Day 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10
Day One (June 20, 2003):
In the next ten days, over 1700 musicians from all genre and backgrounds of jazz will fertilize Vancouver with over 400 shows. The 2003 Vancouver International Jazz Festival has begun and this year provides more entertainment than even the most avid jazz junkie could handle.
This festival that could began in a pivotal year in Vancouver’s history: 1986. That year, this city welcomed the world to the opening of Expo 86 – a world-class business venture that lasted six months and forever changed us. Vancouver moved from being Canada’s third largest city to being a world-class host for trade, culture and music. Since 1986, Hollywood has flocked here to make movies; international business has flourished and world-class musicians have placed Vancouver on their world tour maps. New concert venues have opened and, in the last five years, local jazz has come back.
The Vancouver International Jazz Festival is steeped in a major theme this year: the changing definition of jazz. Joe Zawinul, at the age of 71, continues to forge new ground in areas that he first explored three decades ago with Weather Report. Younger, more local, musicians continue to reach for the musical accomplishments of Zawinul and other guests at this year’s event, like Joshua Redman, Wayne Shorter, Medeski, Martin & Wood, John Scofield, Cesaria Evora and Holly Cole.
Over 40 venues will host artists at all times of the day and night all over the city. Organizers have rightly kept the 18th version of this festival user friendly. Average working people will be able to take in jazz in their lunch breaks at open-air malls, on the world famous Granville Island stages, in 14 night clubs or at some of the city’s state-of-the-art concert halls like The Centre for the Performing Arts, The Orpheum Theatre and The Commodore Ballroom.
If you like jazz, you’ll find it in abundance for the next ten days – in Vancouver and here at All About Jazz.com. I will explore jazz here as we experience it in Vancouver this year – the ultimate morphology of aural styles. I will report daily on concerts from various locations and communicate the dynamics that fluctuate beautifully with performances in a festival environment.
Check back tomorrow for the latest from the 18th Annual Vancouver International Jazz Festival.
Day Two (June 21, 2003):
This was a somewhat rare weather day in Vancouver – a combination of sun, clouds, lead grey skies, showers and clear breaks. It seemed the right day to consider possible, sudden change.
When I flashed my media pass to watch Jason Moran & The Bandwagon at the Vancouver East Cultural Centre, I entered a room that has been regulated smoke-free. A serious contradiction hung in the rafters, lit well for us to observe.
Du Maurier, a brand of cigarette, is sponsoring five jazz festivals across Canada this year – of which Vancouver is one. Du Maurier’s parent company is Imperial Tobacco – whose parent company is British American Tobacco PLC. Last week, British American Tobacco announced a major restructuring that will reduce its costs by $537-million (US). This is due to a shrinking demand for smokes. The tobacco industry is suffering.
Sudden change filters down from the top. It might be time to at least consider what jazz festival organizations would do without tobacco sponsorship. Jason Moran offered a possible answer to that question tonight.
Day Two in Vancouver saw most concert venues swing into gear for the weekend. Wayne Shorter and his quartet put on a headline concert at The Centre for the Performing Arts, while Little Feat strutted its stuff over at the Commodore Ballroom – a symbol of Vancouver nightlife that has survived seven decades and one life-saving renovation. Dylan Cramer and the Chad Makela Quartet staged free gigs on the Granville Island stages. Others performed out at the Western Front, Studio 16 and CBC Studio One. One busy day in a frenetic festival.
That brings us to Jason Moran & The Bandwagon at the “Van East” – a fabulous concert. Moran is touring in preparation for the release of his new Blue Note album, Live at the Village Vanguard on August 19. To-date, most people remember that saxophonist Greg Osby hired Jason Moran (in 1997) on the good word of Moran’s high school friend, drummer Eric Harland. Tonight Jason Moran, bassist Tarus Mateen and drummer Nasheet Waits took the stage at 9:30 pm (PST) for a 90-minute declaration on how any musical style can be fused to another.
To linguistically describe Moran’s music would be to partition that which has no borders. It is fresh and ambitious, at times furiously volcanic. Jason Moran & The Bandwagon take you from fury to solitude in a heartbeat with such sincerity that, on this night, a crowd of less than a hundred suspended their imaginations until Moran pulled his hands off the ivory. Only then could we pull ourselves back to the Vancouver East Cultural Centre.
