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Gypsy Jazz in the Okanagan
Gypsy Jazz in the Okanagan

Neil Fraser, guitar
Shelby Wall, guitar
Brian McMahon, bass
Bjorn Edblad, clarinet

Neil Fraser, one of the Okanagan's favorite local musicians, has formed a local jazz quartet titled Nomad. “The idea of Nomad was to play some instrumental jazz tunes that have both energy and accessibility,” says Fraser. “The name Nomad is intriguing: being open to a new idea or direction and being happy with surprise.”  The band will be showcasing jazz standards and Gypsy swing.

Fraser shares a friendly bond with his chosen band mates. “The players in this group are wonderful human beings as well as great musicians,” he says.

Bjorn Edblad, featured on clarinet, was born in Sweden. At the age of 12 he played accordion in a children’s musical group, and they became so popular that they were invited to play for the King and Queen of Sweden at the Stockholm Concert Hall. Egblad moved to Prince George in 1967. There he worked at a night club with the great singer Bill Kenny of the Original Ink Spots. He later played with the well-known country singer Gary Fjellgaard. After moving to Vernon in 1996, Egblad has played with many Okanagan groups including Mark Rose Swing Band, Pryme Time, Okanagan Swing, Easy Street, and others.

Shelby Wall has been playing guitar for most of his life from garage bands to professional groups. He began studying jazz with Fraser in the late 1980s and, in 1990 through 1992, performed with him in a guitar trio that included Les Copeland.  Subsequently, Fraser and Wall continued performing as a guitar duo for various engagements, and then in the mid-nineties they joined forces with John Lent to form Lent Fraser Wall. They have been performing together ever since to the absolute delight of local audiences.  For the past 15 years, Wall has attended a week-long jazz workshop at the Sorrento Centre, studying guitar with the likes of Bill Coon, Ron Peters, Mike Rudd, John Knowles, and many others.  "Probably the biggest influence over the last 30 years, though, comes from Neil Fraser,” says Wall.

Brian McMahon is a very active multi-instrumentalist in the Okanagan community, playing either trombone, saxophone, or bass and even backup vocals in many different bands, recordings, and musical projects.  McMahon is well-versed with jazz standards, as he has listened, studied, played, and taught jazz for the majority of his life. His first introduction to playing Gypsy swing was with Gregor Sneddon and Adam Henderson (a protégé of Fraser’s) in Zingano. Zingano recorded 3 CDs and was popular back in the late-nineties, performing at local dances, resorts, and most regularly at the Eclectic Med.  When asked to join Nomad, McMahon was quite thrilled. “My first instrument was guitar, so perhaps that explains my love of the ‘Hot Club’ sound,” he says. “I was totally hooked after hearing Stéphane Grappelli performing with Diz Disley in Vancouver.”

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