Clinton Swanson brings his musical marathon to Spiritbar

Two of Swanson's bands — Bessie and the Back Eddies, and Hornography — will play for thousands at Vancouver Jazz Festival later this month.

Clinton Swanson brings three of his bands to Spiritbar this Thursday.

Clinton Swanson will be warming up for the Vancouver Jazz Festival with a show here in Nelson this Thursday.

Two of Swanson’s bands — Bessie and the Back Eddies, and Hornography — will play for thousands at Vancouver’s David Lam Park later this month. They’ve nailed down a set list for that show and will run through it at Spiritbar on June 20.

The 41-year-old saxophone player also invited his band Clinton Swanson and Friends to open the local show, which means he’ll be on stage for a good three hours that night playing with different groups.

“I’ll definitely be sweaty by the end of it,” Swanson laughed.

His infectious dance music was a staple of The Royal under previous management. Clinton Swanson and Friends played the After Work Swing Party there every other Friday, inviting a different guest vocalists to join them.

“It was a great audience to play for and we’re hoping a lot of them will come warm up the dance floor at Spiritbar for us,” Swanson said, noting he’s hunting for a new venue to resume the swing parties in the fall.

At Spiritbar, he’ll have Bessie Wapp as guest vocalist. She also fronts Bessie and the Back Eddies, an acoustic R&B cover band inspired by the 1950s music of Ruth Brown and other early pioneers of the genre before it went electric.

Bessie and the Back Eddies won the 2012 Kootenay Music Award for Best Blues and Roots artist and played last year’s Kaslo Jazz Festival, along with Hornography.

“One of the organizers of Vancouver Jazz saw us play in Kaslo and invited both bands play there [in Vancouver],” Swanson explained.

Headlining the night will be Hornography, which plays original, instrumental Afrobeat music inspired by the African composer and saxophone player Felá, who was known for his epic 10 and 15-minute long tracks that would stretch to 45 minutes when performed live.

“When the guys first started the band I told them, ‘this is a musical-marathon type band’ because once we start we just go and go,” said Swanson, who picked up his first saxophone at age 11.

Growing up in the Slocan Valley, he was a student at Mount Sentinel secondary school when Rick Lingard was band teacher there.

He graduated the same year Selkirk College opened its music school in Nelson. He enrolled for one year, then dropped out and started taking private lessons instead.

“I’d drive to Vancouver for one lesson per month, then spend eight to 10 hours per day practicing at my folks’ house,” Swanson recalled.

Eventually he moved to Vancouver for more regular lessons. He worked in the entertainment industry there for 17 before returning to Nelson.

Now he makes a living as a freelance saxophone player and teaches private lessons in his home studio. Swanson is in eight of his own bands and a regular sideman four more.

“It’s amazing how much people support the arts in this community and throughout the Kootenays,” Swanson said. “I wouldn’t be able to live here if it wasn’t for everyone who comes out to see our shows. I’m so grateful for that support.”

Musicians joining Swanson on stage at Spiritbar include Tony Ferraro on drums, Marvin Walker on percussion and drums, Mark Spielman on electric bass, Jesse Lee on acoustic bass, Colin Spence on piano, Bessie Wapp on vocals, Rich Rabnett on electric guitar, Krispen Elder on tenor sax, Rick Lingard on alto sax, Keith Todd on trombone, and Dave Ward on trumpet.

Jesse Lee (a.k.a. Rafferty Funksmith) will also DJ between sets.

Tickets are $10, available in advance at the Hume Hotel front desk. Doors open at 7 p.m.