Johnny Summers swings into spring

The saying goes: “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.” Johnny Summers not only heeded that advice, he wrote a song about it.

The saying goes: “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.”

Johnny Summers not only heeded that advice, he wrote a song about it.

The Calgary-based Johnny Summers Little Big Band is coming to Sylvan Lake to entertain at a swing dance presented by Jazz at the Lake organizers. For the second year, a series of special events is being planned instead of the annual jazz festival.

The Swing into Spring event is being held on May 21 at the Sylvan Lake Community Centre — and Summers is gearing up for a lively event that will attract swing dancers from all over Alberta.

Tunes by George Gershwin, Cole Porter and Duke Ellington are on the program, as well as newer music by James Brown, Marvin Gaye, and Van Morrison — and some original numbers composed by Summers

“We try to have something for everyone — a great diversity, so there’s a great flow,” said the singer/trumpet player.

Among the original songs will be Never Work a Day in Your Life, which Summers co-wrote with Alberta’s celebrated pianist (and former Canadian senator) Tommy Banks.

And, no, the song doesn’t refer to what some people think of senators.

Summers said they relate to the aforementioned adage about doing what you love.

“We styled it to sound like a Cole Porter tune,” with witty lyrics that include references to Lady Gaga and Madonna to keep the song rooted in the 21-century.

Songwriting with Banks was a compelling, exhaustive experience, said Summers, who recalled labouring for about 30 hours to find the exact right lyrics. When the two took a coffee break from songwriting in an Edmonton mall, Summers got a taste of Bank’s celebrity.

“People would go by, see Tommy Banks, and say, ‘Hello, senator!’ ‘Hi, senator!’ … It was kind of funny …”

Banks’ impressive piano talents are featured on Summers’s Piano Sessions Vol. 2, one of five CDs the singer has recorded since 2003.

Summers knew from about age 11 the impact music would have on his life. He remembers sitting in his bedroom listening to Harry Connick Jr.’s Blue Light, Red Light album. Other performers who have influenced him over the years are Wynton Marsalis, Frank Sinatra, Stevie Wonder, John Mayer and Louis Armstrong.

Although Summers started studying classical music in high school, he switched to the jazz program in university.

He later took voice lessons with international jazz and blues vocalist Dee Daniels in Vancouver, and described this as a pivotal period that changed his life. Daniels “opened my voice up to new possibilities.”

The hard-working musician now performs in a variety of bands — including quartets, quintets and the 18-member Calgary Jazz Orchestra, which he founded.

His Johnny Summers Little Big Band is made up of eight musicians who put on regular concerts in Calgary and around the province.

The group has been a mainstay of the Jazz at the Lake festival, because Summers enjoys working with its organizers Cheryl Fisher and Eric Allison.

He calls it “one of the best run festivals I’ve ever seen.”

Although the singer is the rare artist with enough business savvy to have been offered lucrative employment — including a realtor position with a development company — he has never regretted sticking with his first love.

“There’s no feeling more gratifying and humbling than to touch people through music,” he said. “I am forever thankful for the inspiration and encouragement this affords.”

Tickets to the 8 p.m. event are $25 from www.jazzatthelake.com.

lmichelin@bprda.wpengine.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

COVID-19: First death confirmed in central zone, provincial cases reach 1,250

Alberta government confirmed a first death in the central zone Sunday. The… Continue reading

COVID-19 case reported at supermarket in Wetaskiwin

Sobeys will not release names to protect employees

WATCH: Red Deer emergency call centre hours change starting next week

Hours at the City of Red Deer’s COVID-19 emergency call centre will… Continue reading

Alberta Health Services provides COVID-19 prevention tips

Alberta Health Services has a number of recommendations for people amid the… Continue reading

Alberta government website has latest COVID-19 statistics

Red Deer Advocate readers can stay up to date on the COVID-19… Continue reading

Quebec Walmart worker struck by driver allegedly angered by COVID-19 measures

SHERBROOKE, Que. — A Walmart security guard from southern Quebec was fighting… Continue reading

Boeing to continue production shutdown due to coronavirus

Company is extending its planned two-week shutdown

Bars, cannabis sector eligible for $40B credit program from government bank

Applicants must go through their own banks to access the program

Actress-activist Shirley Douglas, daughter of medicare’s Tommy Douglas, dies

‘Sadly she had been battling for her health for quite some time’

Canada looking to disinfect used masks, Tam asks they not be thrown away

Best defence against COVID-19 is to stay home as much as possible, wash their hands frequently

With workers at home, feds eye ways to fast-track training program, groups say

How to help workers stuck at home or out of work to prevent their skills from becoming

Most Read