Sunday night, while all the animals were being loaded aboard the Ark, Jennifer and I headed up-island to a jazz show. As the deluge cascaded from the heavens, the Tim Johnson Quartet played an eclectic mix of jazz standards and original compositions at Pender’s Hub at Hope Bay. 1
We were warm and safe, there, from the rain. The lights were bright; the wine was excellent. Jennifer had an exquisite mushroom ravioli; I had baba ghanoush with vegetable sticks. The room was so cozy; it felt like a fire was crackling in a fireplace somewhere and that we were living a life of absurd luxury while the rain poured down around us.
We struck out on the long drive up island
Mind you, it was an effort to venture out on an evening like this. It was just as tempting to stay at home! We could snuggle under a quilt and watch a Netflix show, the rain pattering, the darkness pressing against the windows. A glass of wine, a bowl of soup, a slice of sprouted buckwheat bread was a pretty good offer. But the promise of jazz in a roomful of like-minded jazz fans was attractive, too.
So we struck out on the long drive from the very south of South Pender to the distant lands of Hope Bay.
Pender Island is a dark place this time of year. Not for everyone, but for those of us who stay here year-round, it’s one of the great pleasures. No road or traffic lights; we move along the roads unhindered by other cars most of the time. The high beams throw up strange shadows on the roadsides or light up forested stretches like green cathedrals.
We know these roads: the curves, bumps, dips and all
The roads are all too familiar. We know all the curves and bumps, hills and dips, know when to brake and accelerate, so the journey on a dark and rainy night is almost comforting. We slow our pace, taking care, but also open ourselves up to the different views.
It’s almost exhilarating seeing the changes in the landscape. The streams of water caught in the headlights, spreading along the pavement, a deer standing in the ditch looking blankly at you as you drive by. The house signs and reflectors people use to mark their driveways. Windshield wipers produce a clear view, only to reveal new patterns of raindrops the next instant.
And somewhere in the sky is the moon. It could be shrouded behind clouds one moment, then burst through the next, its stark light illuminating beautiful swirls of silver and grey.
Somewhere behind the clouds
Through the Spalding Valley, up and down the hills and curves of Canal Road. Approaching the South Pender bridge, there are more signs of life on the far side of Browning Harbour. We get a glimpse of the marina lights and pub and then up the hill to Plumtree Court, the Clinic and School.
The lights of the Driftwood Centre look friendly, descending the hill and facing the long, straight stretch to Liberto Road and Einar’s Hill.
We’re into the dark again, past the Nu-To-Yu and the Library. I love the sharp turn into Hope Bay and the slow drive through this old-time hamlet of houses. Up a gentle rise and there we behold the beckoning lights of The Hub at Hope Bay, the promise of good food, music, friends and warmth.
Jen and I don’t get out much, so we’re pretty inept regarding these post-COVID transactions. It’s not like the old days, walking into a restaurant! I’m talking about making sure your mask is on correctly, the awkward fumble through the iPhone trying to find your vaccination passport, and when is the right time to take off your mask?
But all those concerns fade away when we begin to recognize friends’ faces inside Hub that we haven’t seen in months. Jokes about carpools next time, fewer designated drivers, or what’s the next baker’s choice for the Happy Monk! Many from South Pender Island made the same trip through the deluge that we did.
The show hadn’t begun. The Tim Johnson Quartet and guests and hangers-on sat at a table next to the bandstand. Compared to the shady, cigarette-smoking, sunglass-wearing musicians from an earlier time, they’re pretty wholesome-looking guys. Each one of the fellows would transform before the show into well-dressed gentlemen with ties and jackets.
Honouring the jazz dress code
The alto sax player, Joe Hatherill from Victoria, would honour the jazz dress code with a natty black fedora, but they all looked the part. Charlie Knowles wore a fretless electric bass, Tim Johnson cradled a shiny Gibson jazz guitar over his knee, and “Doctor” Dan Weeks hid in the back behind a set of drums, masking his significant presence on stage.
The mood was relaxed. Tim Johnson introduced the players, cracked a few lines, and quickly entered the first set.
It was a delightful array of numbers, thoughtfully chosen and nicely introduced, with notes about each composer. There were up-tempo numbers interspersed with lyrical passages, moments of wit and humour. Each of the musicians was spotlighted with solos and each of them, except Hatherill, took a turn at vocals.
The heavens showering down
I’ve seen the Tim Johnson group three times now, and I’m impressed with the musicianship and devotion to their craft in all of the line-ups. There is an overall feeling of earnestness combined with moments of unpredictability and charm coming through the improvisation. These guys love playing jazz!
Pender has a lively music scene, and it’s gratifying to have this nascent jazz scene, led by Tim Johnson’s groups, PI Jazz and other combos.
But it was gratifying in itself to enjoy a night out at Hub, listening to great music, eating beautiful food with old friends on a dark evening with the heavens showering down.
Cinnamon-Raisin bread, an enduring Happy Monk favourite. And here’s proof of Mildrith’s (the wood-fired oven) recent health check, as she just baked 41 loaves of this (and another 40 of Seed Feast) with lots of heat left to spare. Long live Mildrith and long live Cinnamon-Raisin bread!
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