The stars aligned in 1991 when Jim Armstrong moved to Victoria from Vancouver at a time when that Tennessee music treasure, Joey Smith also made it his home. Toni Blodgett was looking to form a band of musicians who could also sing the complicated harmonies of such groups as New Orleans’ Boswell Sisters and the Mills Brothers. Drummer Don Leppard filled out the quartet which they named “CanUS” since it was composed of musicians from both sides of the border.
As unlikely as it may seem, the band was almost immediately successful in getting on the circuit of traditional and swing jazz festivals because of its unique take on classic jazz. They toured mostly in the U.S. but also in Mexico as well as in Canada, of course. Some in the U.S took them to:
Washington, D.C Kennedy Center, Millenium Stage
Wisconsin: Madison, LaCrosse
Colorado Jackson Hole, Evergreen (Denver)
Arizona Phoenix, Green Valley (Tucson)
Idaho Sun Valley
Montana Havre, Kalispell
California San Diego, Monterey, Palm Springs
Oregon Portland, Seaside,
Washington Seattle, Olympia, Ocean Shores, Long Beach, Port Angeles (Semiahmoo)
However, life sometimes intrudes and seven years ago, Jim Armstrong left the island to reside in White Rock – a long ferry ride away from Vancouver Island. Fortunately for CanUS, Mike Broadley was able to step into Jim’s shoes on trumpet and vocals and thus the band has continued to thrive and be part of the Sunday afternoon dixieland jazz sessions which was the impetus for Hermann Nieweler to create “Hermann’s Jazz Club” in Victoria some 36 years ago.
But on May 6th, 20th & June 17 Jim Armstrong will be back in Victoria with his compatriots, playing trombone along with Mike on trumpet and Al Pease on clarinet and tenor sax, the latest splendid addition to the CanUS lineup. The rhythm section is still Don Leppard, Joey Smith & Toni Blodgett.
Jim is featured on all 8 of the CanUS CD’s exhibiting a miraculous ability to play trumpet and trombone at the same time! He is hugely responsible for the success of the band from its earliest days.
He started his music career playing in a jazz band in Belfast, Ireland where he lived until emigrating to Canada, and he has fans everywhere. He has toured North America, France, and Great Britain playing trumpet with The Phoenix Jazzers and trombone with The Grand Dominion Jazz Band during his many years residing in Vancouver. He is featured in numerous “All Star” festival bands and has been on a huge number of trad jazz recordings. One of his “Grand Dominion” recordings made it on to the soundtrack of the movie “Pretty Woman” and that band has continued to flourish at jazz festivals and cruise ships performances that has taken them around the world and continues to this day.
It was during a move to Victoria in 1991 that he became a founding member of CanUS. It provided the perfect outlet for another of his talents: singing in any one of the many languages he speaks, including Canadaʼs other official language, French.
Some of the honours bestowed upon this prodigiously talented man are being named San Diego Jazz Festivalʼs GENTLEMAN OF JAZZ as well as Vancouver Classic Jazz Festival’s FRIEND OF JAZZ.
It should be a great reunion with all this experience and talent and the support of the rest of CanUS, some of the best dixieland and swing players in Victoria.