I don’t get up to Vancouver, B.C. nearly enough. It’s a massive, international city with gorgeous scenery and lots to do, and I even have friends there. So wouldn’t you know, it took a jazz festival to get me back across our northern border.
The TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival is celebrating their 30th year from June 18th through July 1st, and I’ll be there to promote KPLU’s streaming jazz service, Jazz24.org. I’d love to see you if you’re there, I’ll be at our Jazz24 tent at David Lam Park June 27th and 28th, and in the lobby of The Orpheum Theater just before the Pink Martini concert June 27th.
You can get all the info on this year’s festival at coastaljazz.ca, and here are a few of my picks:
Rock N’ Roll Hall of Famer Buddy Guy is a solid early festival “can’t miss” show. The 77-year-old blues man was an inspiration to rock stars Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton, and his latest album shows there’s still a lot of fuel in his tank.
Rhythm & Blues features guest spots for hot shots Beth Hart and Gary Clark Jr, and proves that this world-class guitarist is the king of the blues mountain.
How appropriate for the 3 masters of “sacred steel”, the Campbell’s emotional blend of gospel music and steel guitars, to pay tribute to one of the most spiritual recordings in jazz history.
John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme is the most compelling and accessible yet completely free work of his career, and he’s the only jazz musician to have a church named for him. The Campbell Brothers are expected to take this musical message of spirituality to the highest levels.
Three solo sets from three forward-thinking musicians spark a pair of avant-garde evenings for adventurous ears, most intriguing might be drummer Billy Martin’s set.
Part of the long-running trio Medeski, Martin & Wood, Billy’s drumming has always had the legs to stand alone, but I’ve only ever seen him in extended solos with other bands. Also on stage are pianist Lisa Cay Miller and the trumpet and electronics of JP Carter.
It’s a hometown heroes show with the North Vancouver Jensen sisters, with sax-player Christine’s award-winning 20-piece ensemble spiked with her world-renown trumpet-playing sister Ingrid, who’s recent album Habitat has been earning rave reviews. This is the big band show to see at the festival.
Called “the perfect balance between improv and groove” by The Guardian, Snarky Puppy is one of the hottest large ensembles in jazz today.
Actually, the term “jazz” may be too limiting. A blend of big band swing, hip hop swagger, soulful and modern R&B, various music styles from around the world and an uncanny rhythmic sense that’s attracted young audiences and curious jazz nerds by the thousands. You might still be the first of your friends to see Snarky Puppy live, but it won’t be long before they’re taking over the world.
Raised in the French village of Samois-Sur-Seine, singer Cyrille Aimée was sneaking out at night to sing with gypsy jazz musicians at the nearby Django Reinhardt Festival.
Now based in New York, she’s become one of the most exciting singers in jazz. Her music dances between French, American and Brazilian material, as well as her own compositions. Growing each year by leaps and bounds, she’s a master of spontaneous creativity and joie de vivre.
We were honored to have Stanley playing acoustic bass with Jack DeJohnette and Chick Corea live in the KPLU studios a couple years ago, but Clarke has really made his mark with a fiery approach to groove on his electric bass.
His band plays upbeat, funky jazz that’s alive with joy, this is a show that will turn even the stoniest frown upside down.
A Vancouver B.C. native who took her talent to New York City, Renee Rosnes broke onto the scene there as part of sax great Joe Henderson’s band in the 80s, later working with Wayne Shorter, J.J. Johnson and James Moody.
A founding member of the SFJazz Collective, she’s recently married fellow pianist Bill Charlap, who’s been inspiring her to even greater heights. This homecoming show should be packed with goodies for her Vancouver family & friends.
A swingin’ saxman who’s sound harkens back to the greats of the swing era like Lester Young, Ben Webster and Coleman Hawkins, Scott Hamilton is a master of the Great American Songbook and a perfect choice for fans of small-group swing.
The talented Vancouver pianist Tony Foster and his trio are a perfect match for this straight-ahead affair. Scott isn’t a frequent visitor to the Northwest, so don’t miss this show!
A clever use of their band name, The Bad Plus trio of pianist Ethan Iverson, bass player Reid Anderson and drummer Dave King have joined forces with modern sax star Joshua Redman for a brand new album that pushes their limits at every turn.
