Dawn Pemberton and the Nightcrawlers bare their soul 

Soul singer joins Vancouver Quintet to open Performance Series at Millennium Place

click to enlarge PHOTO SUBMITTED - RAW POWER Vancouver's Dawn Pemberton and the Nightcrawlers sing rhythm and blues.
  • Photo submitted
  • RAW POWER Vancouver's Dawn Pemberton and the Nightcrawlers sing rhythm and blues.

Sultry-voiced soul singer Dawn Pemberton is having a good year.

She is fresh from winning Urban Recording of the Year at the Western Canadian Music Awards (WCMA) in September for her debut album, Say Somethin', which was released a year ago. She is also touring widely and bringing a rhythm-and-blues show to Whistler with Vancouver quintet the Nightcrawlers.

They are the first show of the winter season's Performance Series, sponsored by the Whistler Arts Council, and perform at Millennium Place on Sunday, Oct. 25.

Pique caught up with her in Toronto, in town to perform at the Do Right Soul Review.

"This year, I've been promoting the album and touring it a little bit," Pemberton says.

She adds that the majority of her current touring schedule is in tandem with other bands and musicians, like Nightcrawlers.

"It's been a great collaboration. I really like working with those guys in the last year. It has been a good fit, that greasy, soul, organ-based jazz with vocals," she says.

"It's kind of funky, very soulful and jazzy. We all have the same spirit and energy when it comes to making music. They're great music and great players."

Jesse Cahill of the Nightcrawlers agrees: "We had a very successful concert in the spring with Dawn, plus we added Jim Byrnes and Paul Pigat. It was pretty crazy. We're hoping to build on that concept in the future, sort of like a soul review, like they used to do with Stax Records."

He said the band is excited to be visiting the resort for the first time.

The music Pemberton and the Nightcrawlers are bringing to Whistler is a mix of both of their individual songs and covers.

"I want people to come and have fun, get groovy!" she laughs. "It's going to be a really good show."

"Some of what we play are well-known standards reimagined. We do a great version of 'Mercy Me,' the Cannonball Adderley tune. We found a version that (Heart's) Nancy Wilson does and it's super cooking. We're doing some Bettye LaVette, Candi Staton... we're doing tons of music in that (jazz musician) Jimmy Smith vein."

The Nightcrawlers has won its own WCMA award, for Best Jazz Recording in 2011 for Nightcrawlers with Big Band Sound 'Down in the Bottom.' The band is dedicated to the sound of the great 1960s Hammond B3 organ bands, with influences such as Booker T. Jones. They have also received a nomination at the National Jazz Awards.

Pemberton has also had a long collaboration with Vancouver Island-based blues duo The Harpoonist and the Axe Murderer.

"I was on tour with The Harpoonist and the Axe Murderer this summer. They're fun," she says.

"I've known them for a really long time and it's just great to play upbeat music with friends."

Pemberton has been singing professionally for 17 years, starting as so many do with local support."It's something I've done since I was quite young, and I went to a school that promoted performance and our music teacher got us to do some really fun gigs and shows out in the community and for different events. People would come and ask for a kids choir and we would do it," she says.

Her choir singing led to early recording opportunities and gave her a taste of what a life in music could be like.

Following grade school, Pemberton took a degree in jazz studies at Capilano College (now University).

What is impressive is that in her adult career she has found a way to earn a living in music from Day 1.

"Every since I've graduated, I've worked as a private teacher, run singing workshops, I worked at the Sarah McLachlan School of Music (which provides after-school music education at no cost for those living at risk in Vancouver), directed the Roots and Wings Choir, all sorts of things," Pemberton lists.

"Those are my passions but singing in the studio and live performances are really exciting.

"It's possible to just work with your passion, it just means you have to be crafty and not give up."

Now that Pemberton's WCMA statuette is sitting on her shelf, she has started working on some new music.

"I'm starting to chip away at things, it is time to start thinking about another album," she says.

"I hopefully will be doing more collaborations with the Nightcrawlers. We've been talking about doing some sort of album together. I hope that can happen. And I'll be going over to Europe in the spring."

The Nightcawlers and Dawn Pemberton is 19+, with tickets costing $26 for general admission and $24 for Whistler Arts Council members. They are available online at www.artswhistler.com or at the Millennium Place box office.

Show attendees will be able to take in the Prior Topsheet art exhibit in The Gallery before heading into the theatre for the main performance.


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