Calgary’s Prime Time Big Band made jazz history this year when, on Saturday, Oct. 12, it swung into the first tune of its season opener at the Ironwood Stage & Grill in Inglewood.
As the only known professional band that currently has had a steady gig at the same venue for 12 years, Prime Time marked the longest running club engagement of any musical group in Calgary, and most likely in Canada.
Prime Time, which is in its 19th year and nearing 20, was founded by Dave Jones.
“I started the band back in ’94 after I was retired. I wanted to keep busy and form a band,” Jones said, before the group took the stage.
“Our main style [is that] we can play any style,” Jones said. “From Count Basie, to old-fashioned swing, Tower of Power and whatever’s hip at the moment,” Jones said.
Styles from the ‘40s, ‘50s and ‘60s offer a wide selection for the band’s faithful fans.
“With such a large set and library, we don’t have to repeat any songs for at least a year. There’s always something new and interesting,” Jones said.
As the city’s second oldest regularly performing music ensemble (the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra is the first) Prime Time’s membership encompasses practically all of the most experienced jazz players in the city: Eric Friedenberg (flute, saxophone), Al Muirhead (trumpet, flugelhorn), John de Waal (drums) and Kai Poscente (bass).
The full roster includes other names familiar to jazz fans: Richard Harding, Pat Belliveau, Keith O’Rourke and Gareth Bane on saxophones and woodwinds; Jim Murray, Kim Beachum and Leanne Paisley on trumpets, Brian Walley, Jim Scott, Dave Reid and Paul Toutant on trombones, Derek Stoll on piano and Brent Van Dusen on percussion.
“I knew all the guys I wanted to have. There’s been some changes throughout the years, but always for the better,” Jones said.
Corporate events and parties help keep the band busy, and display its versatility.
“Most of the time, budgets don’t usually allow for the hiring of a big band,” Jones explained.
Deanne Matley is the band’s full-time lead singer. Her first CD “Stealin’ Blue” enjoyed top 10 jazz play across Canada and her recent EP “chillin’ and fillin’” has found a growing fan base worldwide.
Local a cappella group Three of a Kind also made its debut with Prime Time this year.
Prime Time’s final concert for last season was going to be an exciting one, with a huge variety of music and special guests, including international trumpet virtuoso, Jens Lindemann who was in town.
But when the Bow River flooded Inglewood June 21 and its commercial district was closed, all performances at the Ironwood, including Prime Time’s, were cancelled.
So it was a resurrection for the band when Lindemann flew back into town for the beginning of this season of Prime Time.
To show appreciation to the Ironwood for its work in re-opening, the band donated all the proceeds to the club so that it could recoup some of the losses from the June floods.
According to Jones, Calgary is among Canada’s most vibrant jazz cities.
“There are a lot of nice venues. Take [the Ironwood] for example. Live music seven days a week with a revolving door of musicians.”
The band plays a Saturday brunch at the Ironwood every couple of weeks. Current show dates include Nov. 23, Dec. 7 and Dec. 14.
The Ironwood Stage & Grill is located at 1229 9 Ave S.E., phone: 403-269-5581. Doors open at noon; concert is 2 – 4 p.m. Tickets are $20 for adults and $15 for students, plus GST.