Not Drew Tofin. For the 22-year-old Saskatoon musician and student at the Edwards School of Business, thrashing both his guitar and a few cost-benefit analysis spreadsheets is all in a day’s work.
And yet recently, after trading in headbanging for banging out ROI calculations, Tofin has found himself slipping comfortably into the role of jazz crooner. Tofin is so keen on jazz that after a few successful gigs with a four or five piece band, he’s expanded his jazz crew into a full-on big band.
Tofin and his big band will be hitting the stage at Louis’ Pub on the U of S campus this Friday, November 15. We caught up with the jazz vocalist via email to shed some light on how all this has come to be.
Since getting his start on the guitar at age 13, Tofin’s been actively involved in the music scene. He played in a metal band, Suffer The Children, until a few years ago.
“Eventually,” said Tofin, “I started to really fall in love with jazz standards and wanted to do something completely different than metal.”
Inspired by the likes of Michael Bublé and Matt Dusk, Tofin started to assemble his own jazz band piece by piece. This week’s show at Louis’ is the first time he’ll be playing with a full big band.
“All the artists I look up to in this industry have had big bands,” said Tofin. “To me there is so much you can do, and it brings so much more energy to the show. While I love playing as a four or five piece [group], this is going to be something new and I’m very excited about it.”
His band consists of, in his words, “some of the best [musicians] you will see within the province, if not the country.”
“For the size of the city Saskatoon is, there are a lot of phenomenal musicians and world class acts. It is amazing the amount of talent this city puts out…. I believe when we play live people can really see the passion put into our performance … [especially] by the way that we make many classics and modern day songs our own instead of just playing standards.”
Tofin challenges himself as a vocalist by exploring tunes from an eclectic range of artists, styles, and even languages. Expect to hear standards as well as a few tunes that you won’t usually find on a big band’s setlist for Friday’s show, all spun by Tofin and his band to suit the singer’s hip, modern style. They’ll be covering artists from Bublé to Fleetwood Mac to the Zac Brown Band.
By branching out beyond the essential jazz standards you’d expect to hear at these kind of shows, Tofin aims to rope in an wider audience beyond those who would typically be interested in a big band performance. And at only 22 years old, backed up by a band consisting of some of Saskatoon’s finest young musicians, he’s just the man for the job.
Tofin’s inaugural outing with his big band is the first step on path that will include a CD release in the new year (which has been mostly recorded already), and the potential for many more gigs and, at some point down the line, a cross-country tour.