Joe Coughlin is Canada’s greatest jazz singer, as he’s been since his 1981 eponymously-titled debut recording with Ed Bickert, Don Thompson, Terry Clark, and Bernie Senensky that launched his jazz career. That’s called starting at the top, and Coughlin has only gotten better over the last four decades.
Sinatra and the Count at Dave Dunnet Community Theatre on April 18 is Coughlin’s celebration of the great musical collaboration between Frank Sinatra and Count Basie Orchestra that was most famously captured on the critically-acclaimed 1966 recording, Sinatra at the Sands.
Coughlin’s old pal and fellow Canadian jazz great Phil Dwyer has put together an all-star, 17-piece orchestra conducted by jazz veteran Bryan Stovell to back Coughlin’s Sinatra-inspired readings of Old Blue Eyes’ acclaimed, original big band arrangements by Billy May, Nelson Riddle and Quincy Jones.
The Phil Dwyer Orchestra features Dwyer’s Juno Award- and Order of Canada-winning tenor sax with a who’s who of Canadian jazz. This includes veteran Edmonton-based fellow Juno Award and Order of Canada-winning alto saxophonist P.J. Perry, Vancouver band leader and guitarist Bill Coon, and Dr. Tony Genge playing Count Basie-inspired piano and organ. Ryan Oliver, Miguelito Valdez, Bruce Hurn, Patrick Boyle, Nick La Riviere, Ken Lister, Hans Verhoeven … almost everyone in the orchestra is a band leader, all are stars on the local jazz scene. It’s an amazing big band that will do justice to Coughlin’s jazz genius, and it will swing!
A jazz elder now, Coughlin has released a handful of critically acclaimed recordings showcasing his bluesy, velvety crooning, horn-like phrasing, and playful, always-swinging sense of time. His wise, soulful readings of jazz standards are imbued with a depth of understanding and emotion. Coughlin’s vocals embody years of struggle, pain, and ultimately joyful transcendence.
Nothing has ever been easy for Coughlin. Born an incomplete quadriplegic, the jazz great began his musical career in 1970s high school rock bands, propped-up on his crutches in skin-tight, satin pants and platform shoes singing in bars and clubs throughout Ontario. Then he discovered jazz and his musical hero, Frank Sinatra.
Coughlin moved to Victoria in 1995 and now uses a big power chair to drive directly onstage at Dave Dunnet Community Theatre, the multi- million dollar performance hall at Oak Bay High. Coughlin opened the Dave Dunnet stage to the public in 2015 with his 100th birthday celebration of Frank Sinatra. It was a benefit concert for Sno’uyutth Legacy Scholarship for Indigenous graduates of Oak Bay High. In 2017, Coughlin returned to Dave Dunnet for a second Sno’uyutth Legacy Scholarship benefit, a cause that has now supported four students’ post-secondary education. The upcoming concert on April 18 at Dave Dunnet Community Theatre is another benefit for Sno’uyutth Legacy Scholarship. It promises to be a show for the ages — highest recommendation.
For tickets and more information, contact McPherson Box Office at rmts.bc.ca/events or call 250-386-6121