While growing up in Colwood, Jenny Ing had her sights set on becoming a professional musician.
“I started piano lessons when I was four years old … That was the dream,” she said.
A little later in life, Ing found herself at Dunsmuir middle school, playing tuba for her middle school band career before attending the University of Victoria for a music education degree with a saxophone in hand.
But three years ago she decided to take a chance on her dreams and headed off to live in Los Angeles. “It’s just so much bigger than Victoria … There are more people in California than all of Canada,” she said, while walking down Sunset Boulevard on the fourth of July. “It was an adjustment, but it was the dream.”
Ing lives with her husband, Chris Wabich, in the Echo Park area, which Ing said is close to downtown L.A. but still has a great vibe. “It’s really nice to have a much more homey atmosphere,” she said.
The couple met at Alix Goolden Hall in 2011 when Wabich was playing drums with Sketchy Black Dog. At the time she was still based out of Victoria and he in L.A.
“He was not my husband or my boyfriend when I moved down here,” Ing said. But Wabich helped connect her with the right people. “Breaking into the scene is the toughest thing to do,” she added.
One of her first big breaks came in the form of an opening act for a stand-up comedian in a Saturday Night Live style format. “It was a great gig and we got to tour around the U.S.,” she said.
While living in L.A. has been an adjustment, touring different states was also an eye-opener for the smalltown girl. “It was very interesting to go to different parts of the same continent that are very different.” But, she admitted, “I love being from Victoria.”
During her time in the Sunshine State, Ing has played as a backing musician or in her own band and worked with a number of big names in the industry, including Brian Johnson of AC/DC, John Oates from Hall and Oates and Jason Paige, who is a “ghost singer” for a number of hard rock and metal bands but is best known for singing the Pokemon theme song.
Ing and Wabich now co-direct a jazz quintet called Thelonious Monkey. The group was originally a duo, something Ing said was much more challenging than she expected. “In the last year we decided to make the band bigger … The cool thing about that is we got to bring in strings.”
Now the group is led by Wabich (drums, percussion and steel drum) and Ing (keyboards, saxophones, vocals), with Lauren Baba (violin), Irina Chirkova (cello) and bass players Lyman Medeiros, Jerry Watts and Ric Fierabracci, who rotate in the role.
While Ing spent Canada Day on her own, celebrating in a little poutine shop she found in L.A., she’ll have more reasons to celebrate at the end of the month as the group is playing their first Canadian tour to promote the release of Thelonious Monkey’s first album as a band, Fat Baby.
Having been limited on her ability to travel home during the past year while sorting out her green card, this trip will be extra special for the couple. “This is the first time we’ve played at home since we’ve been married.”
Two of those tour dates, July 22 and 23, are in Victoria at Hermann’s Jazz Club, a spot that has special meaning for Ing and Wabich. “Chris and I met when I was helping to book other bands (there),” she said.
Ing would come in on the nights he was playing to listen and he would do the same. “Now we’re playing there together,” she said. “We were so sad to hear of Hermann’s (founder Hermann Nieweler) passing last year. We just had to put it on the tour … It is the jazz club in Victoria.”
The group is also doing something a little different for their first album.
“We’re actually releasing it on vinyl.” She noted the group chose to take a “step backwards,” as she called it, to capture an authentic sound. “Vinyl sounds so different … It’s quite the process.” She added, “We’re all in for vinyl.”
Tickets for the upcoming Friday and Saturday night shows are $20 each.
Doors open at 6 p.m. with showtime at 8. Hermann’s is at 753 View St.