The Straight-Ahead Scene: Jazz at Pyatt Hall & Frankie’s Jazz Club

My love of and dedication, to all things straight-ahead, has been well documented. The torch bearers of this great music sometimes receive less critical attention than purveyors of innovation, but there’s a strong base of fans for all of jazz’s different modalities. If you’re a fan of straight-ahead sounds, the TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival’s got you covered! To be more specific, the Jazz at Pyatt Hall Series and Frankie’s Jazz Club will be sure to scratch that musical itch for you. This year, the jazz elite grace both stages and I’m really excited to share more details about the artists you can see this festival.

Jazz at Pyatt Hall

Roberta Gambarini Quartet featuring Emanuele Cisi
Friday, June 22, 7:30 & 9:30PM

Described as a “true successor to Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan and Carmen McRae,” Italian vocalist Roberta Gambarini makes a rare Western Canadian appearance with a stellar band consisting of Eric Gunnison on piano, Neil Swainson on bass, and Emanuele Cisi on tenor saxophone. Having had the pleasure to hear Roberta in person, I can say without hesitation that she will blow the audience away. She has a very deep connection to jazz tradition and has one of the most beautiful voices being heard on the scene today.

Vincent Herring Quartet
Monday, June 25, 7:30 & 9:30PM

Alto saxophonist Vincent Herring has been a long-time favourite and mentor of mine since I first heard him give a masterclass at The University of North Texas in 1995.  There is no alto saxophonist on the scene today who swings harder and plays with more unbridled passion and enthusiasm than Vincent. Understandably, Vincent is compared to the great Cannonball Adderley but make no mistake—Vincent has a sound all his own. He has played in the bands of Cedar Walton, Nat Adderley, and Louis Hayes to name a few! Over the years Vincent has become a dear friend and I’m so happy we’re presenting his new quartet. An all-star quartet I might add, including Dave Kikoski on piano, Yasushi Nakamura on bass, and Carl Allen on drums! Check out this video from The Cellar back in 2014 and check out the sheer power of Vincent’s sound!

Russell Malone Quartet
Tuesday, June 26, 7:30 & 9:30PM

Over many years at The Cellar, some of my best times were when Russell Malone came to town!  He came once with Benny Green, and then again as a single with a local rhythm section and I presented him once later on at PAL Theatre when I started with Coastal Jazz. Joy and fun ooze out of Russell Malone—whether its his big smile or his impeccable sense of style people always leave a Russell Malone concert smiling! I first heard about Russell from a teacher at The University of North Texas. If memory serves, they both played together in the Harry Connick Jr. Band together. This is the first time I’ve been able to bring Russell with his own band which features a wonderful young Canadian bassist Luke Sellick. Also joining Malone is pianist Rick Germanson, and drummer Willie Jones III.

Johnny O’Neal Trio
Wednesday, June 27, 7:30 & 9:30PM

I’m not sure its possible to go to New York City, visit a jazz club, and not run into the great Johnny O’Neal. The word legend is often thrown around a bit too liberally, but it in the case of Johnny O’Neal it is appropriate. It’s hard to decide what I like better, his piano playing or his singing. Lucky for us in Vancouver, he’ll be doing both of them so you can decide for yourself. Johnny is a wonderful man and  quite a character. This is a not-to-be-missed show! Watch this incredible video at Mezzrow!

P.S. that’s Ben Paterson playing piano who’ll be at Frankie’s in August.

Emmet Cohen Trio with guest Houston Person
Thursday, June 28, 7:30 & 9:30PM

Pianist Emmet Cohen is forging quite a path for himself. He has already been a member of Christian McBride’s Trio, done records with Jimmy Cobb (Masters Legacy Series Volume 1) and Ron Carter (Masters Legacy Series Volume 2) and now he will appear with another legend: tenor saxophonist Houston Person! There are not too many saxophonists who can caress a sound out of the saxophone like Houston! There is a depth to Houston’s sound and feel that is unparalleled. It’s something you can only attain from living it if you know what I mean. He’s 83 years old and he’s seen it all, heard it all and been through it all, and you can hear it all in his sound.

Frankie’s Jazz Club
Every Night June 22-July 1

Speaking of tenor saxophonists, another great one will grace the stage at Frankie’s Jazz Club. Philadelphia legend Larry McKenna makes his first visit to Vancouver at the tender age of 78 to perform alongside one of his proteges, Sam Taylor. It won’t be your classic hostile tenor battle! It will be two saxophonists that have a great deal of respect for one another making beautiful music.

Hope to see you out at one (or more!) of these gigs.

Cory Weeds is a programmer at Coastal Jazz, proprietor of the Cellar Jazz record label, host of Condition Blue on Save-On Radio, and a sought-after player on the Vancouver and international scene.