertoire includes Latin tunes like Chan Chan, Olga La Tamalera, El Cumbanchero, Cubano Chant, and Mambo Influenciado. Featured Latin American composers include Antonio Carlos Jobim, Rafael Hernandez, Sergio Mendez, Tito Puente, and Chucho Valdes.

Babalu also revs up some classic jazz standards Afro-Cuban style, including tunes by Dizzy Gillespie, Ray Bryant, Sonny Rollins, and Horace Silver, to name a few.

Nominal band leader is Okanagan favourite Sandy Cameron.

“Our band doesn’t really have a leader.  We work things out together in rehearsal,” said Cameron.

Cameron credits his fellow musicians with setting the pace.

“My role in the band is secondary in a way, as all I have to do is play melodies on my sax or flute.  The amazingly complicated rhythms are accomplished by the other four players,” said Cameron.

Babalu’s music is quite rhythmically complex.

“The bass player plays a very syncopated line, the drummer plays a steady counterpoint, while the pianist and guitarist are often playing different but complimentary lines. The sax lays down a melody on top,” said Cameron.

Cameron appeared recently this season at the VJC with Sax Trio plus Three and The Dharma Dolls. His busy schedule includes booking and providing much of the inspiration for the Jazz Club of Salmon Arm. Cameron also performs with the Dixieland band The Cliff Jumpers.

Born and raised in Cuba, bassist Charon attended the best music schools in Havana. Previous projects include D’talle, a well-known Cuban all-woman band.  Since moving to Canada in 2004, Charon has travelled across the country performing in festivals like Toronto’s Street Festival and the Montreal Jazz Festival.  Charon also teaches dance, specializing in the Cuban tradition of salsa.

Originally from Hamilton, Ont., guitarist Jordan Dick now lives in Salmon Arm. He plays in The Salmon Armenians and fronts his own band Thick as Thieves. A student of Bob Shiels, Lorne Lofsky, and Pat Collins, Dick’s musical interests include modern jazz, improvisation and composition. His song Sambaticus Ambiguous will be a featured original that evening.

Keyboardist Johnston is a retired school music teacher in Salmon Arm.  He does a lot of the arranging for Babalu. Johnston performs with Vernon’s Mark Rose Big Band, Kamloops bar band Serious Dogs, and The Cliff Jumpers. He’s also co-director of the Salmon Arm Community Concert band and in his spare time has several music students.

Tymkiw has studied Cuban rhythmic styles for several years.  Besides the regular drum kit, Tymkiw also plays foot clave, cabasa, and conga.

Although Afro-Cuban music is his favourite, Tymkiw also plays with several other groups such as Bender, Blue Scarlett, The Hoodoos, The Jordan Dick Trio, and Tamba.

Babalu takes the stage at the Vernon Jazz Club, 3000 31st St. (above Nolan’s Pharmasave), Saturday at 8 p.m. Doors open at 7:15 and tickets are $20 (with rebates at the door for  jazz society members) at the Bean Scene and Bean to Cup or order online at