SOUTH VAN BIG BAND is a big band jazz orchestra based in Vancouver, BC, Canada. The band’s musical repertoire explores a variety of different musical styles in blues, latin jazz, rock, funk, bebop, fusion and contemporary music, all arranged in modern big band orchestration. With 13+ horns, a full rhythm section and vocalist, SVBB impresses with the dynamic power of a big band through arranged music of well-known artists such as the Beatles, Santana, Steely Dan, Radiohead and Pat Metheny, as well as the music of the great big bands such as Count Basie, Dizzy Gillespie, Stan Kenton, Buddy Rich and countless others. The band also enjoys performing new modern compositions and arrangements by Dr. Greg Johnson, a saxophonist/composer/clinician based in the San Francisco Bay Area and current Director of Jazz Studies at Marin School of the Arts. In recent years, the band has started exploring and performing the music of modern Canadian composers. SVBB performs throughout the year at public venues around the Metro Vancouver area, regularly bringing the sounds of a modern jazz orchestra to the stages of Hood 29 (formerly Cottage Bistro), Pat’s Pub & Brewhouse, the Fairview Pub, Tsawwassen Legion 289, Kitsilano Showboat, and the WestCoast Big Band Festival. The band has also performed in past at the Music in the Park series at Haywood Bandstand in Alexandra Park, Lonsdale Quay Summerfest, the International Summer Night Market, and Point Grey Fiesta.
SOUTH VAN BIG BAND was formed by Alex Viel, a community trombonist working by day as an engineer and project manager in Vancouver’s high-tech industry. Alex always enjoyed playing the music of the classic swing big bands but was also interested in performing contemporary big band compositions that crossed into other genres of music in blues, latin jazz, funk, afro-cuban, rock and other contemporary styles. In the summer of 2010, Alex contemplated forming his own big band to take on this type of music. The music would be somewhat difficult, but it would be a band where that type of music was enjoyed being played and performed. Alex would also seek new players he had never met, to give others the opportunity to play and expand the big band community.
After getting the word out about a new jazz big band, Alex and six interested musicians came together in November 2010 for a first read through. Alex had chosen repertoire across the spectrum: hard-driving blues by the Les Hooper Big Band, contemporary fusion by Pat Metheny, bebop by Wayne Shorter, a funky Jaco Pastorius big band version of The Chicken, groovin’ Steely Dan tunes, as well as the modern swing of Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band and the great Count Basie, just to name a few. Alex’s selections always leaned more towards more melodic rather than avant-garde, aiming to bring out the soul of the music through a modern big band sound. With the enthusiasm built from the first rehearsal, word further spread and within a few months the band had filled seats to become a 17-piece jazz orchestra.
SOUTH VAN BIG BAND's first public performance was on March 26, 2011, at the 50-seat Cottage Bistro (now known as Hood 29) restaurant on Main Street in Vancouver, sharing the night with the Bradley-McGillivray Band in alternating sets of modern big band jazz with their incredible blues for four hours of non-stop music. Good times and fantastic music all around. The band would return many more times over the years.
While he never intended to lead the band himself in the long run, Alex found himself still standing in front of the band more than many years later as its Artistic Director and Band Manager. In July 2018, Alex directed his last gig with the band before relocating to Silicon Valley for a new job.
Gordon Deyell stepped up and led the group from Alex's departure until September 2022. As the director and manager, Gord did an incredible job: the band survived and thrived.
And now the beat goes on with the SOUTH VAN BIG BAND under the new direction of Erik Hougaard, stepping out from the band's very own trombone section.
The band continues to perform numerous public concerts throughout the Metro Vancouver area.
Follow the band's adventures on Instagram and Facebook to keep up with SVBB!