There are categories for this music and likely none of them fit. At times, I heard clear references to the music of Bill Evans, a whole series of classical composers, Moran’s inspiration Thelonious Monk, ragtime, funk, R&B, a little rock and, on three occasions, rap.
Moran, Mateen and Waits form a world-class trio. They belong together, musically and for the united purpose that drives them from wave to wave of stylistic change. The group’s sense of timing is finely honed; just when you may slip from the grasp of any particular foray, change brings you back.
Moran’s spokesperson made a point of thanking the Government of Canada and Land Rover (among others) for Jason Moran’s appearance tonight.
The Vancouver East Cultural Centre is used to stage plays, and it has hosted many concerts. It has charming archways over a five-row balcony, red crushed velvet seats and chipped paint on the walls. The “Van East” has ambitious charm. It seemed to fit tonight’s theme on stage: striving to be more than you are. The place has character and a long history in Vancouver entertainment.
The van Bommel Quintet. Well, that is a group that is hard to explain. Maybe exploration like theirs is difficult to figure out.
Pianist Frank van Bommel is clearly the key to the group. His singular style of playing, combining geometric phrasing with parallel lines and strong rhythmic drive, animates the whole group. The quintet’s music focuses on the late, legendary pianist and composer Dick Twardzik. In fact, the band did an album, A Crutch for the Crab (Bvhaast), named after a Twardzik composition.
Unfortunately, on this night, it sounded like all members were exploring simultaneously – held together barely by the breaks that Frank van Bommel announced. Drummer Martin van Duynhoven appeared too morphically unclear on what he wanted to play. The rest of the quintet – Tobias Delius on sax/clarinet, Michael Moore also on sax/clarinet and bassist Arjen Gorter – played pretty much what they wanted. This is a group of tremendously gifted musicians and that alone was enough to bring healthy cheer from the crowd.
The band generously thanked the Royal Netherlands Embassy in Canada’s capital of Ottawa, and the Foundation for the Amateur & Venue Arts (FAPK), the Hague, the Netherlands.
Tomorrow brings another world of music to our city. Stay tuned to All About Jazz.com for more from this year’s Vancouver International Jazz Festival.
Day Three (June 22, 2003):
A rainy day in Vancouver? Believe it!! This will be a drag for those playing the outdoor gigs today: the J.P. Carter Trio and The van Bommel Quintet (fresh off their opening for Jason Moran last night). Vancouverites don’t let a little rain stop us and the weather improved as the day went, so let the music begin!
Medeski, Martin & Wood bring their unique brand of music to The Centre for the Performing Arts in one of many attractive shows on Day Three in Vancouver. Some local musicians get at it today with Page Libre appearing at The Western Front with local guests Peggy Lee and Dylan van der Schyff. Later, Almost Transparent Blue takes the same stage. Trumpeter Kevin Elaschuck teams up with local Juno-Award winning sax star Campbell Ryga for some quartet work featuring tunes by Thelonious Monk and Ornette Coleman at Studio 16. Tango Paradiso plays the Performance Works at Granville Island.
My own meanderings began with the styling of Vancouver jazz players Tilden Webb and Jodi Proznick at the Tap Room of the Granville Island Brewery.
Webb and Proznick provided a tastefully comfortable brand of mainstream lounge music to about 80 beer drinking British Columbians in a cultural nerve centre of Vancouver: Granville Island. Both musicians displayed an admirable level of concentration given the din of families and interested passers-by poking their heads in for a listen. The place was packed and onlookers applauded happily. This gig was a perfect fit for late Sunday afternoon in this locale.
Jodi Proznick and Tilden Webb are very skilled young musicians. In the absence of a drummer, they both worked together to keep a beat that had heads bobbing to the sounds of Keith Jarrett’s “Prism,” and “In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning” by Hillard and Mann. It would be a pleasure to see these two musicians in a very different musical environment.
