Nick La Riviere emerged as a jazz purist following music studies at Capilano College. Back then, he listened only to jazz. He wrote only jazz compositions. He transcribed only jazz solos.
Now the 31-year-old Victoria trombonist has expanded his musical horizons. While his debut 2009 album Too Much to Do was a jazz disc, La Riviere’s sophomore effort, Another Time Around, covers the waterfront. His self-penned songs (which he’ll debut at two CD-release shows this weekend) embrace gospel, ska, pop, rock, Afro-pop, funk and more.
La Riviere counts Ben Folds, Sam Cooke and Paul Simon among his influences. “I don’t want to be locked into any one genre,” he said. “I’d rather think of myself as just a musician than strictly a jazz musician.”
Necessity was the mother of musical diversification. La Riviere began broadening his scope early in his career, when a three-year cruise-ship gig demanded competency in all genres. Later, to survive as a full-time musician in Victoria, he worked even harder to become a jack-of-all-styles.
These days, as well as leading a band under his own name, La Riviere plays with The Hifi (New Orleans-style funk), Locarno (Latin), Southern Urge (rock), and The Riverside (classic rock with members of The Grapes of Wrath and 54.40). There’s even occasional gigs with a klezmer band.
Unlike the all-instrumental Too Much to Do disc, La Riviere sings on the new album. That started a few years back, when his jazz combo started covering songs by Dr. John and Jamiroquai. La Riviere, who’d sung with the Vancouver Bach Choir as a kid, began stepping out as a vocalist.
As if to further demonstrate his wide range of skills, this week the trombonist pulled out a conch shell at a newspaper shoot. La Riviere started playing conches (they produce a horn-like sound) a decade ago. He even has a special, foam-lined case for his shells so they don’t get damaged in transit.
La Riviere’s versatility is represented on the lenticular cover of Another Time Around (the multi-pose effect is similar to the album art on the Rolling Stones’ Their Satanic Majesties Request). It shows La Riviere playing the trombone, the conch and singing.
He has another trick up his sleeve as well: He plays bass on several tracks.
Wait, there’s more. For the demo version of his home-recorded disc, La Riviere played all the instruments except for the drums: trombone, bass, guitar and piano. Some of these were guide tracks, ultimately replaced by contributions from such musicians as Michael Kaeshammer, Alpha Yaya Diallo and Aidan Miller. The album was then mixed and mastered by Joby Baker.
La Riviere admits his instrumental prowess can be a mixed bag. For instance, while he’s a solid bassist (he’s played bass with The Paperboys) his guitar skills are primitive. “I’m a horrible guitar player, so in the few cases where there was guitar, I recorded it one string at a time for the demo, even the chords.”
La Riviere recorded bed tracks at his basement apartment using Apple Logic software. For guest contributions, he packed up his recording gear and visited each musician. The Guinean-born guitarist Alpha Yaya Diallo, who lives in Vancouver, sent his offering via computer.
There’s just one joint song-writing credit on Another Time Around. The lyrics for Woohoo, an exuberant pop-rock ditty, were co-written by Geoffrey Kelly from Spirit of the West.
The collaboration happened when La Riviere and Kelly were touring with The Paperboys. They were tasked with transporting the band’s van from England to Amsterdam. On the ferry, the pair dreamed up the words to Woohoo.
At Hermann’s Jazz Club, La Riviere will be joined by keyboardist Miller, guitarist Kelly Fawcett, drummer Damian Graham and bassist Sean Drabitt as well as guest vocalists.
He may even pull out those conch shells — but only for one tune. “You can only do so much with them.”
What: Nick La Riviere
Where: Hermann’s Jazz Club
When: Tonight, Saturday 8 p.m.
Tickets: $20, $15 at door or reserve at firstname.lastname@example.org