Alto-saxist/vocalist Daniel Pelton’s jazz/pop band Long Time No Time may have been creating a stir in Calgary – before the pandemic closed down live venues – but his project has strong roots in White Rock and South Surrey.
That’s where the 2013 Earl Marriott Secondary grad is currently waiting out COVID-19 restrictions – and while he, like many other musicians, is chafing against forced inactivity, he’s also glad he’s in the position of having some recorded material to sell until public performances are green-lit once again.
Big Time (Live at the National Music Centre), which was released on May 15, is a collaboration between Long Time No Time and the University of Calgary Jazz Orchestra at The National Music Centre/Studio Bell in Calgary.
Recorded in November 2019, and featuring compositions by Pelton and two other UC alumni composers, the live concert, instigated and produced by Long Time No Time, picks up on the band’s trademark brand of fun, audience-friendly, high-energy, jazz-infused music.
“There’s no actual physical album, but it’s available on all the streaming platforms such as Spotify and BandCamp,” Pelton said (to access the album visit http://hyperurl.co/oamvn0)
The ambitious Pelton said he can’t wait to hit the ground running, with plans to tour the band to the West Coast, in support of the album, once live concerts get the green light again – and he said he values having a home-town cheering section led by his parents, Marcy and Jim, and sister, Emma.
“Nobody could have a more supportive family than I do,” he said.
Pelton also credits playing in Marriott’s jazz band – at that time led by former band program director Rodger Owens – with sparking his interest in a performing career, and helping him develop both the chops, and the chutzpah, needed to become a bandleader.
His ambitions were fueled by winning best saxophone honours in both the 2012 and 2013 Envision Surrey Jazz Festivals – and it certainly didn’t hurt that he was fortunate enough to study with famed jazzman and clinician Campbell Ryga during his high school years.
“My mom has been a big driving force in my own personal music development,” he said.
“She figured out that Campbell, who’s a real legend on the West Coast and in the Fraser Valley, was the guy for me to study with – and she was right. He’s a great teacher and he has a great musical family, too.”
Music became his primary focus at that point, he said.
“I did pretty well in high school in most things, but nothing really inspired me until I really started studying saxophone and started getting recognition through awards – I realized it was something I really enjoyed, and that set me up for pursuing it post-secondary.”
He graduated in December of 2018 from the University of Calgary’s music program.
“It’s a small (department) and doesn’t have a whole lot of recognition, but I’m fortunate to have studied with Dr. Jeremy Brown as the head of the jazz program – he’s super-talented in both modern and classical music, a master saxophone and woodwind player and a wonderful teacher who’s so keen to see his students succeed.”
Pelton said he started the five-piece Long Time No Time in December 2017, after feeling that something was missing from formal recitals by the university’s jazz orchestra groups.
“I felt the music, while technically very good, lacked the energy of a band you would see at a bar or a club,” he explained, adding that one of his big inspirations has been ’60s-70s cult figure Frank Zappa.
“I consider him possibly the greatest genius composer of the past century – somebody who could compose for a large jazz orchestra as well as his rock band, and could write this highly complex, sophisticated music, but was never afraid to include the audience and be light-hearted about it.”
With four kindred spirits from the university’s jazz orchestra – Andrew Leitch (trumpet), Thomas Dundas (bass trombone), Jesse Schwarz (six-stringed electric bass) and Fletcher Dahlman (drums) – he put together a flexible, surprisingly full-bodied sounding group, performing mostly his own compositions.
Members, as well as being on top of the arrangements, are also mindful of their role as entertainers, he said, and the results – and some of the positive public reaction – can be seen in live videos on the band’s Instagram and Facebook pages.
“The idea was, let’s take some of this academic sensibility and put it into a high-energy setting. I think we hit on something that people didn’t know they were looking for, something friendly and welcoming, something that academic people could appreciate on a technical level, but other people could just dance around to it even if they weren’t sure what was happening.”
A sense of spontaneity is also a key ingredient in the performance, Pelton said.
“Every show, even if it’s the same material, there’s something new about it, and we make sure that people are in on the joke and having a good time.”
In the band business, persistence also pays, he added.
“Something I’ve learned about myself, through doing this, is that (I have) a certain sense of shamelessness and drive about promoting things,” he said.
“Since we started the band, I’ve emailed everyone, every venue I can think of, to let them know who we are and what we do. As a musician you have to get good at hearing ‘no’ – but still keep going back and doing it again and again.”
The live concert – involving some 30 musicians, including Long Time No Time – was part of Scotiabank’s Backbeat concert program at the National Music Centre, he said.
It’s part of an energetic program of band promotion and touring opportunities that Pelton has been pursuing since graduation, along with teaching gigs – much of which has been side-swiped by the pandemic, he admitted.
While it came about largely through his own enterprise, he said, it didn’t hurt that the project had the full support of Brown –who helped secure a grant to help fund it and was a guest performer – as well as the eager participation of all the members of the university’s current jazz orchestra.
“It was such a thrill,” he said.
“Arranging for that size group, and hearing your music coming back at you in real time – I can’t put into words how awesome it is.”