Take Five With Ken Avis

Ken Avis By

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Meet Ken Avis:

London, Paris, Geneva, Washington DC guitarist/vocalist Ken Avis never imagined he would live in these cities after growing up in a Northern English coal mining town close to Liverpool. After travelling in over 80 counties, across four continents, he is now based in Northern Virginia with his wife, the stunning French Canadian vocalist Lynn Véronneau. Together they are putting their world experiences to good effect in the eclectic, multi-national music of their band, Véronneau.

Meeting in Geneva, Ken and Lynn debuted together at a festival in the mountains of France, they continued to perform and record internationally as a duo before forming a group (called, simply, Véronneau ) in 2010, with Brazilian jazz guitarist David Rosenblatt and drummer Pete Walby. In their first year, the band played numerous shows and received nominations for three awards from the Washington Area Music Association (WAMA). They delighted regional audiences with their world wise jazz ranging from bossa nova to samba, swing and gypsy jazz, performed in three languages.

Avis performed throughout Europe, the US and Canada during his early career. In London, he performed at legendary venues such as the Mean Fiddler, Dingwalls and the 100 Club. In the Washington, DC area he played the Kennedy Center and Strathmore Music Center as well as Rams Head in the nearby port city of Annapolis.

The youngest of four children, Ken stepped onto the stage when his family escaped the declining coal-town economy with a move to Blackpool, England's Las Vegas...without the sunshine! The holiday town provided an opportunity for teenage Ken to earn pocket money performing in hotels and bars before forming a working band to tour the music venues of northern England.

He played with such luminaries and friends as Dave Ball of Soft Cell and Chris Lowe of the Pet Shop Boys in school bands before heading south to Sussex University and the London School of Economics. Ken's musical adventures continued with a variety of bands including a five-year stint as the lead vocalist in London's Otis Grand big band, a WC Handy Blues Award winning group featuring horns and the celebrated guitar of Otis Grand. Then, suffering a stroke of practicality he went on to pursue day jobs in international development. That work took him to Paris, then Geneva and, finally, to the World Bank in Washington, DC.

A late convert to jazz guitar, Ken's initial influences were blues and soul music following an inevitable brush with, and enduring affinity for The Beatles. His favorite jazz album, since high school days, is {Ella Fitzgerald}} and Joe Pass' Take Love Easy, but only in the last five years, since enjoying a handful of lessons with ace guitarist Steve Abshire, did he begin to unlock the mysteries of jazz guitar. Now, with his band mates in Véronneau, he his bringing his performance experience to jazz audiences as they explore the world of jazz with timeless guitar driven melodies collected from Brazil, Mexico, France, Great Britain and the USA.


Nylon-string guitar, vocals.

Teachers and/or influences? I started taking lessons at age 10 from a big band guitarist. Then I "defected" to play in a series of soul, funk and blues bands. More recently I had some jazz lessons with Steve Abshire. I also learn an awful lot from David Rosenblatt, the other guitarist in my band. He is steeped in jazz theory and keen on Brazilian jazz.

The first LP I bought was The Beatles' Rubber Soul. After introduction to soul from hearing the Jackson 5 doing "ABCâ" when I was 10, I started to listen to UK soul, from Van Morrison, and the Average White Band. Favorite album of all time is Ella Fitzgerald and Joe Pass' Take Love Easy. That guitar and voice approach provided the basis for the work I did with Lynn Véronneau in Switzerland and France. (Lynn and I are now married and performing and recording in a band named for her: Véronneau.).

Favorite guitarists: Snooks Eaglin, Joe Pass, Jeff Beck, Bill Frisell.

I knew I wanted to be a musician when... I started to play for tips in hotels and talent contests at the age of 12. Forty years later I realize I was more instinctively right about most things at the age of 12 than in the intervening years! Or maybe I'm just regressing.

Your sound and approach to music:

I'm 100% about the audience. Communication and engagement is much more important to me than playing the right notes as fast as possible. The song is more important than the solo. I'm strong on setting the groove, David's the ace soloist. No gig too big—no gig too small.

Your dream band:

I'm in it—Véronneau. In another life I'd like to have been in the Faces before Rod Stewarts pants got too tight; they were totally engaging live.

Road story: Your best or worst experience:


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