My (now annual) trip to the Vancouver International Jazz Festival is always a special experience. Each year, Coastal Jazz (the presenting organization behind the festival) puts together a world-class line up that draws fans from far flung places. Now in it’s 26th year, the festival is stronger than ever. Here’s some of that I saw this year:
For a few months leading up the the festival, I’d been anxiously eyeing one particular date – Tuesday, June 26th. That was the date that Wayne Shorter’s Quartet would be playing at the festival. I’d witnessed this band play 6 years ago, and it was still one of the best live Jazz experiences of my lifetime. Even with all that (self-induced) hype, what they put down in Vancouver still exceeded expectations. Shorter, with bandmates Danilo Perez, John Patitucci, and Brian Blade delivered yet another exhilarating performance to the capacity crowd at the Vogue Theater. I caught up with Brian Blade after the show to talk a bit about their approach to a live performance:
Drummer Han Bennink is a pure force of nature. At the festival, his formidable drum skills were paired with guitarist Terrie Ex (of the post-punk band, The Ex), and young blood saxophonist Brodie West. Bennink is held in high regard by fans around the world, but especially by drummers…proven by the fact that the legendary drummer Billy Hart showed up to watch him play!
Spectrum Road is an all-star band of sorts (featuring John Medeski, Cindy Blackman-Santana, Jack Bruce, and Vernon Reid) that pays tribute to another legendary drummer, Tony Williams. Williams’ pioneering take on Jazz-Rock fusion (through the band Lifetime) is fodder for this unit that brings this music back to life, and puts their own spin on his work. I caught up with keyboardist John Medeski to talk a bit about the band:
One of the best things about attending a mult-venue, city-wide Jazz festival is that you’re bound to make some new discoveries along the way. I knew of trumpeter Mathias Eick from his work with the Norwegian Jazz band Jaga Jazzist, but I’d never heard him play outside of that unit. The Mathias Eick Quintet did not disappoint. They played with a raw energy and passion for the music, interesting dynamics and a sense of humor. At the end, they were rewarded with the only standing ovation I witnessed during the festival.
Of course the Vancouver International Jazz Festival doesn’t just happen in clubs and concert halls – this 10-day period the city is alive with music. This year, they accomplished a major milestone by hosting live performances downtown at the Vancouver Art Gallery. These open-air performances were lively, well-attended and free to the public.
As Jazz fans, we make pilgrimages to places like these to be taken out of our element for a bit to experience something special. The Vancouver International Jazz Festival certainly delivered that experience this year, and I’m already looking forward to what’s in store for 2013.
Matt Fleeger, Program Director