The Bassment suits up for a huge season of music

When September rolls around and everyone heads back to school, Saskatoon Jazz Society artistic director Don Griffith heads back to The Bassment.

The newest season of concerts at the jazz club has just been announced, and it’s slated to be bigger than prior seasons. Griffith said 80 ticketed shows are scheduled between September and February, and the usual slate is closer to 60 or 65.

He spoke with the StarPhoenix before the start of the season to talk about what Saskatoon music lovers can expect this year at The Bassment.

Q:Like you said, this season is bigger than years past. How would you describe the season, in comparison to others?

A: It’s scary. It’s a lot. It’s easy to program it; it’s harder to sell it. I’m slightly nervous about it — maybe nervous is a better word — I’m nervous about it, but I’m also very excited about it. I look at it and I go, “Wow, this is incredible, it’s very strong … there’s a lot of great music here.”

Q:Is there anybody you lined up this year that you think “Wow, I can’t believe we were able to get them?”

A: Well, Martin Simpson is one of the best guitar players in the world … he’s a revered acoustic guitar player … he’ll be coming the 10th of October. To have him come — he lives in England, so to have him in North America and to come to Saskatoon is a big deal, I think. And Samantha Martin and Delta Sugar — this is another great R&B band from Toronto. A lot of these larger groups — this is a seven-piece band from Toronto, imagine putting a seven-piece band on the road — to have them come out of Toronto and play in a little prairie town is a big deal … pretty impressed with that one.

Samantha Martin and Delta Sugar, the band from Toronto, is scheduled to play at The Bassment in Saskatoon on Feb. 12, 2020.

Supplied / Photo courtesy of Don /


Q:Around 80 shows on the docket — do you try to go to every show?

A: I’m probably the biggest music fan I know. I’m totally into the music at The Bassment, so I am there most of the time … I’m there because I should be there, but I’m also there because I want to be there.

Q:So what are some of the big shows you’re looking forward to hearing in particular?

A: Well we’ve got what NOW Magazine in Toronto calls the “best band in Toronto” playing, and that’s the Lemon Bucket Orkestra … that’s like an 11-piece band. They’re sort of described as a Balkan-Klezmer-punk-funk party band. Like, it’s crazy. And if you see their videos, you’ll realize “Oh, this is going to be a party.” That’s one of the bigger groups … one of the biggest jazz shows we have is in January when we’re presenting Adrian Farrugia and Joel Frahm. Adrian is a piano player from Toronto, and Joel Frahm is perhaps one of the top five tenor saxophone players in the world right now … I’m looking forward to that.

Q:It looks like a good variety of music on the stage this year.

A: You know The Bassment is not just jazz — we’ve got lots of roots music, we’ve got Kari Alba, who’s sort of the flamenco person in town, she’s bringing her new show in … Jimmy Rankin’s coming back; he always sells out. And actually, Lisa Brokop is coming. She’s one of Canada’s greatest country singers, so she’s coming back. That’ll be fantastic.

Q: If somebody asked you “Why should I go to The Bassment for a show?” what would you say to them?

A: If you like music, you can’t possibly not go. Some people have this idea that it’s just a jazz club, but you know it’s not just a jazz club, it’s a live music club … 2,500 people pay $25 to be a member of this club, and they keep on doing it. We’ve had that number for years. So there must be some reason that people buy into this.

The Bassment’s full season schedule can be found on its website.

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