Blackstick is a family jazz duo scheduled to perform at Pentastic Jazz Festival, despite living three time zones and two generations apart.
Lloyd Arntzen teamed up with his grandson Evan at the early age of seven, when he bought him a clarinet.
“That’s when he taught me a lot of the jazz standards, a lot of which we still play today,” Evan said.
Evan said in the early days of jazz, the clarinet was considered one of the standard instruments. And while the genre has evolved to include nearly every instrument, the Arntzen’s prefer to keep it basic.
It’s rare for a young musicians to embrace jazz as much as Evan did, but he’s bewildered over how Lloyd became interested in New Orleans Jazz.
“He was raised in the wilderness of Saskatchewan,” said Evan, citing his homestead in the now-abandoned community of Bad Lake, which is close to Rosetown.
In Bad Lake during the early 1940s, a general store owned by a man named Bill Phillips was carrying a record called New Orleans Jazz.
“For whatever reason he fell in love with New Orleans jazz while living in rural Saskatchewan,” said Evan.
Despite the genre’s hotbed being located thousands of kilometres south of Bad Lake, while the distribution of recorded music posed many logistical challenges – sure enough, 15-year-old Lloyd bought himself a copy New Orleans Jazz.
“He bought that record and fell in love with it,” Evan said.
Evan’s great-grandpartents were also musically inclined, and Lloyd was submerged in performing from a very young age.
“His father took him and his sister Beverly to radio stations, barn dances, community dances to perform and sing,” said Evan.
And some things don’t change – Evan was also recruited by family to make music. When Evan was 11 or 12, Evan began to make money through jazz. Along with his cousin,
“My grandfather would take us to play the violin. We were young, cute, and playing in West Vancouver – I think we made $100 each over a couple hours. I’ve never seen so many loonies in my life – it was great.”
Evan relocated from Vancouver to New York City to pursue musical opportunities, which he says are endless in the Big Apple.
“I felt for what I was doing in Vancouver, I kind of reached a ceiling for what I could do as a musician,” he said.
Blackstick’s first performance during Pentastic will be at 4:30 p.m. on Sept. 11 at Sachmo’s (Leisure Centre). Later that night, their next show follows the opening ceremonies at the French Quarter (Penticton Trade and Convention Centre) at 7:30 p.m.
The continue on Sept. 12 at noon for a performance at Speakeasy (SS Sicamous). They return to the French Quarter at 3 p.m., and from there will go to the Cotton Club (Elks Hall) at 6 p.m. Next they’re booked to offer the final performance of the weekend at Sachmo’s which starts at 9 p.m. Their lone show on Sept. 13 takes place at noon at the Speakeasy.
Pentastic ticket holders can attend any shows of their choosing among the dates purchased. For ticket information and to order online, visit www.pentasticjazz.com.