The family band 3 Generations of Jazz is making waves in the Vancouver scene for playing traditional jazz music. Tom Arntzen represents the middle generation, but he says that whole family’s love of all things arts stems directly from his parents, especially his father, Lloyd, who still plays in the band at age 91.
“Both my dad and mother, they were very artistic people,” Tom Arntzen says. “They showed us virtually all crafts and arts that are possible to do, and then music lessons for whoever wanted it. I originally wanted to be a drummer, and Lloyd said, ‘That’s fine, got a drum kit right here in the living room.’”
Lloyd is respected as one of Vancouver’s leading jazz musicians, having been inducted into the B.C. Entertainment Hall of Fame for a lifelong dedication to music. Luckily, thanks to his inspirational attitude, it appears as though his family will be continuing his legacy for a very long time.
In addition to Lloyd and Tom, the band officially includes Leif Arntzen (another of Lloyd's sons), Leif's son Miles, and Tom’s son Evan, but if any other family members want to play, they’re always welcome to join in.
“It’s basically whoever’s around,” said Tom Arntzen. “People come and go and you can’t keep track.”
Arntzen named two of his sisters, another brother, another son, and his wife as musicians who have joined in under the 3 Generations of Jazz name at least once.
Arntzen family members aren't the only ones who've been inspired by Lloyd’s love for the arts, either. Tom Arntzen says he frequently meets people who were influenced by his father’s dedication to music education. Lloyd worked for years as a music teacher, but he’s most widely known for his 1960s CBC radio program Sing Out With Me, aimed at inspiring a love of music in children.
3 Generations of Jazz typically sticks to vintage jazz sounds from the 1920s and early 1930s. Despite the style being nearly 100 years old, Arntzen believes that the music is timeless.
“Most people have an experience with jazz as something that you listen to on a very cerebral level. But this music makes you want to move. It’s dancing music,” says Arntzen.
With the decade shifting over and online excitement anticipating a movement bringing back the vintage music, clothing, and parties of the Roaring '20s next year, Arntzen anticipates perhaps even more attention to be brought to his band.
“The Roaring '20s is a very popular time, because it was seen as a really happy time in the world. It was a really creative, energized time. One hundred years later, I can see that it’s just going to keep on going,” Arntzen says.
The band recently got an opportunity to perform at the Vancouver International Jazz Festival, which Artnzen says was “a real treat”—partly because of the excitement of the stage, but mostly because it was a chance for the family to reunite.
“It’s rare that I get to perform with my sons anymore, because they both live in New York City,” he says. His sons Evan and Arnt have become successful jazz musicians in their own right, landing their own projects in the United States.
“Lloyd got a gig here in West Vancouver and then Evan said, ‘Well, if we’re going to do that, we’d better book something else,’” Arntzen says, explaining how Evan then reached out to the organizers at Jazz Fest.
You might think that with a family band there might be at least the slightest bit of dysfunction, or even some friendly competition in a genre that’s heavy on soloing. Arntzen says that’s not so.
“We all love to play and do as much as we can,” he says. “We try to treat each other just the way we would treat any other professional. Except that we’re all related.”