VIU jazz grad Ryan Oliver performs at the Lighthouse Bistro with the Cookers Quintet on Sunday, May 6. (Photo courtesy Jeremy North Lewis)

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

Oliver recently moved to Victoria after spending 20 years in Toronto and New York

Saxophonist Ryan Oliver is back living on Vancouver Island for the first time since graduating from VIU’s jazz program 20 years ago.

In the mid-’90s, Oliver, who hails from Williams Lake, B.C., moved to Nanaimo to study at what was then Malaspina College.

“It was a great place to go where I could have an opportunity to study with some really great musicians,” he said, mentioning saxophonist Steve Jones and guitarist Pat Coleman, whom Oliver described as “a great mentor.”

Oliver also had the chance to meet musicians who he still plays with today, like Alex Coleman, bassist with Oliver’s Cookers Quintet. The band – Oliver, Colemna, organist Nick Peck, trumpeter Tim Hamel and drummer Joe Poole – is performing at the Lighthouse Bistro on Sunday, May 6. The group is in the midst of a West Coast Tour funded by the Canada Council for the Arts.

After graduating from VIU, Oliver moved east to continue his studies and embark on his career, spending time in Toronto and New York. But over the years, a homesickness started to set in.

“I’ve been out east for almost 20 years playing professionally and teaching and I just missed the lifestyle of B.C.,” he said.

In October 2016, looking for a change of scenery, Oliver moved to Victoria.

“I’d always sort of wanted to come back at some point to Vancouver Island,” he said.

“Just because it’s a great spot to live and there’s also a really thriving music scene here with some great players in Victoria and in Nanaimo.”

Since relocating, Oliver has made a few trips to Nanaimo to perform and connect with friends and teachers who still live in the city, like longtime Nanaimo Musicians’ Association Big Band director Bryan Stovell.

On Sunday night the Cookers Quintet will be drawing from their latest album, 2016’s Volume 3, as well as their previous two releases. After a week and a half on the road, Oliver said he’s eager to be back in Nanaimo.

“The band’s really cooking and we’re looking forward to playing,” he said.

WHAT’S ON … VIU jazz grad Ryan Oliver performs at the Lighthouse Bistro with the Cookers Quintet on Sunday, May 6 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $20 or $15 for students, available at the bistro, Fascinating Rhythm or

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