FAQs about Journeys to the Bandstand

What is your background in music? What qualified you to write and self-publish a book about jazz musicians?

I started playing piano as a child and played trombone in my high school stage band, an experience that gave me an enduring love for jazz. I played piano in my first year at UBC for the university’s main big band, under the direction of two large ensemble jazz icons: Dave Robbins and Fred Stride. But I knew playing music wasn’t my path. So I wrote about music, including jazz, for Vancouver newspapers. I interviewed countless local and international jazz musicians, and wrote reviews, features, and columns about them. All of that prepared me for this. Plus I’m the only person crazy enough to self-publish a 605-page book on jazz musicians mainly from Vancouver.

Why did you name the book Journeys to the Bandstand and subtitle it Thirty Jazz Lives in Vancouver?

Each person I wrote about went on a journey to reach the stages where they have performed, so the word seemed appropriate. The subtitle reflects how each chapter is not just about musical journeys, but also life journeys. I included Vancouver because the city is at the heart of the book.

Is this book a history of the Vancouver jazz scene?

Journeys to the Bandstand is not a complete history of Vancouver’s jazz scene, from early beginnings to now. But in the course of sharing personal stories about the thirty artists featured in the book, I convey history of musicians, venues, and the overall dynamics of the scene.

The history of Vancouver’s jazz scene has been documented in a number of books that complement each other, including my book and the following:

Will Chernoff is thoroughly documenting the current scene on Rhythm Changes. There’s also historical information (and broken links) on the Jazz Street Vancouver site that has mysteriously reappeared after being offline for some time. But sadly, vancouverjazz.com, which Brian Nation and then Nou Dadoun nurtured, is no more.

Why did it take you more than a decade to complete Journeys to the Bandstand?

Originally I was going to write a book about the two Cellars—the original Cellar Jazz Club and Cory Weeds’ Cellar—and then I changed course to a book of longform portraits on individual artists. It took a long time to make that shift, and to do the additional research needed to throughly understand each artist. Plus it took years before I was comfortable with declaring that the book was ready to release to the world.

Did you ever feel like giving up on the book?

I felt despondent at times about how long it was taking to research and write the book, and how much work I needed to do to finish it. But the deeper I got into it, the stronger my resolve became to finish it.

How did you decide who to feature in the book?

I featured artists whose life stories and music resonated with me.

Do you have favourite chapters? Are there chapters that mean more to you than others?

All of the chapters are equally meaningful to me.

Why did you decide to have photos of fifteen musicians on the cover, and not just of one musician?

The musicians on the cover represent exactly half of the thirty artists I featured. I wanted the cover to convey the range of people I wrote about, and to give a sense of the local (and international) jazz community that they’ve been part of. Plus I like how the cover features great images by a number of photographers who contributed to the book.

Are there people who didn’t end up in the book who you would like to write about in the future, and where would you write about them – in another book?

There are a number of artists I would like to write about in the future. I shudder to think about going through another long book research, writing, and publishing process, but I’m starting to soften about the notion of doing another book. I appreciate the response I’ve received to Journeys, and I now understand that people still value old-school printed books. I’m also interested in starting a Substack where I would take a similar approach of doing longform portraits, but present them in work-in-progress segments.

Are there scandalous things you learned in the course of working on the book that you left out, and if there are, why did you keep them to yourself?

There are a few things that I learned that I kept out of the book to respect the wishes of the individuals involved.

A movie was made about one person in the book: Bruno Hubert. Who else in the book do you think would inspire a great film?

Aside from the classic movie on Bruno, I would love to see a film about John Dawe, featured in the book’s very first chapter. On the surface, he was a “normal” and “average” guy. Beyond the surface, he lived a compelling life.

It says in the “About the Author” page that during an in-person interview you had with Dizzy Gillespie, there were some tense moments. What happened?

In 1984, when I was editing and writing for the arts and entertainment section of the Ubyssey student newspaper, I was given the amazing opportunity to do an in-person interview with Dizzy Gillespie. Dizzy was playing at a venue called the Plazazz Showroom in North Vancouver. I went with a photographer to Dizzy’s hotel room and at one point severely pissed off the jazz icon because I brought up some provocative comments that a young Wynton Marsalis had made about Dizzy, Miles Davis, and Wayne Shorter not “contributing” anymore. But because I boldly (stupidly?) did that, Diz gave me some great quotes, like this one: “He shouldn’t take it upon himself to comment on the masters. Our standards are set. He’s got to make it yet. Certainly he owes a lot to me, Miles, Clifford Brown—all the ones who have contributed. His contribution is zero.”

How do you feel now that you’ve crossed the finish line and the book is out there?

I’m grateful for being able to complete the book, and for the warm response I’ve received. I’m also ready to take many naps.

You learned a lot about the jazz artists featured in your book—what did you learn about yourself?

I learned that the perfection I was striving for with this book didn’t exist, and that it was completely fine to release the book as I had crafted it, with imperfections and all.

Photos: Amanda Tosoff at Cory Weeds’ Cellar, April 18, 2006, and Christian McBride at the Cellar, February 22, 2013, by Steve Mynett.

What the people are saying about Journeys to the Bandstand

“I can’t say enough good things about this book. It’s fantastic. Chris Wong is such a good writer. I started out thinking I would read just a few of the chapters [on] musicians I was particularly interested in. But I wound up reading all the chapters in order. They’re so good. I can’t recommend it highly enough!”

—Brian Nation, founder, Vancouver Jazz Society & vancouverjazz.com