Northern Ontario-born jazz musicians who have gone on to find success on a bigger stage will return to their roots next month as they present concerts and share their musical know-how in Sudbury.
Seven-string jazz guitarist Adam Smale, who's originally from Sault Ste. Marie, performs at Oscar's Grill from 8-11 p.m. Feb. 10.
Joining Smale will be Sudburians Brian Quebec on bass and Jack Broumpton on drums — the trio forms a group Smale calls Tyramid. The Laurentian University Jazz Combo opens that evening.
Then at 8 p.m. Feb. 26, the Christian Overton Quintet will perform at Fromagerie Elgin. Overton, a trombonist, is originally from Sudbury, but lives in Toronto now. He's the son of local author and former radio host Scott Overton.
Saxophonist Shirantha Beddage, a North Bay native and Laurentian University alumnus, is also a member of the Christian Overton Quintet. Local jazz band Broche à Foin opens for the group.
The concerts are co-presented by Jazz Sudbury and the Laurentian University Music Department.
Smale cut his teeth performing mostly country music in and around the Sault area before he ever played a note of jazz.
After living in Toronto for 20 years, he moved to Michigan for two years, earning a master's degree in jazz performance.
He's now been living in New York City for nearly seven years, something that impresses Jazz Sudbury artistic director and Laurentian University music instructor Allan Walsh.
“It's kind of what Frank Sinatra said in the song 'New York, New York' — if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere,” he said.
Smale said he's excited to be performing in Sudbury, something he hasn't done since his days as a country musician. He said no matter how long he's been gone from Northern Ontario, it always feels like home.
“I'm hoping to make some new friends and fans in Sudbury while I'm there,” he said.
Smale recently released an album, "Out of the Blue." He describes his style of music as “jazz for the common man.”
“The kind of jazz that I perform and compose is not the kind of jazz that when you listen to it, you don't know what the heck's going on,” he said.
The Christian Overton Quintet is a high-energy jazz group that's currently promoting its album "The Test," for which it was recently nominated for a Julian Award for best jazz album by an emerging jazz artist.
Walsh, who often adjudicates at local music festivals, first took notice of Overton when he was still a Lasalle Secondary School student.
“I recognized the talent that was there and the passion as well to become a really great musician,” Walsh said. “He's gone on to do that.”
Beddage, Overton's bandmate, was a member of Laurentian's jazz combo during his time at the university, although he was studying science.
“I even said to him 'You play really, really well. You should think about a career in music,'” Walsh said. “After he left Laurentian, that's exactly what he did. He went down to the States and ended up getting his doctorate in jazz music.”
Overton said he's looking forward to performing in his hometown.
“It's going to be nice to be back,” he said.
The musicians are also giving back by presenting student workshops at Laurentian. Smale's workshop is 4-5 p.m. Feb. 10 (in room SE-012), while Overton's is 1-2:30 p.m. Feb. 26 (n room SE-111). Walsh said he remembers the impression workshops like these left when he was a university student.
“When Christian and Shirantha come with their group, and when Adam comes, I think it'll be similar,” he said.
“They'll make an impression on our students who maybe sometimes are wondering 'Why am I studying all this music?' Why do I have to know about Beethoven?'
“'Why is it important that I work really, really hard?' Because maybe you could have a career, and anybody can if they put their mind to it.”
Tickets to the Smale concert cost $10, and are available at jazzsudbury.ca.
For the Overton concert, tickets cost $10 for students and $20 for general admission, and are available at the door or in advance by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.