Good jazz needs a good audience

“It’s like apples and oranges,” says Bill Coon, a member of Era Bom, as well as having his own Bill Coon Quartet.

“You love them both.”

Era Bom is a Brazilian duo he shares with Michael Creeper, and was scheduled to perform at a Jazz On the Wing event Sunday, Nov. 15. Unfortunately, a health condition prevents Creeper from flying.

So, instead, Coon is bringing his quartet with him. Members include Adam Thomas, on bass; Ross Taggart, on saxophone; and Dave Dobbins, on drums.

Coon, voted 2009 Guitarist of the Year at the National Jazz Awards, will, of course, play guitar.

“You will see and hear four people who have played together for quite a while,” says Coon over the phone.

“Four people who love music and love to play music.

“You will hear those people play arrangements of standards and some of my original music.”

For those who love “free music”, Coon says there is lots of improvisation happening within these songs.

What will heighten the experience for everyone – musicians and audience – will be the “intimate and cozy” setting as the audience sits on the stage with the performers.

Coon says he has played here before and found that Yukon audiences are “really great”.

“It’s a really diverse audience up there … a lot of different backgrounds.”

With everyone paying rapt attention — “I’ve played enough smokey rooms” — the musicians will be playing under ideal conditions.

“The idea of playing jazz on a smaller stage really helps the musicians connect with the audience and vice versa,” says Coon.

“You get this feedback loop of the audience reacting and you are inspired, and you give more.

“That is really cool, and that is a really good night.

“I like having the audience close; I’ve been wallpaper music; it pays the bills, but when you play to an audience that is really attentive, that just shoots the music up to another level.”

Getting to these levels has been a long journey for Coon. After playing piano for five years, he switched to the guitar in his early teens.

“I got sick of the music I played – I love it, today – but I couldn’t see going further as a performer.

“My brother had a guitar and was taking lessons. I took his guitar and a lesson book and never gave it back to him.

“I took to it like fish to water.”

He doesn’t regret his studies and practice on the piano since he is a Juno-nominated arranger and composer, as well as a guitarist. And he teaches arranging, composition and jazz guitar at Capilano University in North Vancouver.

Big bands and orchestras throughout the world have performed his arrangements: they include the National Arts Centre Orchestra, the Norwegian Radio Orchestra, the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, the Woody Herman Jazz Band, the CBC Radio Orchestra, The Dal Richards Orchestra and John Korsrud’s Hard Rubber Orchestra.

He has also composed for his wife’s band: Jill Townsend Big Band.

So, a foundation in piano has come in handy.

With a degree from Concordia University, in Montréal, Coon says he is a typical jazz musician these days.

“If you talk about musicians 30 and 40 years ago, very few had degrees. Now, more than half have degrees.

“But there is no way you can learn jazz from just university; it is a great place to meet people and get information, but you need to get out there to be a really great musician.

Yes, it is true that jazz musicians play for each other.

“It is a very community-based music,” says Coon. “You are inspired by people you play with … and especially the greats.

“Every musician needs a community of musicians to become the musician they want to become.”

Coon says he may have left a hotbed of great music in Montréal, 14 years ago, but he found that Vancouver was a well-kept secret.

“There have always been great musicians here, but the rest of Canada didn’t know about them.

“But in the past decade, or five or six years, Vancouver has come into its own, and its jazz musicians are on the international stage.”

Jazz Yukon’s Jazz On the Wing presents the Bill Coon Quartet on Sunday, Nov. 15, at 7:30 p.m. at the Yukon Arts Centre. Tickets are available at the YAC Box Office or Arts Underground.

About The Author

Leave a Comment

Scroll to Top