How does a band from Brooklyn, featuring a front man with a traffic cone in his saxophone end up appearing at jazz festivals across Canada? The answer provides a quick glimpse into some highlights of the Performance Works series, and a window into the more organic side of the curatorial process.
As the Manager of Artistic Programming for the Vancouver International Jazz Festival I listen to a huge number of new bands every year, both in the Vancouver community and at festivals around the world – always hoping to be genuinely surprised by a fresh musical bend in the road. Sharing inspiration with programmers from other festivals is a huge part of the research process. Each year the Artistic Directors from jazz festivals across Canada gather together for a week of booking meetings to set up tons of solid tours for the upcoming festival season, and find new work that will inspire audiences in our respective communities.
After a spending a full day in the boardroom with my fellow programmers listening to new bands and setting up tours for the coming season last November, it felt like time to unwind a little. How does one unwind after such an activity, one might ask? By seeing a bunch of live bands, and then wrapping up the night sitting in yet another room with a handful of programmers listening to more new tunes, of course.
During these listening sessions we often discuss bands that people in our communities have asked us to bring to town. On this particular evening somebody lit up the room by playing a Tiny Desk Session by Moon Hooch. Wow, a traffic cone in place of a rack of effects pedals! Is it smashy-smashy acoustic dub step? Is it post-punk funk? Why does this somehow remind me of Rage Against the Machine, in a very good way?
“Loud, proud, and deliriously unrefined.”- Village Voice
Check out the Traffic Cone in action:
Also, judging from the photo, they can levitate rocks, who would want to miss that?
Soil & “Pimp” Sessions
During a similar conversation between festival programmers, the subject of music from Japan was being discussed, and the Soil & “Pimp” Sessions were introduced to the group. These self-described purveyors of “death jazz” have been together for 15 years, and the energy and madness of their music holds up beautifully, as in this coupling of one of their earlier videos from 2008, followed by footage from a live show at Paradiso in Amsterdam in 2015 below.
Toward the end of the summer season last year, I travelled to Kaslo, BC to check out their annual jazz festival. The concerts at this festival take place on a floating stage, on a lake with a stunning white cap mountain backdrop. The Polyrhythmics were one of the standout bands of the entire festival, joyously chugging out deeply funky in-the- pocket horn-driven groove without peeling the paint off the walls, which is a good thing because under summer skies on the banks of Kootenay Lake there are no walls to peel the paint off.
They recently did a full concert live on KEXP: