Walk down the street by Brittany’s Lounge on any given Wednesday or Friday night and you’ll likely hear strains of jazz music floating by. The source of those lively solos is Edmonton artist PJ Perry, a bebop saxophonist who has played with a famous cast of musicians, from the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra to famed pianist and former senator Tommy Banks.
Perry recently returned to Edmonton after touring the U.S. and Japan with the Broadway musical, Come Fly Away. “It was very exciting,” says Perry, who has won Juno awards for both his solo work and his collaborations with other artists.
However, once he finished the tour, Perry decided he wanted to stay at home with his family in Edmonton. The only problem was, he lacked a place to play saxophone on a regular basis. “My music is very specialized. I’m a hardcore bebop saxophone player. It’s not easy to find places to do what I want to do,” says Perry, who now performs with a bass player and a drummer.
He found a solution at Brittany’s Lounge, even though it isn’t branded as a jazz club. Perry approached Brittany Halford, owner of Brittany’s, one night after he finished a performance with the ESO at the Winspear Centre, which is located near the lounge.
“What’s important to me about Brittany’s is that I have a place where I’m able to play the kind of music that I’ve always wanted to play,” says Perry. “I don’t have to play quietly. I don’t have to play commercially-based jazz. I have a tendency to always want to please the audience that I’m playing for. In Brittany’s, I’m given the opportunity to stretch out. It’s turned out to be the find of a lifetime.”
Perry also recently released a new record, Old Friends, with Tommy Banks, who he has known since he was a teenager. Perry’s father, Paul, owned a dance hall in Sylvan Lake and led the Paul Perry Orchestra, which Banks played in as a teenager.
While Perry and Banks have recorded various projects together during the past 50 years, this is the first time the long-time friends have been alone together for a studio project. “It’s a project that I’m extremely proud of,” says Perry of the 16-track record, which was released by Royalty Records. “I consider Tommy Banks to be the best accompanist in the world. It was time for two old friends to make music together. Most of the music that we had done together over the years had been of a commercial nature but nothing as personal and intimate as a duo recording. And I wanted to leave a permanent memory of our friendship and musical collaboration for posterity.”