Conservatory crew plays unique jazz style

Gord Clements’ stylings on bass clarinet lend a deep sound to his quartet’s music.

Gord Clements’ stylings on bass clarinet lend a deep sound to his quartet’s music.

The heavyweights of Victoria’s jazz scene are offering up Latin flare and modern beats for a double-bill concert Sunday (Jan. 23) at Alix Goolden Hall.

The Victoria Conservatory of Music presents Gord Clements and guests, featuring the New Quartet and the George McFetridge Quintet. 

“Both groups present a sound and style of play rarely heard in Victoria,” says Clements, head of jazz studies at the VCM and of post-secondary jazz studies at Camosun College. “This isn’t stuff you would hear at Hermann’s (Jazz Club) on a Friday night.”

Clements, on saxophone and bass clarinet, is joined by VCM instructor Rob Cheramy, coined as one of the best jazz guitarists on the West Coast of Canada, and Joey Smith, a bassist who has worked with the Glenn Miller Orchestra and the Victoria Symphony. Smith is also a VCM instructor.

“This will almost be a jazz faculty concert,” Clements says. “Rob and I both compose, so we’ll be playing mellow, mainstream music peppered with originals.”

Joining the trio and forming the quartet is Adonis Puentes, the percussion and vocal half of the Puentes Brothers, who grew up jamming with Cuba’s music stars before relocating to Victoria nearly a decade ago.

The addition of Puentes infuses the trio’s traditional sound with a Latin beat, a combination Clements looks forward to presenting.

“Adonis has a huge reputation in the Latin world. He is usually busy touring in the States,” he says. “We’re at a new level, with the same non-edgy sound, but now with wonderful percussion.”

The second half of the evening features the George McFetridge Quintet and sees Clements and Smith do double duty, along with McFetridge on piano, Damian Graham on drums and Alfons Fear on trumpet and flugelhorn.

“Modern jazz uses more colourful harmonies, more adventurous improvisation. How the instruments are used and arranged together is less traditional,” Clements says.  “You don’t hear modern jazz in Victoria. Even in places like Hermann’s you very rarely get a chance to hear modern writing and composing. From time to time we do get modern concerts, but Victoria audiences are traditional folks.”

Playing in the elegant, acoustically designed Alix Goolden Hall allows the musicians to deliver their sounds unplugged.

“Alix Goolden has a very reverberant acoustic sound, rich and full,” Clements says. “I love the way my instruments sound, the sax and clarinet are wonderful in that environment. It’s wonderful we don’t have to use amplification.”

The concert starts at 2:30 p.m. at 907 Pandora Ave.

Tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for seniors/students, available at the Victoria Conservatory of Music office at 900 Johnson St., by calling the Royal and McPherson box office at 250-386-6121, or by visiting