The 2016 edition of the TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival is nearly upon us, and Coastal Jazz asked various members of the jazz "family" to share their thoughts about artists who will perform at the festival. Today, Artistic Director Ken Pickering talks about the wealth of Canadian talent on tour this summer. See them at venues from Downtown Jazz to the Vogue Theatre to Performance Works' free Canada Day programming. Read on!
Coastal Jazz is celebrated for the sharply focused international perspective we bring to the festival that’s the essence and bedrock of our music programs. Now having said that it must also be said that a fundamental element that we’re most proud of is the rock solid Canadian jazz lineup that we present year in and year out at the festival. Top-drawer Canadian jazz artists are the equals of the best from the USA, Europe and beyond - sometimes we as Canadians succumb to the tendency to take our home- grown talent for granted, especially those that don’t expatriate to more visible exotic locales such as NYC, Berlin, Copenhagen or London – and it seems to me that attitude is extreme folly. From coast to coast there’s a great deal of talent residing in this country and a good many more Canadians that have chosen to live in NYC or abroad. Believe me, that list is a long one.
Apart from the very rich program of BC artists that covers nearly every aspect of the jazz scene from straight ahead, to next-gen jazzers and free improvisers, I’ll focus on six artists in this blog that will be travelling from points east (mostly Quebec) - to perform at this year’s Vancouver jazz jamboree.
Before we look at some of the younger artists deserving of wider recognition, there’s a very special Canadian who can count himself among the small and select group of legendary pianists (Oscar Peterson, Paul Bley) to emerge from this country and that, my friends, happens to be the pride of Montreal: the great Oliver Jones. A friend of the late legendary Oscar Peterson – Mr. Jones has assumed the mantle and today is recognized as the quintessential Canadian jazz pianist of the mainstream persuasion. We’re thrilled to celebrate with him as embarks on his final retirement tour. This will be the last opportunity to hear his music in concert in Vancouver. Nothing more to be said except - don’t miss it! With Eric Legacé bass and Jim Doxas drums.
June 26 at the Vogue Theatre
No stranger to Vancouver stages gifted Montreal pianist – composer and former music director for Charles Aznavour, Marianne Trudel has been a regular visitor to Coastal Jazz since 2010. Highly respected and intensely dedicated Marianne is at the top of her game and has to be considered one of the finest jazz artists in Quebec and all of Canada at this stage of her career.
A couple of years ago I had the opportunity to hang out with Marianne at JazzAhead in Bremen where she showcased Trifolia at the legendary Sendesaal (think Keith Jarrett’s Bremen / Lausanne box set on ECM from the early 70’s) venue. It was powerful concert and one of the standouts at that year’s Jazz Ahead – also a ton of fun introducing her and her music to many of my European friends and colleagues at the conference. Marianne’s touring project for this year’s festival includes Ingrid Jensen, the exceptional expatriate BC trumpeter and one of the leading lights on the international jazz scene. Ingrid was most recently heard locally in her sister Christine’s magnificent Jazz Orchestra concert – a supreme highlight of the 2015 Jazz Festival. With Rémi-Jean Leblanc bass and Rich Irwin drums.
June 26 at Performance Works – 2:30pm (2 sets, free)
Another cat that performed with Christine Jensen’s Jazz Orchestra at last year’s festival was saxophonist André Leroux who was cited by many in attendance as the big surprise; his solos were powerful and among those most memorable of the concert. There was no doubt that Mr. Leroux made a very big impression that night. Of course it wasn’t his first festival gig – he’s performed admirably in Vancouver on quite a few occasions with the excellent pianist François Bourassa. A muscular saxophonist in the Coltrane / Rollins tradition, André Leroux is also active in new music ensembles such as those of Tim Brady or the Quasar Saxophone Quartet. Whatever the context this guy is always ready to play and takes no prisoners. He’s a well-seasoned veteran evidenced by his substantial discography on Effendi as a sideman and as a leader. You’ll get a couple of chances to hear this quartet – the first will be at the Robson Street Stage outdoors (free to the public) and then in the intimate confines of Vancouver’s only real “listening’ jazz club Frankie’s Jazz on Beatty Street. With Frederic Alarie bass, James Gelfand piano and Christian Lajoie drums.
June 26 at Downtown Jazz – Robson Street Stage – 3pm
June 26 at Frankie’s Jazz Club – 8pm (2 sets)
Although it’s been a very long time since Toronto based singer-pianist- songwriter Laila Biali has resided in this city, she makes it back to the hometown on a regular basis to connect with family and friends, one off gigs or a stop on a longer tour. It’s very cool that Laila still has a strong connection to the our local scene and to that end she’s enlisted rock-solid bassist, Vancouverite Jodi Proznick; completing the trio is the seriously in demand drummer (and Laila’s husband) the great Ben Wittman (Don Byron, Laurie Anderson, Roseanne Cash, Paul Simon) .
It’s funny how Jazz Ahead in Bremen has connected into so much of this year’s festival and this upcoming festival show with Laila is no exception. Just over a month ago I was fortunate to hear Laila with Ben and Toronto bassist George Koller in Bremen a mind-blowing showcase at the Schlachthof Cultural Centre. The hook up was incredibly tight but the feel was loose and the trio burned through a wide-ranging program from Joni Mitchell and Feist to Laila’s originals. Laila has charisma in spades and seems primed for bigger things – a killer performance. Make sure you check out the link to that show!
July 1 at Performance Works – 9:30pm (free all day on Canada Day!)
Laila at JazzAhead in Bremen: http://concert.arte.tv/de/laila-biali-jazzahead-2016
Listen: Rare version of David Bowie’s Lets Dance http://bit.ly/LBLetsDanceJazzBistroLive
Give the drummer some - Chris Tarry talks to Ben Wittman: http://christarrylessons.com/ben-wittman-interview/
A new discovery for some of us this year is the young Montreal based trumpeter / composer / bandleader, Rachel Therrien whose strong playing and fresh approach have impressed so many on the Canadian jazz scene. She was the winner of the TD Grand Prize Jazz Award at the Montreal Festival last year and her first Canadian tour is guaranteed to bring a ton of new fans to her music. With Benjamin Deschamps sax, Charles Trudel piano, Simon Page bass, Alain Bourgeois drums.
July 1st – Performance Works – 5:30pm (Free all day on Canada Day)
Another talented young trumpeter; Jacques Kuba Seguin - is a Montrealer (of Polish origins). While never straying far from his Polish roots and a healthy respect for the jazz tradition, his feet remain firmly planted in the modernist camp – (don’t miss his third stream collaboration with the Bozzini Quartet). At a fateful jam session in Rimouski back in 2012, he met and created a strong bond with his bassist Frederic Alarie that eventually resulted in the Litania project. The winner of the Révélation Jazz Radio-Canada prize in 2012, he’s performed often at the Montreal Jazz Festival and has toured in Poland, China and Germany and this tour signals his band’s first visit (seriously overdue) way out west. I must say I’m really looking forward to his set at Downtown Jazz!
At the Robson Stage (Free): June 26th
Thanks to Canada Council for the Arts for the travel support of touring artists.