As jazz musician Tom Rigney & Flambeau embark on a two-week European tour aboard a cruise ship before their appearances at this year’s Pentastic Hot Jazz Festival Sept. 5 to 7, Rigney talked about why he keeps returning.
“The setting of course is lovely,” he said. “It’s a great place to go spend a weekend. We work a lot of different kinds of gigs but the lineup of music is always completely first rate so we get to see a lot of our friends and hang out with certainly some of the best jazz musicians on the planet.
“I’ve always kind of just liked the spirit of the Penticton festival,” he said. “There’s lots of dancers, just very enthusiastic fans,” he said. “It’s one of those weekends where we go home and say, ‘That was fun. That was good. Let’s do that again.’”
Other performers include: The Terrier Brothers, Gator Nation, Draga’s Dragons, The Original Wildcat Jass Band, Lance Buller, Black Swan Classic Jazz Band, Blackstick, Grand Dominion Jazz Band, Curbside Trad Jazz Band and the Penticton-based group, Faculty.
“That’s actually not an uncommon thing but that’s actually something that we like,” said Rigney. “You’re going from sort of a small, nightclubish sort of venue, to a big hall, so it allows me the freedom as a bandleader and as an artist in general just to play a very wide range of the music that we play and I can tailor it to the venue and somewhat to the specific audience that’s there.”
The group specializes in Cajun and Zydeco two-steps, blues, New Orleans grooves, and ballads and waltzes with Rigney composing a majority of their songs.
Rigney was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay area and currently resides in San Francisco.
His interest in southern-style Louisiana music was sparked when he played with accordionist Queen Ida, said to be the first female accordion player to lead a Zydeco band.
“That was back in the 80s and I toured with Ida for a year,” he said. “I had known her on the circuit, we were friends but really until I got up on the stage with her, I had no idea how much fun it would be playing south Louisiana, Zydeco dance music.”
His music is rooted in bluegrass and western swing and traditional country before drifting into blues-inspired rock and roll.
“I play a very wide range of American roots music styles with certainly cajun and zydeco being significant ingredients but only part of the picture,” said Rigney. “There’s nothing in my background, except for my musical experience, to have lead me there.”
The common characteristic around his music is its alluring groove and intensity which many people find irresistible.
His band members include Caroline Dahl on piano, Brent Rampone on drums and bassist Steve Parks, along with guitarist Doug Dayson, who is playing in place of regular guitarist Danny Caron. Dayson also toured with Queen Ida’s band.
Rigney talked about how his band’s sound, and how it carries a rhythmn that gets people moving.
“Whether or not we’re playing for a dance audience or a concert audience, the music is just ferociously danceable,” said Rigney. “I can watch people in a concert hall, barely able to contain themselves in their feet . . . they notice the power in the grooves that we play.”
Performances will happen at the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre, SS Sicamous, the Elks Club and the Shatford Centre.
Tickets are $55 for Friday, $70 for Saturday and $50 for Sunday. An all-event pass is $105.
Tickets can be purchased through www.valleyfirsttix.com, the Best Western Inn and at the door.