John Brian Young

No Time Flat in concert

Local trio plays the Hope Station House on Nov. 19

John Brian Young, or J.B.Y. as he puts it, is the brainchild of the trio No Time Flat, an ensemble that reflects a lifetime of music involvement, and a penchant for live music, as opposed to recorded music being something you might “have to do.”

J.B.Y.’s opinions on music are firmly formed. He reflected on a recent performance at the Hope Station House by the local Jazz Banditz’ drummer Joe Warren, “He is seemingly effortless, very tight, on time, like a metronome, with many styles. With the bottom end taken care of, anybody can do almost anything on top. Hold the loudness, never be overbearing, listen and work together, and never overplay the singer.”

To get people dancing, choosing familiar tunes is important, as well as performing in a style that is not too busy, with a tempo just right and not too fast.

Jazz can often be a lot of free flow improvisation off the top, sometimes losing the melody, only inferring it. That style is not for J.B.Y.

He describes his trio as “more traditional,” the piano and vocals always holding the center. Retired Hope Secondary School band teacher Wes Laing, on saxophone, is the free spirit, but there is an unspoken agreement that there is a corral, and “we shouldn’t get ‘too out there.’”

Listening to J.B.Y. you get the impression that a band performance is not so much about them as it is about the song.

“You always must play (in a way that) keeps the song in context. The duo is good (vocals and piano), but a trio is better,” he said, pointing out the sax takes over the lead parts as needed which adds a whole new feel. “You need a true trio to get that sound.”

J.B.Y is undecided about whether the  trio is the optimum size of group.

“Yes and no. It would be good to have one more. One of the great ones, Oscar Peterson, had bass, drums, piano and guitar. ”

If he were to add another member, it would be a lead guitar without hesitation.

“Anything bigger isn’t practical for now,” he said, although he loved playing trombone in the Fraser River Big Band with leader Bob Tarr. The band was “a thrill, it was wonderful, a shame that there isn’t something similar happening. I would jump back in there in a second.”

The highlight was being a player, but at the same time experiencing the sounds of the different sections, horns, woodwinds, brass and rhythm.

“Especially the sax section with its diversity of baritone, tenor, alto, and at times, soprano instruments,” J.B.Y. added.

J.B.Y. has over a 100 songs in the repertoire, done in his own way.

“There can be many renditions of a song, some make it ‘new again.’ To get on the list, it must be recognizable, fit the swing, jazz/blues category, either an award-winning song, a chart-topping song, or a great performer or composers… say Duke Ellington.”

J.B.Y. relates some of the historical roots when he introduces a song during the show.

He rhetorically asked me during the interview, “Did you know that the song Autumn Leaves started as a French poem set to music by the Hungarian Joseph Kosma, became a café song during Second World War. Then in 1947 American Johnny Mercer created the lyrics, but it only finally became a hit when Roger Williams recorded it in 1955, selling 2.5 million records.”

J.B.Y. punctuates his shows with such stories, which will make No Time Flat’s show this Saturday unique among all the bands that have played over the past couple of years at the Hope Station House.

For the show, the singing is left to Linda McRae. She has performed as a soloist at numerous Fraser Valley community events, in musicals and several bands and choirs. Her credits include backup vocals to recording artists, radio commercials, recording demos for song writers, and directing musicals such as Annie, The Music Man and The Wiz. She has been with No Time Flat for five years.

When asked, J.B.Y. eschews “country music,” but in apparent contradiction the genre is found in his repertoire, sort of in a similar way as Tony Bennett recounted in his last show at the Orpheum in Vancouver a few years ago. Bennett said he wouldn’t look at a country song until the band leader he was working for made him listen to Hank Williams then new song Cold Cold Heart, which became a No. 1 recording for Bennett.

“If it’s a great song, you have to do it,” said J.B.Y.

No Time Flat is marketed exclusively as live music, playing the “American Songbook,” with a few departures including the Beatles. For J.B.Y., recorded music and live music are not the same.

“I prefer live for the intimacy; you hear it all, not (synthetically) mastered and mixed.”

While recordings are nice, they have their role. “Live is best,” he triumphantly asserts. “You get to feel and experience how the musicians work together, how they respond to one another, how they blend (or not). I don’t think you can beat that. (You experience the organic connection) like wine. You can read all the tasting notes you want, but it’s not the same as tasting”.

For young musicians, J.B.Y. advises, “study classical music, and practice, then you can branch off once you ‘know’ music.”

No Time Flat perform at Hope Station House on Nov 19. Tickets include dinner and a show, and are available in advance at Headliner Barber Shop (located at the Hope Motor Hotel), or by contacting the Station House at, 604-869-5956 or 604-860-3126.

Proceeds go to the roof restoration project.

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