By Matt Harris
University of Calgary graduate Johnny Summers is keeping busy this fall. With his upcoming Memphis Belle Gala on Sat., Sept. 25 at the Aerospace Museum, a groove album in the works (which will be his third album alongside The Johnny Summers Quartet Vol. 1 and Walk Through the Park), and several projects on the back burner, Johnny will be a busy, busy boy. And this massive workload is no burden for the rising star.
Summers, a down-home Calgarian, received his Bachelor of Music degree in Jazz Music from the U of C in 1999. Since then, he’s been out playing at clubs, steadily building up a fan base, and gaining recognition as a great musician locally, as well as abroad and overseas.
Recently, Calgary’s poster boy for jazz has been busy setting up the Calgary Jazz Orchestra, an orchestra of some of Calgary’s best and brightest jazz musicians. He’s going as far as hand picking the players himself. The orchestra is set to run a number of concerts in December, and that requires a lot of coordinating. And if all that wasn’t enough, the 26-year-old jazzman runs his own production company, Summertime Music Productions, specifically so he can play out his musical fantasies.
“Summertime Music Productions was started to have an infrastructure that would facilitate my ideas, basically,” explains Johnny. “So the artistic, musical side of me could be channeled through a business so it could become accessible [to the public].”
It’s not all fun and games for Johnny, who has to maintain the business side of things.
“Somebody said to me once that it was ninety percent business, ten percent music. And I disagreed at first. I was like ‘No way man, it’s all about the music!’ And it is, and the ten percent that’s the music is the most important ten percent. It’s hard to find a balance.”
But so far Johnny has kept on top of things, and his career couldn’t be doing better. He’s been officially named the poster-boy for the Calgary jazz scene, released two albums since 2001, and has toured with great response internationally, with great success in New Orleans, Hawaii, Britain, and Spain.
Where he’s going to go in the future, he can’t be certain. He has the CJO concerts, a New Year’s performance, a groove album to finish, a Chet Baker tribute album to work on, various local performances, and the possibility of touring abroad sometime next summer to keep him occupied, keeping him plenty occupied through fall and winter and right into spring. And as far as his music is concerned, he’s going to keep belting it out in his own unique groovy swinging style.
“I think Jazz as a music is a huge umbrella,” he states, sharing his feelings for the music he so loves. “It incorporates a lot. As far as swing, swing is the groove jazz. Whereas funk has a certain groove and heavy metal has a certain groove, swing is what permeates jazz music.”
The future may be full of renewed creativity, but Johnny won’t let his musical ambitions get too out of control. He’s not about to burn out now. Summers looks to be hot and shows no signs of losing any steam. Especially when he’s doing what he does best: playing the music he loves.