Classic New Orleans jazz swings through Vernon

It all started by busking on the bustling streets of Sydney, Australia

It all started by busking on the bustling streets of Sydney, Australia.

With Down-Under roots and a post-war New Orleans jazz sound, the Milk Crate Bandits have worked their way up north, eventually settling in to the Vancouver jazz scene. And it’s a history the Bandits are bringing to Vernon’s Gallery Vertigo Thursday, Nov. 9.

“People asked what our name was, and we used to steal milk crates to sit on and play, so we took on the name Milk Crate Bandits,” said founding-member and Australian product Jack Ray of his and saxophonist Chris O’Dea’s formative years.

Now nestled in Vancouver’s vibrant eastern quarters, the Bandits are gearing up for their first ever Canadian tour, falling on the heels of the band’s debut EP, The Neighbourhood.

“It all kind of worked out with the timing,” Ray said. “We recorded two EPs down in New Orleans — first The Neighbourhood and the other is just about to come out.”

The View From Out Here, slated to drop Nov. 7, features New Orleans jazz legend Kevin Louis on trumpet and embodies the region’s iconic ’20s jazz vibe.

“It’s period-based,” Ray said, adding that the Bandits play hits from era-legends in their live sets. “We also wrote a lot of original music in that style.”

Drawing inspiration from jazz standards such as Basin Street Blues — Spencer William’s 1928 hit recorded by Louis Armstrong that tells of the main street of turn-of-the-century New Orleans’ red light district — Ray and O’dea took it upon themselves to compose a jazz track about their Sydney stomping grounds.

“Our King of King Street song is in the vein of a lot of the old jazz guys who wrote about the streets they lived on,” Ray said, adding that their repertoire has grown to include ditties about their new home in East Vancouver.

It’s a classic sound the Bandits are thrilled to share with Vernon audiences.

“This is our first time in Vernon,” Ray said. “I’m excited — we’ve heard good things. The Gallery Vertigo has been very supportive as well.”

The Bandit’s touring lineup features Australian circus and jazz show Scotch and Soda member O’Dea, Canadian trombonist Brad Shigeta of The Ellington Band and The Illinois Jacquet Band fame, Island-born bassist Jen Hodge and Ray — lauded as the future of jazz banjo by Woody Allen’s banjoist Eddy Davis.

“The band is really something I’m proud of,” Ray said, adding that the group has been together for about two years. “It’s really an honour to be playing with Brad and Jen.”

With their critically-acclaimed lineup, the Bandits boast a deep-rooted sound that still shakes the stage today.

“It’s fun. It’s joyous. It’s high-energy,” Ray said of the Milk Crate Bandit’s live performance. “It’s mostly acoustic and it resonates a lot with those young and old.”

And for the Aussie who began jamming on the guitar at four-years-old, that’s what it’s all about.

“What I’ve always loved about music is giving back what music has given to me,” Ray said. “It really feels like I’m reciprocating that love that music gave me.”

The Milk Crate Bandits are reigniting ’20s New Orleans jazz at Gallery Vertigo Nov. 9. Doors open at 7 p.m. Music is at 8 p.m. Tickets are available for $15 pre-sale at The Bean Scene Coffee House and A&E Consignments, or for $20 at the door. The Bandits play The Forum in Kelowna Nov. 11. For more information and tickets to the Kelowna show, visit www.milkcratebandits.com.

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