Their new self-titled album was inspired by a week-long meeting at the Blue Note in New York City in 2011, and features mostly new compositions, and their live performances have been roof-raising affairs.
He makes it sound so easy – pianist Kenny Werner has been improvising on jazz, classical and pop tunes, as well as his own compositions, in a way that belies their complexity.
You can listen to one of his albums for weeks and keep discovering new elements, or you can just kick back and enjoy the beauty as it unfolds. Kenny leads his long running trio with bassist Johannes Weidenmueller and drummer Ari Hoenig.
This world-class pianist’s skills go far beyond the music of her Sao Paolo, Brazil homeland, but her new album Made In Brasil is the first she’s recorded back home in more than three decades, and her passion for the samba and bossa nova is still red hot.
Her alluring, sensual singing is always a selling point, but her continued mastery of the piano’s notes and rhythm are even more impressive.
The veteran jazz master of this year’s festival, the wonderful composer and sax man Jimmy Heath has a resume built in jazz heaven – he’s played alongside Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, and of course his brothers, the great bass player Percy Heath and little brother, drummer Albert “Tootie” Heath as The Heath Brothers.
Jimmy is joined by his long time pianist Jeb Patton, a student of Jimmy’s as well as the piano legend Sir Roland Hanna.
This “little orchestra” from Portland, OR has been treating adoring crowds to the glamor and mystery of golden-age Hollywood, Brazilian beaches, French cafes, Cuban dance clubs and their light-hearted forays into classical music.
Sparked by the style and musical genius of pianist Thomas Lauderdale and singer China Forbes and frequent special guests, Pink Martini is a band that never disappoints.
Drummer Antonio Sanchez has recently gained well-earned attention for his Oscar Nominated score for the Academy Award-winning film Birdman, an ambitious solo drum performance now available from finer record stores.
His newest band looks to take advantage of the attention, bringing together modern jazz hot shots Seamus Blake on sax, John Escreet at the piano and bassist Matt Brewer for an ambitious, long-form continuous composition running nearly an hour. Strap in for this show, and enjoy the ride!
One of South Africa’s most loved jazz musicians, Abdullah Ibrahim exudes class and excels at beauty. His sound is unmistakably his own, owing equally to his homeland and his hero, Duke Ellington.
His compositions have inspired the struggle against oppression, from Nelson Mandela to the furthest corners of the globe. His latest trio project moves Ibrahim across the planet, examining the music and culture of Japan.
One of today’s top jazz trumpeters has a busy Sunday night, first at Performance Works leading High Risk featuring the staccato electric bass of Jonathan Maron , exciting acoustic/electric drummer Mark Guiliana and electronics whiz Shigeto for a concert of electro-grooves.
Then at 9:30, you’ll find Dave playing with the mischievous Dutch drummer Han Bennink and JUNO-nominated Vancouver cellist Peggy Lee, a performance that promises lots of risk-taking and probably a few laughs.
I’m not really a fan of jazz festival acts that fall so far from the world of jazz that you wonder if they’re actually part of the festival, but you can’t deny the appeal of The Roots.
Also known these days as The Tonight Show Band, their leader, drummer Questlove, is one of the most knowledgeable music geeks in the world, introducing a wide variety of musical flavors to the band’s award-winning blend of hip hop and modern R&B. And they have a tuba player, yes they do.
I know very little about this concert, but the description from the TD Vancouver website is intriguing – a Francophone jazz/pop opera set in a mythical, rain-soaked Vancouver, celebrating French language and culture in Vancouver.
The music includes a piano trio plus guitar backing a number of singers/actors, including Karin Plato and Jaclyn Guillou who perform shows of their own earlier in the festival.
I’m just scratching the surface, jazz fans – and fans of all types of music. There’s so much more to see and hear at the TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival, and a special project we’re working on at KPLU. We’ll record a special Vancouver Edition of the KPLU School of Jazz with the Point Grey Secondary School jazz band and their mentor, saxophonist James Danderfer, airing later this Summer on KPLU. Stay tuned, and I’ll see you in Vancouver!