Worst pop—best jazz

Bandmates have the chops to snub commercial allure of pop music.

  • Mar. 2, 2011 4:00 p.m.

The Worst Pop Band Ever

If there’s one thing Tim Shia and his mighty band of jazz-loving comrades never have to worry about, it’s falling on their face.

“With our name, The Worst Pop Band Ever, we’ve set the bar pretty low,” said Shia, laughing openly as only those for whom talent and aptitude come naturally can do.

Unlike what their name suggests, The Worst Pop Band Ever houses a collection of seasoned jazz musicians, each with deep pop roots.

On saxophone, Chris Gale has worked with the likes of Blue Rodeo, Ron Sexsmith, Colin James, and Rich Underhill, while keyboard player Dafydd Hughes counts Feist and Esthero among his credits. On the piano, Adrean Farrugia is up for a Juno for his solo album, Ricochet, this year and Shia can boast Suzie McNeil, Laila Biali and Milosh among his own portfolio of musical excursions to name just a few.

And really this is but a fraction of musicians they could brag about if it weren’t so incredibly dull it might just drown enthusiasm for this talented group, which formed out of a collective love of the jazz music they were not always hired to play.

“We all sort of decided to play jazz with pop intentions,” Shia said, noting it’s been a successful enough venture to see them tour virtually everywhere in Canada but B.C. and the Territories.

And that label “worst ever,” no matter how many festivals and industry insiders question it, might just be the best ever moniker for their work. Even a cursory flip onto their MySpace page tells listeners this is one group who definitely don’t belong in this category—though they are certainly badass. The self-depreciating humour just makes their beatnik sound that much cooler, if jazz at this level can be labelled cool.

One way or the other, their cover of the Carpenter’s song Close to You, which was assembled with Elizabeth Shepherd without rehearsal in a one-day recording session that constituted the entire output for their new album, was the number one download of the month on Jazz.com.

“We just sort of go in and pound it out and see what happens,” said Shia.

The band is known for having fun with each other on stage. Turntablist Leo37 might sample quotes from their performances, which he randomly plays throughout the night, for example.

And they know how to drum up a fan base.

No matter where they play they seem to come across someone who can request a song, even if they are hundreds of miles from their usual stomping grounds—generally The Rex, a jazz and blues bar in Toronto.

As they’ve never been through B.C., they have already made contact with Anna Jacyszyn, who runs the local Jazz Café and are hoping ardent enthusiasts of the genre know they’re on their way.

A YouTube promo for the album, Dost Thous Believeth in Science?, reveals they may also be primed to deal with a little deep Okanagan humour. In Drumheller, Alberta, they found themselves a green dinosaur sculpture that looks suspiciously like Kelowna’s Ogopogo; perhaps B.C. will provide the makings of their next album cover.

The Worst Pop Band Ever plays the Minstrel Café, Wednesday, Mar. 16 at 8 p.m.



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