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Nanaimo concert series highlights violin as a jazz instrument

Cameron Wilson, Bill Coon and Brent Gubbels play the VICC on Jan. 22
As part of the BBC Trio, Cameron Wilson will play the Vancouver Island Conference Centre in Nanaimo on Jan. 22 to highlight the versatility of the violin. (Submitted photo)

A concert that challenges the skepticism surrounding the violin as a jazz instrument will be held this weekend.

As presented by the Nanaimo International Jazz Festival, and as part of the ongoing concert series promoted by Jazz ’n’ the Violin, Vancouver’s BBC Trio will play a single show at the Vancouver Island Conference Centre in Nanaimo on Sunday, Jan. 22.

The trio’s two-set performance is a follow up to their previous concert at the Kay Meek Arts Centre in West Vancouver on Jan. 15.

The ongoing concert series, as produced by jazz violinist and educator Kit Eakle, was initiated through a Canada Council for the Arts grant that Eakle received in 2022 for his project the emphasizes the importance of the instrument.

“When I grew up, a lot of people were skeptical that the violin had much to do with jazz,” he said. “And I always wondered about that.”

Eakle, who has taught the history of jazz at both the Simon Fraser University and the University of California at Berkeley, said the sentiment may have been true through the ’50s and ’60s as there wasn’t an abundance of jazz violinists at the time, and has since been considered more in classical or bluegrass works.

Cameron Wilson, who will play the violin alongside Brent Gubbels on stand-up bass and Bill Coon on electric guitar at the VICC, agreed that many people knew the violin solely as a classical or folk instrument, but argued that it also made for a great swing or rhythm instrument.

“I think it’s really important to introduce a lot of classical violinists to the world of improvisation because most violinists don’t play by ear… some of them do… but with jazz, everything is by ear,” he said.

Wilson complimented the violin’s range of expression and colours, as well as the variety of effects and techniques used to make it ideal for nearly every genre of music.

“With me anyways, I’ve sort of developed this plucking technique where I can make it sound like a mandolin, or kind of like a guitar… And then, of course, you can create a beautiful sound,” he said.

For the Nanaimo show, the BBC Trio is set to play jazz standards, including Django Reinhardt compositions, as well as originals composed and arranged by all three members.

Wilson said his own originals will feature different arrangements on pieces he’s composed for a Romani-jazz, or ‘hot club-style’ quartet he plays with, alongside Gubbels, called Van Django. Coon will also bring adaptations he’s worked on with different ensembles for the BBC Trio show.

“With three musicians it forces you to think a little bit differently because you have to support the other musicians a little bit more because there’s only three of you – you’re constantly thinking of ways to enhance the sound or back up the other musicians,” Wilson said. “It’s not just my show, it’s a real equal effort.”

The trio was suggested to Eakle by the violinist since the group hadn’t played together for “quite some time” and since Wilson wanted to present something with a different sound.

“This style of music combines the classical chops and technique with the freedom to improvise. That’s something that really appeals to me… Rather than just the written page. Every show is different, every tune is different,” he said. “If we can turn somebody on to this style, even just one person in the audience, we will have done our job… If somebody isn’t familiar with this kind of jazz, I think they’re in for a pleasant surprise.”

Sunday’s performance will be the trio’s only concert within the Jazz ‘n’ the Violin series planned for the Island this year. However, Eakle said he is currently pursuing a show in Courtenay for May.

Tickets for the Jan. 22 show can be purchased online through

READ MORE: Nanaimo jazz students make provincewide honours bands

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Mandy Moraes

About the Author: Mandy Moraes

I joined Black Press Media in 2020 as a multimedia reporter for the Parksville Qualicum Beach News, and transferred to the News Bulletin in 2022
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