A playlist of music that inspired the book
Journeys to the Bandstand by Chris Wong
Part 1: A Playlist
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Ron Small, performing at Cory Weeds’ Cellar, March 7, 2008. (Steve Mynett photo)


The music that inspired the book

By Chris Wong

This past Valentine’s Day was special for me. No, I didn’t receive a dozen roses. Something much more personally meaningful happened: I participated in my first launch event, at Brentwood Presbyterian Church, for the book I devoted more than a decade to researching and writing.

It’s called Journeys to the Bandstand: Thirty Jazz Lives in Vancouver. The book chronicles the musical and life journeys of thirty extraordinary people who have helped shape Vancouver’s jazz scene. Each of the 25 chapters in Journeys to the Bandstand focuses on one remarkable artist, or a small group of impactful musicians, mostly based in Vancouver (Al Neil, Dave Quarin, Brad Turner, Cory Weeds, Jodi Proznick, Natasha D’Agostino, and others). The book also highlights some American musicians (Ornette Coleman, Charles Mingus, Dr. Lonnie Smith, George Coleman, and others) who have made an indelible impression on the city’s jazz community.

The unique life stories of each subject include challenges—addictions, anxiety and self-doubt, racism, abuse, and other hard realities—and triumphs when they succeeded in making expressive and memorable music.

It took so long to research and write the book for a number of reasons, including the volume of material I worked with to craft each chapter. I conducted in-depth interviews with most of the musicians featured in the book, and wove in detail from interviews with other musicians, articles, books, letters, films, personal experiences of hearing the artists perform, and recordings.

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Jodi Proznick, performing at Cory Weeds’ Cellar, December 13, 2005. (Steve Mynett photo)

Hearing the music

Listening to recordings was critical to my understanding of each person that I focused on in Journeys to the Bandstand. At the back of the book, there’s a Selected Discography that lists recordings I wrote about in the book. I’ve read books about jazz that are long on biographical detail about artists but short on actual descriptions and reactions to the music they made. So it was important to me for this book to include passages about the featured artists’ extraordinary music.

Beyond the book’s 605 pages, I went a step further in shining a light on the artists’ music. I compiled an 80-song Journeys to the Bandstand playlist in Spotify. Each song on the playlist is relevant to the book in different ways. It includes a range of music in different jazz styles—from straight-ahead to avant-garde—by instrumentalists and vocalists.

Example: the version of “How Deep is the Ocean”, by alto saxophonist Charles McPherson (interviewed for several chapters in the book, including one on Mingus) and a local rhythm section, was recorded live at Cory Weeds’ Cellar Jazz Club. It includes a four-minute and twenty-two second solo by Vancouver’s Ross Taggart on piano that has entranced me for years, and which I described in detail at the beginning of the chapter on Taggart. Another example: the beguiling “Field of Green” by singer Natasha D’Agostino, from her Endings Rarely Are album. This was her only recording as a leader, released about six months before D’Agostino died in a car accident in January 2019, at the age of twenty-six.

Enjoy the music in the Spotify playlist.

I also created a 68-song version of the playlist in TIDAL. This is specifically for people who prefer to use TIDAL. It’s shorter because not all of the songs in the Spotify version are available in TIDAL.

Enjoy the music in the TIDAL playlist.

This is the first in a two-part series of Kurated articles about Journeys to the Bandstand. The next installment will include excerpts from the book. To learn more about Chris, his book, and how to buy it, see his website.

Upcoming events

Chris will present the book at two upcoming events:
March 2, 2 pm, La Fabrique St-George: Chris will introduce Journeys to the Bandstand and read an excerpt from the chapter on tenor saxophonist Mike Allen. Mike will perform with his quartet. For more information, see the event description on Chris’ website.

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Bruno Hubert, performing at Frankie’s Jazz Club, May 6, 2022. (Vincent Lim photo)

March 3, 8 pm, Frankie’s Jazz Club: Chris will introduce Journeys to the Bandstand and read an excerpt from the chapter on pianist Bruno Hubert. Bruno will perform with his trio. For more information, see the event description on Chris’ website.

About Chris Wong

Chris Wong is a lifelong music nerd, who is an aficionado of jazz and many other genres. His affinity for writing about music emerged in high school, when Chris received his first byline for a review of the punk band the K-Tels. While writing for the University of British Columbia’s The Ubyssey student newspaper, he landed an in-person interview with Dizzy Gillespie, which had some tense moments. 

Chris went on to write about jazz and other subjects for the Vancouver Sun, Georgia Straight, Vancouver Courier, and other publications. He has also written liner notes. It has been an honour for him to write about both international jazz greats and local heroes. Journeys to the Bandstand is Chris’ first book.