Jonnie Bridgman doesn’t mind tooting his own horn, literally.
The Keremeos-raised saxophonist has strong ties to the area and is returning to the Okanagan Similkameen with the Anja Jazz Trio that has come together for a series of concerts.
“I’m really looking forward to bringing a professional band and doing some polished performances,” said Bridgman.
The musician has performed in and around Keremeos in the past with various groups including jazz/flamenco fusion quartet, Alboa, and a unique jazz collective Cherry-Pickle-O. It is with the latter he can recall getting his start in Penticton.
“We used to play at the open mic at the Elite quite often and with Cherry-Pickle-O we kind of got started there. It was a lot of fun because we would usually play the last set and welcomed other musicians to join us,” said Bridgman. “I enjoy playing with a trio, but there is a lot of pressure because we don’t have a drummer to keep the groove going. We were always happy to let others come up with us and get that bigger sound and for our own sake of trying new things. We would have singers who weren’t necessarily jazz singers, musicians who were in town for their own show or sometimes an MC would join us rapping over our music, it was a lot of fun.”
Bridgman said he hopes to re-create that with the Anja Jazz Trio when they play the Elite on July 6.
Since leaving the Okanagan, after a two-year stint teaching music at Similkameen Elementary School, the musician has carved out a name for himself in Victoria in the city’s vibrant music scene. He plays with several jazz groups, a blues band and an 11-piece hip hop/funk dance band, The New Groovement.
The trio coming to the Okanagan features Bridgman on alto, tenor and baritone sax; Nick Mintenko, a sought-after Victoria bass player; and Naramata-based jazz guitar guru Shpengla. The group will be performing their own variety of traditional and modern jazz standards (John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk and others) as well as original compositions.
“When I was younger I would play with rock bands but always was interested in the guitar solos and improvisation. When I first went to jazz school I wasn’t really into it, but when I finished I realized how much I really enjoy playing it,” said Bridgman. “One of my teachers would make a list of albums or artists we should check out and I would make note of it. While at school I didn’t always have time for extensive listening but after I finished my years there I came back to the Okanagan for the summer and worked in my uncle’s orchard and basically was picking apples and would put my headphones on and listen to all the stuff recommended. Those artists are now some of my favourites.”
Bridgman holds the distinction of performing at every Music Under K festival in some way, shape or form during its 10-year run. This time he is doing it in style with four concerts in five days from Keremeos to Kelowna, July 4 to 8.
The tour kicks off on July 4 in Naramata at 7:30 p.m. with a performance at the Cobblestone Wine Bar at the Naramata Heritage Inn.
On July 5, the band will be performing at the Cawston Hall at 7 p.m. (cover is $10), following that up with a July 6 date at the Elite in Penticton at 8 p.m. (cover is $5). This performance will also feature several special guests and an opportunity for local musicians to sit in with the group.
Anja Jazz Trio’s final performance takes place on July 8 at 8 p.m. in the Minstrel Café and Bar in Kelowna.