Having been introduced to jazz during his youth in Sylvan Lake, P.J. Perry referred to his sold out Friday night concert at Alliance Community Church as “the circle coming full around”.
“It’s where I first heard jazz music, and it was where I learned how to play jazz,” he said in an interview after the concert.
Together, he and his quartet performed for an audience that included family, friends and fans both old and new.
Being able to perform in Sylvan Lake gave him a chance to take a trip down memory lane.
“It was a delicious weekend for me because of all the memories that came flooding back, and all of the lovely people that introduced themselves to me.”
Some of those people, he added, informed him that they’d seen him as a teenager performing in his father’s orchestra. Others told him stories of how they met their spouses in Varsity Hall, which was owned by his father.
Hearing the stories took Perry back to a time when he was just beginning his life as a jazz musician. Returning 55 years later and performing at the weekend’s Jazz At The Lake Festival was a much different experience than what he remembers of previous years spent here.
“In those days, there was no audience for jazz, so we were just doing it as an underground love,” he said. “Now, as the 55 years have gone, the audience has developed and they’ve caught up to the music, and now I’m able to play the music that I always loved, and play it with an audience in the town where I grew up.”
Nowadays, Perry doesn’t get back to Sylvan Lake often. His love of fly fishing often took him through the town in the past, as he headed west for trips in the Rocky Mountain House area.
He hasn’t had much time for fly fishing recently, and admitted that “things got pretty hectic”.
“I never thought that this stage of my life would be the busy stage,” he said. Yet, despite his busy schedule, Perry is not complaining.
“I have a lovely mix of jobs that I choose to do these days, as opposed to having to take everything that’s offered me, and so I have a pretty nice life.”
Perry’s passion for jazz music has not diminished over the years, and he still learns something new every time he walks on stage, he said.
He feels his profound love of the art form came from his time spent in Sylvan Lake.
“I got it in Sylvan Lake, because my father’s band hired all of the best young musicians across the country to come and play,” he said. “It was a training ground that doesn’t exist anymore.”
Perry said he was grateful to Jazz at the Lake Festival organizers Eric Allison and Cheryl Fisher for “bringing our art form to Central Alberta.”
Perry said he would like to come back to Sylvan Lake soon. Currently, he lives in Edmonton, and recently finished recording with Tommy Banks. That recording, he said, should become available in October.
“We just did that a couple of days before our concert in Sylvan Lake, and so the final touches are being put on that.
“We picked about 17 gorgeous songs, and we went into a good studio and recorded them, and I’m very happy about that.”
Up-to-date information on Perry’s coming performances and releases is available on his website at www.pjperry.com.