After entertaining audiences on opposite sides of the globe, the Rowswell brothers share a stage for the first time in Charlottetown
As brothers, Dan and Mark Rowswell share a passion.
They love to entertain people.
And they’re both good at it.
Dan, who resides in Hazel Grove, P.E.I., is a professional sax player who has performed in bands across the country and is the producer and curator of Island Jazz, a live music series every Thursday night at Baba’s Lounge in Charlottetown.
Mark, who divides his time between Toronto and Beijing, is a comedian and television personality in the People's Republic of China, where he is known as Dashan (Big Mountain) by millions of people. Fluent in Mandarin, he shared the stage with Rick Mercer when the Canadian comedian visited China in 2010.
The Rowswell brothers, who grew up in Ottawa, come from a family of musicians and storytellers. Usually their freelance gigs take them to opposite sides of the globe, with no opportunity to collaborate.
But all that changed when Dan invited Mark to play with Island Jazz when his brother visited P.E.I. last week.
And Dan wasn’t surprised when his younger sibling said ‘yes’.
“Mark has loved music as long as I have. It’s something we share,” says Dan, adding his brother learned the bass a few years ago.
However, in preparing for the show, he discovered that there’s a difference in their creative process.
“As a jazz musician I go into situations quite prepared to trust my own instincts and just wing it. But I didn’t realize that Mark never wings things, until last week. He’s always highly prepared.”
Their preparations made the show one for the record books.
That night, sharing the stage for the first time, the siblings performed “All Blues”, a jazz standard, along with drummer Matt Bridges, without incident.
“The joke had been about how nervous I was about putting a bass line on an obvious line. So, it was low key but really special,” says Mark.
The experience was also insightful.
“It’s harder to play small audiences because it’s very personal. When you’re performing for 5,000 people you don’t see them as individuals,” says Mark.
In spite of his nervousness, performing together has set the wheels in motion for a future collaboration.
“Tomorrow, we’re working on the next music gig. Hopefully we’ll have at least 24 months to prepare,” Mark jokes.
He also hopes to bring his “Dashan Live”, an hour-long Mandarin stand-up comedy show, to Prince Edward Island in the future.
“And, it looks like I could really use some musical acts in it, too,” says Mark, looking at Dan.
His brother smiles.
“I think I could produce that. So, yes, I think there’s another collaboration coming in the future,” says Dan.
Mark Rowswell fast facts
Also known as Dashan, is well known in China.
- He’s appeared in movies, television shows and pod casts and live shows, performing in front of thousands of people.
- He studied Mandarin at the University of Toronto; obtaining a bachelor of arts in Chinese studies in 1988.
- Mark was in Charlottetown last week to record a narration in Mandarin for a children’s play for Mermaid Theatre, a Halifax-based company that does black light and puppet performances around the world.
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Dan Rowswell fast facts
- A graduate of the jazz program at St. Francis Xavier University, he is a professional sax player and a former president of the P.E.I. Symphony Orchestra.
- Island Jazz, an event he organizes, is nominated for event of the year at the 2019 East Coast Music Awards. The popular series showcases top local musicians performing original music, standards, jazz and pop favourites with a featured special guest artist.
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