The name Proznick is a great Vancouver music story. Jodi’s father, Dave Proznick, not only parented kids who all work in music, he successfully taught thousands of kids to excel in high school bands. Canada’s John Philip Sousa Foundation assigned Dave Proznick to its Legion of Honor in 1997 as one of North America’s most outstanding music educators. Two months ago, he received the Keith Mann Outstanding Director Award and became an honorary member of the Yamaha All-Star Band at Musicfest Canada. Dave Proznick loved music, taught it, played it and taught his three children to play it out of love and lifelong devotion. We too often forget people like Dave Proznick because his greatest work took place in the school halls instead of the concert halls.
Dave Proznick finished 34 years of full-time music education just days ago. Of course, retirement is a relative term. Dave will continue to teach youth at summer camps on Vancouver Island. Somehow, methinks he will experience many codas with his kids soon.
Proznicks groove on. Dave’s daughter, Jodi, has no less than 17 appearances at this year’s Vancouver Jazz Festival. In addition to performing with her long-time partner, Tilden Webb, Jodi Proznick will stage her abilities on bass with the Hugh Fraser Quintet, the Ross Taggart Quartet, the Campbell Ryga Quartet, the Darryl Jahnke Quartet, the Chad Makela Quartet, the Tammy Weis Quartet, the Karin Plato Trio, the Mike Allen Trio, the Ray Piper Duo, the Ihor Kukurutza Trio and the Weeds/Minemoto Quartet. Tim Proznick, a drummer, is slated to perform with Kia Kidari and the Crowd Control Collective featuring Brad Turner.
Later this year, Jodi is expected to team up with local club owner (and saxophonist) Cory Weeds and the renowned Jeff Hamilton to record a tribute album to Ray Brown.
Kelly Proznick is studying to teach music.
The Commodore Ballroom is another Vancouver legend. It was built in 1929 with a spring-loaded dance floor. The old Commodore was a classic club. Stories abound of performers that played there before their rise to stardom: Dizzy Gillespie, Tina Turner, The Clash, The Police, local boy Bryan Adams and Kiss (to name a few). The club is on the second storey of an historic Granville Mall building. I once had the nightmare of doing business in a store downstairs while a concert was underway. We peered up nervously as the old dance floor creaked and stretched (it seemed) as the kids danced above us.
In 1999, the old Commodore was restored in an expensive but successful internal surgery. Vancouverites still argue over whether or not the restoration killed the spirit of the place. Those arguments never end. I believe the House of Blues did the best it could to cast an old passion in a new body. The Commodore will see another 70 years.
Now to what happened at The Commodore tonight.
Vancouver’s Sekoya displayed a self-possessed energy that revealed how spontaneous combustion can be good, and bad. Its youth showed in some of the best ways: rhythm and bass combined with the drive of rap to propel the group’s set to a considerable level of accomplishment. Rock and rap combine to produce groove; Sekoya used groove to get the mosh pit dancing. Unfortunately, those of us at the back of the hall were not similarly inspired. That is youth: energy for effect but not totally effective.
Group members had their moments. Vocalist Amalia Townsend may have been hospitalized after a spasmodic exhibition that overplayed her enthusiasm to the visual detriment of her bandmates’ solos. Alvin Cornista impressed with sax and flute work that was rooted in fundamental knowledge while, at other times, being used for delayed effect. Trumpeter Kent Wallace’s highest moments had me recalling Mark Isham’s work with David Sylvian. The rhythm tandem of Bernie Arai and Jack Duncan proved compelling, especially on the dance floor. The end result was a good opening act – something to nurture and develop over time. Sekoya abundantly possesses the youthful enthusiasm needed to grow musically.
The Cinematic Orchestra produces that which is dramatically imaginable. Its music is founded on the band’s awesome grasp of how immersion deepens the mind. This is one cerebral group.
The Cinematic Orchestra took a fabulously understated arrival to the stage and introduced a groove that made an atmosphere of spatial keyboarding and saxophone. Although this deadened the activity in the mosh pit, eyes were glued to the aural spectacle. Again, rhythm rooted this music: drummer Luke Flowers and bassist Phil France hypnotized us so Niara Scarlett’s phrasal voicing took us far beyond. The technology driven electro-environment added by Stephen James Brown on keyboards and Patrick Carpenter on turntables only deepened the intellectual trip. Composer, sampler and multi-instrumentalist Jason Swinscoe is the summation of this band.
