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25. Jun. 2017

Pianos Aplenty

The TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival always has lots to delight any music aficionado but this year, there are some extra special treats for lovers of fine jazz piano! Long-time board member and A-Trane radio show host Nou Dadoun picks some of his favourites.

Start with the legendary NEA Jazz Master Kenny Barron. He first came to international attention as a core member of Dizzy Gillespie's sextet in the early '60s. Since then he's appeared on hundreds of recordings including his own solo, duo, and trio dates and other high-powered collaborations. This includes being the piano chair in the quartet Sphere dedicated to Thelonious Monk and co-led with Monk's preferred tenor Charlie Rouse. A career highlight was his work with Stan Getz which culminated in Getz's final performances as a duo with Barron in 1991 which came to be known as the People Time sessions. Listen to this timeless duet recorded a couple of months before Getz's passing, the audience is so entranced, they don't applaud solos for fear of breaking the spell:

Catch Kenny Barron in a rare solo performance as part of the North Shore Jazz Series at the Kay Meek Centre Sunday June 25, 8pm.

Satoko Fujii is an international ambassador for the expressive approach to jazz improvisation pioneered by the late Paul Bley. He was a formative influence on her as a teacher and mentor and they recorded a sublime album of duets "Something About Water" early in her career. Since then she has traveled the world organizing and leading large in New York, Montreal and Berlin - I'm still hoping that she will gather Vancouver players for an ensemble one of these days! Her consistent collaborator is her husband trumpeter Natsuki Tamura with whom she has visited the Vancouver Festival a number of times. The Kaze Quartet coming to this year's festival includes French improvisors Christian Pruvost on trumpet and Peter Orins on drums.

Here is a portion of their concert recorded at Mulhouse in 2015

All members of the quartet are active explorers of the music but have no doubts - Satoko Fujii stated her manifesto at the end of her performance at Ironworks in 2015: "We play jazz. Good mainstream jazz!" They'll do just that on Wednesday, June 28 at 9:30 at Ironworks.

Since moving to New York from Calgary at the beginning of the millenium, Kris Davis has become a core player in the jazz scene. The esteem with which she's held in the community is exemplified in her latest recording Duopoly which is a stunning series of duets with virtuosic players including Tim Berne, Craig Taborn and Bill Frisell. She's visited Vancouver several times in recent years with a trio led by bassist Eric Revis and with Paradoxical Frog - a trio co-led with saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock (also coming to this year's fest) and percussionist Tyshawn Sorey. She comes to Ironworks this year in a trio led by fellow Canadian drummer Nick Fraser (ubiquitous on the Toronto scene) and long-time collaborator Tony Malaby on saxophone. This is a recording of a full concert of Kris Davis in duet with pianist Craig Taborn (which is totally phenomenal!):


Kris plays with Nick Fraser and Tony Malaby at Ironworks Sunday, June 25 at Ironworks at 9:30pm.

There's a reason that all the heavyweights want to play with Emmet Cohen - he's been gathering accolades (and collaborators) since being a finalist in the Thelonious Monk competition in 2011. He'll be performing and recording with the legendary bassist Ron Carter in his Pyatt Hall performance for a Cellar Live release which (I assume) will be the second in his Master's Legacy Series following Volume one which featured drummer Jimmy Cobb. Here's his own trio caught at Lincoln Centre a couple of years back:


Alas, both his sets at Pyatt Hall are sold out, but we're confident he'll be back!

North Vancouver's own Cat Toren is well-known to Canadian jazz audiences as part of the Juno-winning ensemble Pugs and Crows. In the last few years, she's recorded with her New York-based ensembles and we're lucky to have the most recent Humankind (based on human kindness) appearing at this year's festival. Like many creative artists, Cat was disturbed by the results of the US election last year and decided to protest musically with a new recording (released on inauguration day) instilled with the joyous inspiration of players like Alice Coltrane. She talks about it in her introduction to the group's own inauguration earlier this year in a fund-raising concert for the album recorded at The Gold Saucer in Vancouver with Dave Say, Gord Grdina, Tommy Babin and Dan Gaucher:

Don't miss her when she plays the Ironworks Friday June 30 at 9:30.

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