Canadian-born clarinetist, saxophonist, vocalist and educator Evan Arntzen is both a powerful soloist and a keenly attuned musical collaborator with ears for days. He has developed a uniquely expressive sound as an improviser on his instruments that Grammy Award-Winning writer Ricky Riccardi calls “the very definition of timeless.”
Evan was born and raised in East Vancouver, Canada, about as far away from New Orleans as one can be in North America, and yet it is the music of the Crescent City that sparked Evan’s musical journey. A third generation musician, Evan began learning New-Orleans-style clarinet from his grandfather, Lloyd Arntzen, at the age of seven. The first melodies he learned to play were blues, all from great Black American composers, such as Louis Armstrong, Sidney Bechet, Duke Ellington and Jelly Roll Morton.
Evan discovered the tenor saxophone at thirteen and rapidly expanded his musical vocabulary, studying jazz masters throughout the history of the music and discovering contemporary sounds. He graduated from the jazz program at Capilano University in Vancouver with a degree in saxophone performance, having spent several years studying with locally renowned saxophone teacher, Stan Karp.
He moved to New York City in 2014 and within a few months was performing constantly at some of NYC’s best venues, such as Jazz at Lincoln Center, Cafe Bohemia, Birdland, Town Hall, Mezzrow, Smalls, and Symphony Space, in addition to some of the best stages around the world, such as the Newport, Monterey and Montreal Jazz Festivals. He held the lead saxophone chair in Grammy Award-Winning Vince Giordano’s Nighthawks from 2017-2021, and also was a regular member of Terry Waldo’s Gotham City Band and David Ostwald’s Louis Armstrong Eternity Band. In 2017, Evan musically directed Jazz at Lincoln Center’s “Jazz for Young People” program on Louis Armstrong in the Rose Theater.
Currently, Evan performs regularly with Catherine Russell, Jon-Erik Kellso and The EarRegulars and his longtime friend and collaborator, Bria Skonberg, in addition to his own groups. Evan is featured on notable recordings by Bria Skonberg (Sony Masterworks), Kat Edmonson, Loudon Wainwright III, and the award-winning soundtracks for HBO’s Boardwalk Empire and Bessie. He has also released three critically-acclaimed albums as a leader: Evan Arntzen Meets La Section Rythmique (2017), Jazz Crush (2019), and 2021’s Countermelody (Dot Time Records), which was produced by Scout Opatut (4/4 Creative).
Evan has been fortunate to perform and record with a long list of US, Canadian and International Artists, including: Scott Robinson, Wycliffe Gordon, Jason Marsalis, Ken Peplowski, Houston Person, Evan Christopher, Ingrid Jensen, the late Eddy Davis, Harry Allen, Corcoran Holt, Jerome Jennings, Warren Vaché, the late Ross Taggart, PJ Perry, Terry Clarke, Brad Turner, Dave Robbins, his parents (Tom and Georgina Arntzen), and Elmo. He performed in a very shiny gold lamé blazer at the 2010 Paralympic Opening Ceremonies for a live audience of 50,000 people and broadcast across the globe. He wore nothing remarkable when he performed in Michael Bublé’s 2012 and 2013 Christmas Specials.