Guitars at the Festival: Part Two, the Local scene

Our festival this year is stacked with incredible guitar players, and here’s a sampling of some local talent playing hometown gigs.

Steve Dawson

Though no longer a local boy, Steve was a ubiquitous figure in the Vancouver music scene for many years as a guitar player and producer.

A few years ago, perhaps hearing that there was a shortage of guitar players, Mr. Dawson moved to Nashville. Hooking up with fellow Canadian ex-pat Colin Linden he started a very successful career as a producer and session player, fulfilling the promise that anyone who saw him in Vancouver would find unsurprising.

This is a great video of Dawson, Colin Linden, and slide legend Sonny Landreth, performing “Sleepwalk”

Dawson has been getting a fair amount of guitar press since his move down south, this clip is taken from a fairly extensive interview in Premier Guitar magazine. Recorded at his home studio in Nashville.

Dawson is opening for Jerry Douglas at the Vogue Theatre on June 30, as well as doing a free Tom Lee Workshop on June 28. 

Aram Bajakian

Some guitarists leave Vancouver for new opportunities, some move here for new opportunities. Such is the case with Aram Bajakian. Although perhaps the choice might have been more personal than professionally, as his wife, the singer Julia Úlehla, is doing her doctorate here. The couple’s Dálava project, which is collection of Czech folk songs amassed by Úlehla’s  great grandfather, was seen at The Ironworks last festival.

Bajakian himself has worked with some heady company. He studied with Yusef Lateef, and has played extensively with John Zorn, performed on Lou Reed’s last two tours, and has just finished a tour with Diana Krall.

What makes Bajakian’s playing interesting is that given his background, you might expect you would get that “New York avant-garde guitar thing.” Which I like. But his playing is tempered with a folk sensibility, which makes his compositions both suitably weird but at the same time very accessible.

This movie clip is a good example of that:

You also have to like his attitude when asked at a recent gig what he was doing here he replied: “That’s kind of how I was feeling,” he says, “I want to be like, ‘This is where I live, so here I am!’ ”

Indeed, he is here, appearing with Julia Úlehla at China Cloud on June 27, and doing a free workshop at Tom Lee also on June 27.

Gordon Grdina

The local guitarist and oud player has a number of gigs at the festival, which testifies to the type of player that he is. Not content to stay within the jazz/world music lane as his choice of instruments might indicate, Grdina is working in a variety of diverse musical styles.

This video is a good example of Grdina’s mixture of styles.

Grdina is at Ironworks on June 27, and with his band Square Peg at China Cloud on June 28.

Cole Schmidt

Cole is a winner of the Mayor’s Award for Emerging Artists, member of two innovative Vancouver bands, SICK BOSS and the Juno Award-winning Pugs & Crows, both of whom are playing the festival. Schmidt is an example of what the festival can offer local musicians in terms of being able to perform the type of music that they want to play.

Schmidt plays in a sonic eclectic style that has made him a collaborator with other like-minded musicians in Vancouver, Peggy Lee being a prime example. But, as any local musician can tell you, sometimes you have to pay the bills. Having stumbled upon Cole playing standards at the Sylvia Hotel Lounge, I’m sure he agrees (nothing against standards or the Sylvia).

But the chance to play a variety of gigs, of the music you want to play, to an appreciative audience, is a valuable asset for any local player.

This is Cole playing with Pugs & Crows.

He’s playing with his band SICK BOSS June 29 at The Imperial as part of Drip Audio Night, June 25 at Ironworks with Peggy Lee’s Echo Painting, and with Pugs & Crows at Performance Works on June 28.

Tony Wilson

Tony Wilson is certainly no stranger to festival audiences and to jazz and alternative music fans in Vancouver. The list of people he’s worked with in experimental and improvisational music is almost too long to go into.

But what has made Wilson a standout, in an area that can quite frankly put people off, is his melodic sense. Even when the going gets weird, Wilson maintains a high level of musicality and skill.

I think you appreciate both of those elements in the following video.

Wilson has never been afraid to tackle unusual and interesting projects. This festival he has three great free gigs, one with vocalist Patsy Klein, Jesse Zubot, and Russell Sholberg on June 26 at Granville Island, a tribute guitarist Sonny Greenwich, on June 27 at Performance Works, and with his band Waxwing on June 30 at the Exhibition Hall at the Roundhouse.

Jim King is, obviously, a Vancouver-based guitarist and guitar enthusiast