Victoria-based tenor saxophonist and VIU jazz grad Ryan Oliver and his quartet perform at Simonholt Restaurant on Sept. 20. (Photo courtesy Luis Poretta)

VIU jazz grad plays Nanaimo in one of first concerts since pandemic began

Victoria-based tenor saxophonist Ryan Oliver and his quartet to perform at Simonholt

UPDATE: This event has been cancelled

A VIU jazz grad is returning to Nanaimo for one of his first in-person performances since the start of the pandemic.

Victoria-based tenor saxophonist Ryan Oliver and his quartet – keyboardist Tony Genge, guitarist Mark Crawford and drummer Hans Verhoeven – perform at Simonholt Restaurant on Sept. 20. After experimenting with live-streamed concerts due to COVID-19 restrictions, Oliver said he’s looking forward to having audience members present once more.

“Having people there in the room, it’s such a difference, just the energy and the feeling of playing music to people versus putting it out onto the internet,” he said. “So it’ll be a nice experience to have some people in the room again.”

Oliver said the group’s music will focus on Genge’s organ playing and their repertoire will cover songs in the organ tradition. That includes soulful, blues-oriented music and swinging jazz standards, ballads and bossa novas from the American Songbook.

“We also try to incorporate our take on more modern tunes by composers like Stevie Wonder, where we take some of those classic R&B or funk tunes and turn them into organ jazz versions,” Oliver said.

Oliver graduated from VIU in the ’90s before moving to Europe, Toronto and New York City. He’s been back living on Vancouver Island for the past three years and he said it’s meaningful to get to perform in Nanaimo.

“Whenever I get the chance to play in Nanaimo it’s always a lot of fun because I do still see some of my teachers from then and I see friends from back then…” he said. “So it’s always a really nice, sort of a homecoming in some ways.”

Early next year Oliver will be in the studio recording his first album since 2016. The record will feature compositions of Oliver’s arranged for an eight-piece string ensemble by guitarist Mark Crawford, who is also Oliver’s father-in-law.

Oliver said it’s an “amazing feeling” to have string accompaniment and not one that comes frequently.

“It’s a bit of a dream for horn players, saxophone players and trumpet players, to get that opportunity to record with a string section,” he said. “So for me it’s a really neat opportunity that I’m pretty excited about.”

WHAT’S ON … Ryan Oliver Quartet performs at Simonholt Restaurant on Sunday, Sept. 20 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $25, available from the venue, Fascinating Rhythm, Arbutus Music and Luis Porretta Fine Arts.

RELATED: VIU jazz grad Ryan Oliver and the Cookers Quintet play the Lighthouse Bistro

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