The Karl Schwonik Jazz Ensemble

The Karl Schwonik Jazz Ensemble tour comes to Hope

Band set to play at the Hope Station House on March 16

Blind drummer Karl Schwonik brings his 1+4 tour to Hope on Friday.

His latest album was a dream project, bringing together two of Schwonik’s favourite musicians – alto saxophonist Remi Bolduc and trumpeter James Davis.

“We have 600-700 (songs in our repertoire) between us, but we narrow it down to 20 or so per night, and mix it up,” said 27-year-old Schwonik. “We always do some from the new  1+4 CD, then always a fast one, a middle one, a ballad, and a Latin piece … In fact we have the best Latin piano player in Canada, Chris Andrew out of Campbell River.”

Even though Schwonik has a passion for playing jazz, he admittedly prefers to listen to country music.

“I love listening to country because everything just fits together so well – the lyrics, the instruments, the melody, the harmony, the message,” he explained. “But jazz is different. It’s very improvisational, changing, moving, a give-and-take. We all communicate with each other, all at the same time.”

For Schwonik, the difference between recording and playing live is the energy. In studio, the band is focused on accuracy.

“We only have one chance. We’ll play 10 hours to get it right,” he said. “With an audience the energy level shoots up, they are with us all together. We try new things, take it to the next level, maybe mess up, but we’re putting it all out there. It’s impulsive.”

Schwonik grew up on an Alberta farm and was  exposed to a variety of music ranging from polka to jazz. His early influences were Duke Ellington with Caravan, Count Basie, Dave Brubeck Quartet with Take Five, Glen Miller, and Benny Goodman.

Schwonik has shared the stage with many inspiring musicians including Dave Douglas, Chucho Valdes, Sonny Fortune, David Braid, Jens Lindemann, P.J. Perry, Tommy Banks and Hugh Fraser.

In demand internationally as a guest artist and instructor, Schwonik has taught students of all ages at over 200 institutions. He regularly lectures on a broad range of topics in jazz, music business and artists coping with disabilities.

Among the many awards and distinctions Schwonik has garnered are the Lieutenant Governor of Alberta’s Emerging Artist Award, the VSA Arts International Young Soloist Award, the AFM International Diversity Award and the Queen’s Jubilee Award.

In 2008, Schwonik founded the Wetaskiwin Jazz Society in Alberta to build awareness for the arts. He also joined the board of directors for the Alberta Foundation for the Arts last year.

Schwonik has completed over 15  tours throughout North America as a band leader and performed in diverse venues such as Carnegie Hall and the John F. Kennedy Center.

The show at the Hope Station House starts at 6 p.m. and will feature special guest Remi Bolduc,  who has been a musician for over 30 years in Canada. He is also a professor of music at McGill and Concordia universities.

Tickets to the concert include dinner and are available at Headliner Barber Shop,, or 604-869-5956.

Proceeds go to the roof restoration project.

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