Whistler Swings Again 

Whistler swings again

WHO: Johnny Ferreira and The Swing Machine

WHERE: Buffalo Bill’s Bar & Grill

WHEN: Dec. 5

To say an unusual set of circumstances has placed Vancouver musician Johnny Ferreira directly in the sights of a Portuguese media blitz of Whistler would be an understatement. But as things have worked out, Ferreira and the Swing Machine will perform for a four-six person entourage from Portugal, who are planning magazine and television exposure of Whistler in that country.

The thing is, Ferreira was never supposed to be there. He says it should have been jazz singer Diana Krall, or even Bryan Adams. Sorry, but those two performers are unavailable for Whistler next week. So what’s a guy to do? Who do you get to perform, so that the media will go back home with a positive impression of Whistler? Or Canada, for that matter?

Perhaps Ferreira is best known in Whistler these days as the band leader blowing sax with his eight-piece band at the Festival Of Lights for the last three years. But for the 12 years prior to that, he had a pretty good thing going with Colin James. He left James’ band prior to the Little Big Band II album in 1997. Since then, two full length CDs have appeared in his name: Crazy Bout a Saxophone and his latest, King of the Mood Swings. His last disc is big band driven and perfect for jump swing.

So, again, why did he end up on the bill for this Portugal gig?

Maybe it’s because Johnny is a bit of an ambassador himself. When Pique contacted him at his Vancouver home this week, Ferreira had just finished speaking to the CRTC on behalf of a Newfoundland radio group applying for a Vancouver radio licence. Ferreira was lobbying for a jazz/blues station, along with a few others. He says it was interesting, and with any luck, that will be the next big thing in Vancouver FM radio.

"CBC actually sent a guy, who’s Glen Clark’s legal aid, and he was applying for a second, all French radio station," Ferreira snickered. "We’re talking about prime air space, like 94.7 or very close to that. Everybody in there just rolled their eyes.

"But about the gig in Whistler. It’s a strange one. Because Portugal was going to be here they wanted to have a musician here to talk about when they got back home, to present to the Portuguese people. My good buddy Steve Mackalum, who used to manage Colin James when I was in the band, mentioned my name to the Canadian Ambassador to Portugal, Robert Vanderloo, after it was discovered Diana Krall and Bryan Adams weren’t available," Ferreira said. "Krall is huge in Europe and even bigger in Portugal. Anyway, they looked into it and said sure. So now, they’re doing a four-page spread on me in one of their magazines."

Things just kept falling into place for Ferreira. The management at Buffalo Bill’s Bar & Grill agreed it was time to swing again, and Dec. 5 was right in the middle of the Portuguese media trip. Then he received more good news.

"Well, Robert (Vanderloo) did some digging on me and found out about all the bands I’ve played with (Pointed Sticks, Barney Bentall, Long John Baldry), and he’s taking my stuff back to Portugal, so with any luck I’ll get a TV appearance and probably a festival gig."

That won’t be so bad considering Ferreira is touring Europe in February anyway. See? Things are just falling into place for this guy.

"I was going over there but not that early. Kenny Wayne asked me to play in his band for about six weeks. Then I’ll have a week break, then visit my relatives – in Portugal – and then I’ll go out on my tour that begins in May. I’ll be over there about three months all together."

Ferreira says bands such as his eight-piece big band, which features two female vocalists, piano and a three-piece horn section, are enjoying a second career in continental Europe. Many of the single performers coming through Whistler, such as Kenny Wayne, will book a six-week gig with a full band and do six European countries. In Ferreira's case, it’s an even larger production.

"You’ll get bands like the Fabulous Thunderbirds touring Europe three times in one year," Ferreira explained. "But back in North America, people are wondering if they’re even still together. So yeah, it is a fresh audience who are very, very appreciative of North American music. It’s really opening up over there."

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