Local musician on cruise control

Musician gets his band ready for the cruise ship season

A.J. (Toné) Telfair and his kit. The local drummer and band leader is ready to take his group on the high seas this summer.

A.J. (Toné) Telfair and his kit. The local drummer and band leader is ready to take his group on the high seas this summer.

A.J. Telfair will know pretty soon if he and his band will be on the high seas — but getting to this point was not a simple cruise.

Since his first experience performing with a band on a Princess cruise ship last year, Telfair — known to friends as Toné — has had to scramble to find new musicians that are available to do it again this summer.

The Qualicum Bay resident played with the local band Sons of Gun for years. He and bandmate Mike Jarvis still perform together, but now as either Mike Jarvis and Friends or with Telfair’s new group, Musical Perfection.

The latter band is bound for the high seas — this summer’s Alaska route — after Telfair drew talent from B.C. and across Canada.

“I’ve got Mike Jarvis, he’s still good to go,” said Telfair. “and Julius Clegg, a young guitar player from the jazz program at Vancouver Island University. He came highly recommended.”

Keyboard player Jack Brygidyr was slated to go, but another commitment came up, forcing Telfair to search far and wide for a replacement.

He found Kitchener, Ontario’s Spencer Teeter, a talented keyboard and guitar player via the Internet.

“He’ll be coming out here the second week of June. He’s going to be a welcome addition to the group.”

It wasn’t easy, finding all of the right musicians, Telfair explained. They had to be experienced, talented, willing to spend a few months playing five hours a day on board cruise ships, meet the high standards and rules of the cruise line — and try to live up to the name, Musical Perfection.

“Sure, it’s pressure, laughed Telfair. “We have 40 songs on our playlist now and we have to get that up to 60 or 70. We’ll need to add three or four new songs each night to keep it fresh.”

The band plays pop, reggae, R&B and light rock — a change from last year when Telfair was playing jazz on cruises in Europe and the Carribean.

That was his start on the ships, he said, thanks to his friend and Juno award winning bass player Rick Kilburn from Vancouver. Kilburn invited Telfair to play drums when his band ran into difficulty.

“I was able to establish a rapport and trust with Princess Cruise Lines,” Telfair said of his experience in 2010. “So, I was able to put together my own group this year.”

With the musicians ready to go and rehearsing already, Telfair has sent a video to his agent in Vancouver and now he’s waiting for the final word.

It’s looking good, he said. And when the approval comes, the real work starts.

That includes, he explained, the health exams and personal preparations for being on a ship for a few months.

Telfair, who has lived in the central-Island for eight years, said playing the cruise ships is a nice change from the grind of the touring he used to do.

Plus, the money is  a whole lot better, he added. Not to mention the perks.

“You play 45 minute sets by the pool, or at night in one of the ship’s clubs. After five hours of work, there’s time to have fun — plus you eat free, your laundry is free and you get your room cleaned for free.”

Not a bad gig at all — as long as the band follows the strict rules on behaviour, which Telfair said is going to be no problem.

Telfair said he’s looking forward to the experience, adding locals can hear the band — as Mike Jarvis and Friends — during the street dance at the big annual Father’s Day car show in Qualicum Beach on Saturday, June 18.

 

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