The Cinematic Orchestra should consider broadcasting, or releasing, its live set. Like Pink Floyd, its music is best heard. If you had been lying on the floor with headphones on, listening to what we heard at The Commodore last night, you would not have come back. The groove was that good.
The presence of a little marijuana smoke confirmed this truth (no, not me!!).
It is almost impossible (and maybe a moot point) to truly define all the previous references for The Cinematic Orchestra’s music. Would Ray Manzarek have done this by now had he never met Jim Morrison? Can this kind of imagination be drawn from a Western culture? Why worry about it?
So, this report reaches a cerebral conclusion to a day that started with mainstream jazz played for average music lovers of all shapes, sizes and ages. That’s the nature of jazz. Stay tuned for more from Vancouver tomorrow.
Day Four (June 23, 2003):
This day was brighter than darker, although it started out brightly, and darkened. It brightened again late in the day. Dizzy yet? Forecasters say the late day clearing is the beginning of a minor heat wave until the closing weekend at the Vancouver Jazz Festival.
Jazz is all about connections: from the past to the present, from musician to musician, from album to album, from family to family, from culture to other cultures and from the road to the recording studio. In fact, the jazz world has so many connections that journalists could spend their entire writing lives on the connections alone. Perhaps the development of information technology will relieve us of that stress in the coming years.
The issue of connections has surfaced here. Day Two included observations of Jason Moran and how his music connects all genre – or so it seemed. Yesterday , I discovered connections that names (the Proznicks) and places (The Commodore Ballroom) bring to generations of jazz. Jazz is a small but powerful world.
In this increasingly fragmented time, jazz artists continue the struggle to expand the music. Today’s jazz music has the dual contradiction of, on the one hand, seeking to redefine itself while, on the other hand, being sliced into confining categories. That may be the difference between the music and the marketing of the music, but it is a striking contrast. We revere jazz geniuses for breaking through the barriers of musical understanding. Sometimes, those breakthroughs are hard to understand. It is often necessary to take something apart in order to make it better.
A consideration of deconstruction and reconstruction turns out to be central to our coverage of the Vancouver Jazz Festival: Day Four.
Three venues open up for performances today, including Three Eyed Sphere at the Pacific Centre Plaza, Stephen Fisk’s Flo at Metropolis Metrotown Plaza and the Tanya Kalmanovitch Hut Five reopen the Tom Lee Music workshop on Granville Street. Page Libre, the Broken Crow Quartet and Adios are onstage at Granville Island (the street and the Island are different, believe me). K-OS and Kia Kadiri take the stage at the Commodore, while Joshua Redman’s Elastic Band makes marquee billing at The Centre for the Performing Arts.
My day began with a welcome trip to the Western Front, a centre run by artists for artists, to watch the Eddie Prevost Trio. Eddie Prevost is one of the most influential conceptualists (he’s much more than a drummer) in modern music. Most revere his work in the improv ensemble AMM (with Keith Rowe, Lou Gare and Cornelius Cardew), and the music world has applauded Prevost’s influence on the early Pink Floyd, classical, rock, experimental, ambient and industrial music.
My understanding of the Eddie Prevost Trio came by recalling a comment that David Bowie once made on his work (in Germany) with Brian Eno: that the belching, farting sounds that were considered musical “mistakes” at that time were much more interesting than anything played on those synthesizers. Organic sound was what he meant – crudely characterized but you get the point.
Eddie Prevost put on a 65-minute set: one “song.” The term acoustic is key here in the galactic sense: the acoustic of any instrumental sound; the acoustic of a room; the acoustic of reality itself. That is where Prevost’s work resides. It was utterly organic, and that alone made the Vancouver crowd of about 80 roar its approval in conclusion.
Imagine a turntable stylus. It is lowered mechanically into a very, very deep groove – the bottom of which contains understandable electronic signals. On the way down, the stylus bounces off the walls of the groove repeatedly, causing every possible type of sound imaginable, in rhythm. Finally, the stylus settles into the bottom of the groove, and Frank Sinatra belts out “I’ve Got A Crush on You.”
Eddie Prevost’s performance was all the sounds going down into the groove. He and band mates John Edwards (on bass) and Tom Chant (soprano saxophone) exited before the groove could occur.
I had to sit alone in my car for a few minutes to understand the incredible relevance of what just happened.
