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Ragged Ass Swing Band unites 13 Yellowknife musicians

Carmen Braden - Hannah Eden
Yellowknife composer and performer Carmen Braden in an undated publicity shot. Photo: Hannah Eden

A new band forming in Yellowknife unites wind and brass players alongside a rhythm section and vocalist. The 13-piece group will play its first show next month.

The Ragged Ass Swing Band, led by Al Jones, will make its debut at the Top Knight on February 18 at 7:30pm. The retired music teacher has spent the past year getting the band together.

Jones moved to Yellowknife from Alberta a year ago. He says the first thing he did was contact local musician Bill Gilday, who gave him suggestions for prospective swing band members.

A little over a year later, the band now consists of three saxophones, three trumpets, one trombone, two keyboard players, a guitarist, a bass player, a drummer and a vocalist.



Technically, Jones says, the band is short a few members – a typical swing band would consist of five saxophones, four trumpets and four trombones. He’s impressed by the turnout nonetheless.

“I’m actually surprised at how many musicians are up in the Northwest Territories,” he told Cabin Radio.

“The large majority are drummers or guitar players or bass players, but I was surprised at how many wind players I’ve been able to find, and they just keep coming. I’ve been very appreciative of the openness up here.”

Yellowknife musician and composer Carmen Braden shares the role of piano player with Andrew Jossa and tackles the drums in a couple songs.



With past experience in swing bands, Braden says starting one in Yellowknife will bring “pure fun” to the city’s music scene.

“I played in a swing band when I was in university and in a jazz band under Bill Gilday when I was in high school, as well as a swing band in Yellowknife a few years ago,” she said.

“The music is so fun, and it’s like I’m in a big family of people that just love playing together.”

Swing music is a form of jazz that gets people up and dancing, Braden said, describing it as music that “opens your ears and makes you responsible for yourself in a different way as a musician.”

“It will give a real sense of energy and fun to Yellowknifers,” she said, “a real release of energy that allows you to dance by yourself, dance with somebody else, sit and tap your foot, whatever you feel.

“It’s refreshing because it’s different. When I play classical music, no one gets up and dances. But with this, I guarantee people will be up on their feet and dancing.”

The band’s youngest member is high school student Alex Ketchum, who appears in the rhythm section.

“Alex wants to go on to study jazz in university, and it’s really cool that Al has opened this door for him – and so many other players who maybe haven’t played in a while or have been looking,” said Braden.

“It’s going to be a really fun night for people to get out, hear some fantastic music, and have fun dancing with their friends.”

More information and tickets can be found on Music NWT’s website.