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21. Jun. 2016

Known by the Company We Keep: The local creative music scene

In the lead up to the 2016 edition of the TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival, Coastal Jazz asked various members of the jazz "family" to share their thoughts about artists who will perform at the festival. Today, Cole Schmidt, Guest Programmer and creative music heavyweight, talks about the richness of Vancouver's talent.

I've been asked to blog about some of the "creative music" in this year's upcoming festival. "Creative music" is a term that a handful of these musicians might perhaps carry proudly, while the rest of the musicians associated with other styles might ask, "why the hell isn't my music considered "creative music?!". Either way, it’s the "armchair quarterbacks", (thanks to Cory Weeds for that term), who spend the most energy and have the most trouble fencing this music in. Quick to use words like "esoteric", before picking on the animals, ("whale sounds", "cat's fighting", or "squawking parrots"), and eventually perhaps ending up at the bold and most compelling of all, "that's not even music". For those caught up with this narrative, this year's festival might be a perfect chance for you to hang that hat up once and for all.

The three local heroes that were suggested for me to write about are Peggy Lee, Gordon Grdina, and Ron Samworth. Having spent the last 10-15 years paying attention to these voices, and their various projects and collaborations, it's easy to acknowledge that these folks are informed by all music being made, and quicker to reject this kind of pigeonholing, and classification used to box them in. 

Peggy Lee is a cellist and composer that has contributed a remarkable amount of influence on this city's scene with her writing and improvising. She has kept longstanding collaborations with the likes of Tony Wilson, Veda Hille, and Standing Wave, while balancing her time with projects dedicated to crafting songs, such as The Sands and Beautiful Tool featuring Mary Margaret O'Hara. This year, she will be performing in a handful of gigs on the opening weekend. Appearing on the first Friday of the festival, in Alicia Hansen's group at the Vogue opening for Hiromi, before ending up at the Ironworks for the late set with Evan Parker and Strings. 

Outside My Window – Alicia Hansen and Ben Brown

Sounds from the Big House - Peggy Lee Band

This year, she has also been commissioned by Coastal Jazz to prepare new music for a 10 piece ensemble, called "Peggy Lee's Echo Painting", which includes long term collaborators Dylan van der Schyff and Brad Turner, as well as some newer musical relations with players like James Meger and Meredith Bates. Her efforts with ensembles of these sizes are not to be taken for granted, and often remind me of the Kurt Vonnegut quote,  "The smarties had to be getting outside help!"

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Peggy will also be kicking off the Ironworks Innovation Afternoon Sessions, in collaboration with Cat Toren and Sam Davidson. This show is FREE.


Next up is guitarist, Gordon Grdina. Another hell of a creative force for this city; he has recorded with jazz giants Paul Motian, Mats Gustafsson, and Mark Helias, he leads a number of stunning Persian and Arabian free-form/classical music ensembles, such as Haram, who play Performance Works July 2.

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He lends his exciting talents to the successful music of Dan Mangan and the Blacksmith. He can also be blamed for half of the chaotic elegance in the free-punk duo, Peregrine Falls, who will be opening for Marc Ribot's "Ceramic Dog", as part of the North Shore Jazz at Capilano University. A must see performance for any guitarist looking to drop their jazz school habits.

Peregrine Falls-Gordon Grdina and Kenton Loewen

Gordon has also been investing some of his time with some ensembles in New York City these days. Be sure to lookout for some of those underground shows that have been planned during this year festival.

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Lastly, we have the one and only Ron Samworth. A true-blue national treasure who's sounds and choices as an artist have been as much informed by Ornette and Miles, as they have by Al Green and John Lennon. He has carved out a lot for our improvised music scene here in Vancouver, and with the festival, with his groups Talking Pictures, DarkBlueWorld, and early NOW orchestra collaborations.  This year he will be presenting new music for a new ensemble of his called "Dogs Do Dream"t at the Roundhouse on July 2nd. This will feature a cast of improvising sweethearts who know Ron's music well, and will introduce jazz fest folk to the talented styles of Barbara Adler who will be narrating this performance.  

Sadly we don't get to hear Ron as much as we like these days. Try not to miss this show. 

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