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Friends team up again at Kelowna gig

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Devin Roth, above, will be joined by his friend, Russ Macklem, when they perform at the Minstrel Cafe on Monday.
The holiday season is a time to spend with friends you may not see all year, catching up on things, and for Kelowna-raised jazz musicians Russ Macklem and Devin Roth, that's the case, too.
The only difference is the two will carry on their conversation on stage with their instruments when they play a rare show together at the Minstrel Cafe on Monday.
"Russ and I go back and I feel there's some sort of musical connection there," said the 27-year-old Roth. "And whenever we're in town, we try to get a gig together."
Trumpet player Macklem, 28, and pianist Roth both grew up in Kelowna and got their musical starts in the Kelowna Secondary School band program. They later pursued their training at the same post-secondary institutions.
They've played together quite a bit before, but for the past several years Macklem has lived in Toronto, where he plays, teaches and composes. Roth has called Los Angeles home to be close to the film score and composition work he's been doing.
While the pair has tried to play a show together here over the holidays for the past several years, their schedules haven't always allowed it. Last year, for example, Macklem played the Minstrel in early January, but without Roth, so this time round marks the first time they'll have shared a stage for a few years.
Their history goes back further than that, though
As Macklem related, it was during the summer before he entered Grade 12 the two first played music together and found a bond in jazz in particular.
"I knew him a little bit because we lived fairly close to each other," said Macklem. "We attended a jazz camp together, but I was looking for a piano player for our group for the next year for little gigs here and there around Kelowna.
"We were losing a pianist to graduation so we actually auditioned him … and he played great, so he was in the group."
While they had to move away to be in bigger centres where career possibilities are more numerous than here in the Okanagan, each also credit the start they got here, and the KSS music program in particular, with starting them off on the right foot.
"It was fabulous," said Roth. "There's no way we'd be where we are today (without it). We had Hugh Parsons and Michael Perkins as teachers."
But as much credit as they give to Perkins, Parsons and the secondary school program, both musicians are also quick to point out other locals who came before them, such as jazz flutist/saxophonist Anna Webber and new music bassist Garth Stevenson, as providing inspiration to help them achieve their goals.
Macklem pointed to a show he saw while a student at KLO School at the then-new Kelowna Art Gallery building on Water Street as an important turning point for him.
"It was New Year's Eve, 1999, a pivotal experience for me," he said. "There was a combo from KSS playing there … and they were playing at such a high level."
Soon after, Macklem transferred to KSS and got serious about making music, and jazz in particular.
Macklem graduated from KSS in 2003 and was accepted into the music program at McGill University in Montreal. With a little persuasion, Roth also applied and was accepted at McGill, where the pair had a chance to renew their musical partnership.
Following McGill, Macklem enrolled at the prestigious New England Conservatory in Boston to further his studies. After his first year, back in Kelowna over the summer, he ran into Roth again The two practised and played together, Macklem encouraging Roth to enroll in the same school.
"I think I might have helped put the idea in his head," he said. "And I was sharing some of the new concepts I'd been learning at school and I think that helped him to see it was a good idea to go there."
Although they don't get much chance to play together, it doesn't present a problem. With their history together, as well as adding Kelowna-based veteran Bernie Addington on bass, they will be able to overcome any hurdle easily. They also hope to play some of their own compositions, perhaps even new ones, along with some favourite standards
"Hopefully, we can get a rehearsal," Macklem joked. "We'll need one if we're playing original stuff. I'm not sure what he's going to bring to the table … but I'll probably write some new tunes this week.
"The great thing about jazz is you can go anywhere and there's a similar repertoire of songs and a similar language. You can count off a tune and it just happens."
Whatever they choose to play, this rare appearance of the Macklem/Roth Trio will give local jazz fans a chance to see two of the best players to come out of Kelowna in recent years. It'll also give Macklem and Roth a chance to get reacquainted musically before they split off again to their busy careers - and that's something they're definitely looking forward to.
"I haven't actually had a chance to see him for a few years," said Macklem. "But it'll be great to have the chance to play together again."

QUICKFACTS
Who: The Macklem/Roth Trio, with guest bassist Bernie Addington in concert
Where: The Minstrel Cafe,
4638 Lakeshore Rd., Kelowna
When: Monday, Dec. 30 at 8 p.m.
Tickets: Entertainment charge, $5.
More info: Minstrelcafe.com or call
250-754-2301

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