Calgary institution the Prime Time Big Band keep the music alive with Live at the Ironwood album release

Sometimes between-song banter does what it’s intended to do for musicians.

Usually, though, that’s merely to endear you to the audience by showing them you actually know what city you’re in and you get brief, fleeting roar of approval in response.

But sometimes, well, sometimes it’s sort of the opposite and you get something much more valuable.

Calgary jazz musician and Prime Time Big Band leader Dave Jones recalls a concert he and his fellow players were performing one Saturday at the Ironwood — home to their biweekly ritual for local music lovers, the Big Band Brunch.

During the show, Jones made an offhanded remark that led to a response that led to something greater.

“I don’t know what I was thinking but I was talking onstage about, ‘We should do another CD, it’s been like 10 years,” the artist says.

“And a woman came up to me (after) and gave me a cheque written to ‘Dave Jones’ for $5,000 and she said, ‘Would this help?’ ”

He laughs. “I said, ‘Yes.’

“And then two weeks later I got another cheque for 1,000 bucks and two weeks later I get another $5,000 cheque and in three minutes I had $18,000 in the bank and I thought, ‘Oh, gosh, I guess it’s probably time to unpack a producer and get this ball rolling.”

Now, two years later, that outpouring of support and love from their fans — along with another 25 per cent or so coming from successful grant applications — has led to the release of their second album and first live effort, the delightful Live at the Ironwood.

It is what it says it is.

An all-pro, vibrant, crackling and truly engaging album that was recorded last November over a three-night stand at the Inglewood club, which they’ve made their base for the past 15 years.

Jones says doing it that way was more of a “challenge” to the 20-member big band than their last outing …For Our Friends, which was laid down in the studio in Banff.

“And the musicians really rose to the occasion — they played so great,” he says.

After a few tweaks and some production work, including by Kodi Hutchinson, the album is set for release on Hutchinson’s Chronograph Records label.

They’ll launch it with what’s sure to be a sold-out show on the afternoon of Saturday, Oct. 7, where they’ll perform all of the numbers off of the CD.

And of the material, the 12 tracks that appear on Live, Jones says the Prime Timers were hoping to spotlight material that had never been recorded and was entirely Canadian-based — either the arrangements themselves, or by composers from across the nation — including works from Edmonton’s Allan Gilliland and West Coaster Fred Stride.

Gilliland’s four-part, 25-minute The Alberta Suite was composed and arranged specifically for the strengths of the crew of the city’s best players.

It will no doubt become a staple of the band during their brunches — well, as much as anything really can.

As Jones notes, he’s acquired the rights to around 5,000 compositions over the years in order to keep Prime Time shows “fresh and new and different,” to keep people returning, to keep the music alive.

“Big band music has been around for many, many, many, many years and we’d just hate to see it die and dwindle away,” he says.

“When I started the band in 1994 I just wanted to keep it alive.”

And, what started out as that, as merely a way to get a group of players together for rehearsal purposes has grown into something that is truly Calgary, deeply entrenched in the cultural landscape, something that those visiting this city make a point of — or definitely should make a point of — seeking out.

That includes other musicians, with Jones pointing to players that have sat in with them over the years, including P.J. Perry, Tommy Banks and Jens Lindemann — world-class artists the band has brought in as guests, but have always left eager to return.

It’s why they are a local institution, second only to the CPO, Jones believes, as the longest running “professional musical large ensemble in the city.”

“It’s worked out so successfully,” he says, noting that most of their shows every second Saturday during their seasons at the Ironwood are sold out.

“There is a wonderful fanbase for us and they love the big band music … That’s what it’s all about.”

The Prime Time Big Band release their new CD Live at the Ironwood Saturday, Oct. 7 at the Ironwood Stage and Grill. Doors open at noon, the band performs from 2-4 p.m. For reservations call 403-269-5581.