Connor Lum, back from the ships, starts Jazz at the Bolt

The saxophonist's chordless trio is the first set on Saturday; he tells us where he's at

Connor Lum, back from the ships, starts Jazz at the Bolt
Photo: Mackenzie Tran

Connor Lum is an alto saxophonist and CapU graduate of 2022 who breaks the ice at Jazz at the Bolt for 2023. Starting off the Saturday festivities with his 11:30am set of chordless trio, he is joined by Raph Agustin on bass and Karl DeJong on drums.

Connor, Raph, and Karl have never played before as a unit – or at least not before their rehearsal this week, Connor told me.

This weekend will feature two other sax-bass-drums chordless trios: Malleus Trio (at Jazz at the Bolt), and Chad Makela's trio with James Meger & Bernie Arai (at 2nd Floor Gastown). I asked if it's fair to characterize Connor as further straight-ahead than either of those trios; he said yes:

"Kenny Garrett's probably going to be the biggest [inspiration]. I'm pretty sure I'm going to be the only alto chordless trio, so I gotta do some Kenny Garrett-inspired pieces. I'll be doing some tunes from Joe Henderson and Ted Nash, some of my favourites, a lot of tunes inspired by some of my favourite chordless recordings."

So, how did Connor, Raph, and Karl come together? It could have happened last summer, but it didn't line up:

"We actually had an opportunity to play one of [Tim Reinert's] After Dark nights at Frankie's, and unfortunately I was heading out on the ships. So he said he'd put it on the backburner, and when something comes up, he'd shoot me the opportunity, so it just worked out that way. It was the first time he was re-launching [After Dark, after the first run of shows]."

Yes, the saxophonist from Squamish went to play on cruise ships after his graduation from Cap in 2022. "I was working for Royal Caribbean for almost 8 months, and I just got back," he said – and by just, he means mere days ago.

Connor told me more about his experience working on ships:

"I had an awesome time. It was really cool to travel, especially after graduating. It was nice to make some money for that. I got to spend two months in Europe, sailing out of Barcelona, and then I was in the Caribbean for the remainder of the time."

"There's a lot of opportunity to practice and jam with some of the other musicians, from around the world. I definitely got some time to get off the ship and check out some different ports."

What was his favourite place to stop?

"I would definitely have to say Italy. Italy was really cool. I'd never been to Europe, it was my first time there. Rome was one of my favourite places to check out. We went to La Spezia, Civitavecchia, and Naples. Lots of pizza, too much pizza."

What will Connor get up to after playing Jazz at the Bolt?

"I'm excited to be out of school now and have a lot more time to be playing. I'm considering maybe going back to school and continuing my education, possibly a Master's degree over east or down in the States. That'd probably be the first option. And the second option would be travel. I'd really like to live somewhere else, especially after working on the ships I've got a door open in that sense, in terms of something else I'd like to do."

As most of those plans don't involve staying put for too long, the lesson is to not take Connor for granted; hear him while he's in town, for however long that is.

Correction: I wrote that Chad Makela was playing at Jazz at the Bolt, but I misread the gig list. His trio plays at 2nd Floor Gastown Sunday, Feb. 5. I regret the error.

The Kenny Garrett recording that Connor brought back to my attention is Triology, recorded in 1995 featuring Garrett on alto with either Charnett Moffett or Kiyoshi Kitagawa on bass, plus Brian Blade on drums: