The Vernon Jazz Society presents the Craig Thomson Quintet, featuring Craig Thomson (saxes), Sean Bray (guitar), George Blondheim (piano), Bernie Addington (bass) and Scott Gamble (drums) at the Vernon Jazz Club Jan. 27. (Photo submitted)

The Vernon Jazz Society presents the Craig Thomson Quintet, featuring Craig Thomson (saxes), Sean Bray (guitar), George Blondheim (piano), Bernie Addington (bass) and Scott Gamble (drums) at the Vernon Jazz Club Jan. 27. (Photo submitted)

Okanagan jazz legends grace Vernon Jazz Club stage

The Vernon Jazz Society presents the Craig Thomson Quintet Jan. 27

Candice McMahon

Special to The Morning Star

Come chase those winter blues away at the Vernon Jazz Club Saturday night, while the Craig Thomson Quintet spoils us with some post-bop and some bebop inspired jazz.

“Of all the venues in the Okanagan, the Vernon Jazz Club is my favourite venue to play, because you know you’re going to play a real show,” Craig Thomson said. “The audience is there to listen to music, not to chat or eat. I always feel like the listeners are a big part of the show at the VJC because that room is an intimate one.”

An award-winning saxophonist and educator for many years, Thomson is truly a premier player in the Okanagan Valley. As a session musician, his solo debut CD, Bright Beginnings, boasts all-original compositions and, aside from receiving much acclaim, it has been regularly featured on CBC radio.

Thomson studied jazz at Grant McEwan College in Edmonton and at Capilano University. Rather zealous about jazz, he says, “It is a way for me to express myself, and it’s my emotional saviour. It’s what keeps me from going insane.”

Thomson finds so many nuances, especially for instrumental jazz, where there aren’t lyrics to rely on to get a message across.

“We’re very proud of the music we’ll be presenting. The songs might not have lyrics, but the stories they represent are important to us,” he said. “Even though I’ve mostly played as a sideman for the other dozens of projects I’ve performed at the Vernon Jazz Club, I always bring my A-game. This show will be no different. I’m thrilled to be performing great original music with deep grooves written by the band, and I’ve assembled a killer cast for the event.”

Thomson is not exaggerating, as he has gathered his Okanagan contemporaries to form a highly-skilled jazz quintet for this performance. Be prepared for this group of professionals to nail the groove and bring home the vibes.

George Blondheim is recognized internationally as a multi award winning composer, producer and pianist. One of Canada’s most notable and eclectic musicians, he is best-known for his film and television contributions on Da Vinci’s Inquest (1998), The War Between Us (1995) The Comic Book Christmas Caper (1990), 9 ½ Weeks (1986) and The Jewel of the Nile (1985). Also recognized for his production and recording endeavours, Blondheim has received the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal and the Alberta Centennial Gold Medal.

Sean Bray is a well-respected guitarist, composer and educator who has played with various artists on many diverse projects. He was named one of Canada’s top 50 guitarist of all time by CBC Radio and possesses the ability to fit into many musical genres, while still retaining an unmistakably original voice on his instrument.

Bernie Addington, a jazz graduate on performing and acoustic bass from the Vancouver Community College School of Music, has enjoyed an extremely successful career as a freelance musician and private instructor. Addington has delighted audiences throughout North America, Europe and Australia, but thankfully he settled in Kelowna where he continues to play and record as a first-call musician.

Scott Gamble is a veteran drummer, who has been playing for over forty years, starting at age 4. He has recorded on 45 albums with various Okanagan musicians. Though he loves to play in a cool jazz combo, he says that it is thrilling to play and add twists to other musician’s songs when working on their recordings.

Craig Thomson Quintet will be onstage at the Vernon Jazz Club (3000-31 Street) Jan. 27 at 8 p.m. Doors open at 7:15 p.m. Cash only bar on site. Tickets $20 online at and at Expressions of Time (2901-30 Ave), with a $5 rebate at the gig for VJS members.

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