Eight-five years ago this week, my mother, then a wide-eyed 8-year old, arrived in Vancouver. It was the end of an exhausting journey that brought her, two siblings and their mother all the way from the west coast of Finland – first to Sweden, then by boat across the stormy Atlantic to Pier 21, and finally, five days traversing this vast, wintry country by train. Leaving friends and family behind, they had come to join my grandfather, who had gone on ahead to earn some money in the logging camps. Speaking not a word of English, they were met at the CPR’s grandiose train station by my grandfather’s sister.
Aunt Gerda took them up to the Patricia Hotel on East Hastings, where she was working as a chambermaid. That’s where they spent their first few nights in Vancouver. So the century-old hotel holds a special spot in Mickle lore as the starting point for the long, hard slog by my mother’s family to forge a new life in a new land. And, if you wander in off the street today, you will still find not a bad effort to preserve the trappings of the way the hotel lobby might have looked to my mother that memorable morning in late December, 1928.
All of which serves as a very round-about, personal introduction to Jazz at the Pat, one of the best regular happenings in this sometime dreary city. Every Saturday afternoon, from 3 to 7 p.m., top Vancouver jazz musicians bring the Patricia Hotel’s venerable bar to life with their high-quality, straight-ahead musicianship. Jazz at the Pat is the best bargain in town – no cover, cheap beer, and great jazz. A real treasure.
I try to pop down at least once a month, and have never failed to be enthused. Plus, for me, there’s the added fillip, especially during those long, soulful sax solos, of letting my mind wander back through all that family history. My mom was here in 1928. Now, I’m here in 2013. I like that.
Last Saturday featured some terrific, Christmas-themed jazz, led by trumpeter Chris Davis, with the nimble Jodi Proznick on stand-up bass, Steve Kaldestad on good old sax, drums (didn’t get the name), and the splendid, Santa-capped Miles Black on piano. All superb musicians, they got the last few days before Christmas off to a swinging, Yuletide start.
This is a satisfying gig for the musicians, too. With the Cellar Jazz Club soon to close its doors, the city’s many fine jazz artists are having an increasingly difficult time finding paying places to play. I’ve already heard such well-known musicians as saxophonist Campbell Ryga and trombonist Hugh Fraser strut their stuff at the Pat.
Do yourself a favour. Get down to the Pat any Saturday afternoon. Guaranteed to be a good time, and you can’t beat the price. Besides, it’s not as if jazz is new at the hotel’s bar. None other than the legendary Jelly Roll Morton, touted by some as the inventor of jazz, was resident pianist there from 1919 to 1921. You can look it up.