Chelsea McBride, a 26-year-old saxophonist, lyricist and orchestration super-nova, who leads a 19-piece modern jazz orchestra, has taken Toronto by storm.
And now she is set to wow big-band fans in the Cowichan Valley. On Sunday, June 24, her Socialist Night School modern jazz orchestra, currently on a cross-Canada tour, hits the stage at Pat’s House of Jazz in the Osborne Bay Pub in Crofton at 2 p.m.
The tour began in Calgary Saturday, June 16 and McBride takes her inter-generational orchestra to 11 locations in five provinces during a rare summer tour over 36 days, winding up at Waterloo, Ont. July 21.
Bass trombonist Nicholas Sieber was born and raised on Vancouver Island so stops in Victoria Saturday, June 23 and Crofton the next day will be extra special for him.
McBride is thrilled that one of her dreams is coming true after six years of hard work.
“I’ve been watching my heroes do this for years now,” she noted. “Whether it’s Christine Jensen Jazz Orchestra a few years back, or Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society also around that time – big bands touring across Canada are a huge endeavour, but not impossible. What makes this project so unique is the fact that we aren’t just a band of old pros.”
The Socialist Night School brings together emerging musicians like McBride and her peers with established pros like Brownman Ali (also the owner of Browntasauras Records, to which the Socialist Night School is signed), Colleen Allen, and William Carn. There’s almost a 40-year age gap between the youngest and oldest members of the band.
“It’s magic, though,” McBride added. “What we learn from being able to play with our mentors transcends a lot of what my peers and I have learned through school. It teaches us to listen in totally different ways.”
The show the band is touring is unique as well: the life story of you. Set on a rainy beach under purple skies and orange clouds, the Socialist Night School’s expansive palette of musical images takes you on a nostalgic journey through your childhood dreams, the growing pains of early adulthood, and the peace of mind that comes with finding who you are. Sometimes hilarious, sometimes sad, The Twilight Tour takes you for a ride, but always brings you home.
Be prepared to re-think your definition of big-band music. It doesn’t sound like the traditional big band of the ’40s. Think of it as modern, large-ensemble jazz, with avant-garde voicings and harmonies.
The band’s debut album, The Twilight Fall, has been hailed as “dazzling” and “a progressive jazz epic” by critics. It recently received four stars in DownBeat Magazine.
In an interview with the Ottawa Citizen, reviewer Peter Hum called her album “forward looking, an engaging listen from beginning to end that brims with tunefulness, personality and youthful vitality.”
The CBC named McBride one of Canada’s top jazz musicians under 35. She has already performed at the Festival International de Jazz de Montreal, the Ottawa Jazz Festival, the TD Toronto Jazz Festival and others.
A Vancouver native, McBride began playing piano at age three and took up the saxophone in elementary school.
She graduated from Humber College in Toronto in 2014 and already has five albums under her belt, including three with her pop-fusion band, Chelsea and the Cityscape.
Sunday’s performance, the last of the spring season, is presented by the Chemainus Valley Cultural Arts Society. Reservations are highly recommended. Tables will be held until 1:30 p.m. Call 250-324-2245.
Pat’s House of Jazz is in the Osborne Bay Pub at 1534 Joan Ave. in Crofton.