Big band is indeed big with 18 pieces

Full range of instruments and talent make this show a must-see

The Nanaimo big band that helped launch the careers of some of Canada’s top jazz musicians returns to Pat’s House of Jazz in the Osborne Bay Pub on Sunday, Feb. 18.

The 18-piece NMA Big Band, whose alumni include such jazz luminaries as Diana Krall, Ingrid and Christine Jensen and Phil Dwyer, met for the first time in 1967 in the basement of its director, renowned educator Brian Stovell.

Since then, the Nanaimo Musicians Association band has performed regularly at big band jazz concerts and swing dance fundraisers in the mid-Island region. They have been a huge hit each time they’ve played at the pub’s weekly jazz series.

The band is made up of local professional musicians, Vancouver Island University music students and alumni and VIU professors. All share a love of big band music.

Its repertoire ranges from the full-throated, soulful jazz vocals of Sydney Needham to standards from the Buddy Rich and Count Basie bands to modern compositions by alumna Christine Jensen, whose Montreal big band won a Juno Award in 2011.

Stovell, who teaches jazz theory and improvisation at Vancouver Island University, is a recipient of the Marshall McLuhan Distinguished Teacher award for both B.C. and Canada.

Jazz, he says, has been a part of the Nanaimo scene since the ‘30s when the likes of Louis Armstrong, Harry James and the Dorsey Brothers played at the iconic Pygmy Ballroom.

In the late ‘50s, after rock ‘n’ roll ended the swing era, trumpeter Al Campbell formed a band of former Pygmy dance band musicians, which evolved to become the NMA Band when he and Stovell gathered in Stovell’s basement in 1967.

Stovell later left to study at the Berklee College of Music in Boston and then took on the band once again in 2010 when then-director and VIU professor Steve Jones passed the baton.

Over the decades, the NMA has provided scholarships for music students and donated funds for equipment to school music programs at all levels.

Sunday’s concert is part of the Pat’s House of Jazz series, presented by the Chemainus Valley Cultural Arts Society. It runs every Sunday from 2 p.m. at the pub, 1534 Joan Ave. in Crofton, a stone’s throw from the Salt Spring Island ferry terminal.

Reservations are recommended for this popular band. Tables will be held until 30 minutes before show time.

Admission is $20. For information, phone 250-324-2245 or visit http://croftonhotel/ca.

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