The Western Front is a truly artistic space in a turn of the century Knights of Pythias Hall – a wooden building in one of Vancouver’s ethnic, hard working class neighbourhoods. It has space for exhibitions, dance performance, a video production and recording studio and performance hall. The Western Front Society, the organization that runs it, promotes contemporary electronic and media art. The Western Front’s programs include residencies, jazz, electronics, contemporary and traditional music from various parts of the world, especially the Asia-Pacific region.
Then it was back to The Vancouver East Cultural Centre for a dose of home-grown talent: Canadians Michael Zilber and Tanya Kalmanovitch and their respective groups.
Tanya Kalmanovitch is so Canadian: she’s very good at what she does and she’s understated about it. She spoke intimately to the audience and heaved a sigh of cathartic relief at the chance to slip out of her shoes for the remainder of her set.
The Tanya Kalmanovitch Hut Five is a United Nations mission in eclecticism: guitarist Rick Peckham hales from Boston; Ronan Guilfoyle comes from Dublin (we are told courtesy of some help from the Irish Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism); and drummer Owen Howard brings his licks to us from the Big Apple, NYC.
Ronan Guilfoyle’s songs were the most interesting forays in stylistic fusion. In these songs, Kalmanovitch, Peckham and Howard were stretched beyond their structured musical orientations. They flexed well, but the music itself reflected the differences between the musical aesthetics within the band. This was not necessarily bad; it was just noticeable. That quality came to prominence through the dancing bass lines that Guilfoyle used to guide the Hut Five.
We stepped back to post bop heaven with Michael Zilber and an elite cast of veteran players: Dave Liebman on saxophone, Paul Nagel on piano, John Shifflett on bass and Steve Smith on drums. These boys came to blow and, by the time it was over, they redefined John Coltrane, Dizzy Gillespie and the meaning of stretching out.
Zilber and company turned the “Van East” into a distinctly club gig. During extended solos (and most of the performance was that), Zilber walked off the stage and out to the lobby. Liebman motioned easily to direct the tight breaks and transitions between each player’s opportunities to dazzle the mostly packed house. Zilber mentioned, with touching nostalgia, how he and Liebman began playing together two decades ago at the old Classical Jazz Club in Vancouver’s bygone musical era.
Smith and Zilber have co-led a quartet over the past seven years. Almost all the material played tonight came from their recent recording, Reimagined (Blue Jay).
The brilliance of these musicians is best noted by their industry recognition. Paul Nagel and John Shifflett stepped away from a current gig with Boz Scaggs to appear this week in Vancouver. Zilber’s 1999 CD, Two Coasts, won a nomination for Jazz Record of the Year at the Independent Music Awards. Dave Liebman has been a perennial poll winner with Down Beat. Steve Smith has been voted one of the 20 great drummers of all time in Modern Drummer magazine. If you want the best, you call these guys first.
Elite musicians often make the mistake of thinking that audiences can (or should) handle as much as they dish out. Although the very spirit of jazz is to test those boundaries, the audience was unwilling to bring down the house enough to bring Zilber and Co. back for an encore. Towards the set’s conclusion, the searing solos had saturated our ears. Better too much than otherwise, I guess. However, the Vancouver faithful were grateful for this night’s stellar display.
Come on back for more coverage from the streets of Vancouver tomorrow.
The Tanya Kalmanovitch Hut Five by Nadia Molinari
Day Five (June 24, 2003):
We hit the midway point with Day Five coverage from Vancouver with beautiful West Coast sunshine and a high of about 23 degrees (Celsius). It rains in Vancouver ten months of the year. You don’t want to be here in November, but today: marvellous!
We hit our stride across the jazz genre today. The great foot-stomping New Orleans sounds of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band with the Alan Matheson Septet hit The Centre for the Performing Arts. The Swedish jazz strains of Lina Nyberg, Rigmor Gustafsson and Jeanette Lindström sound off at The “Van East” (the little place that could and often does!); the Swedish girls are backed by the local Brad Turner Quartet, featuring André Lachance on bass, Bruno Hubert on piano and Dylan van der Schyff on drums. Bassist Darren Radtke and drummer Bernie Arai (who played for Sekoya the other night) also figure into the works of Brad Turner this year. For a list of today’s players ...
In previous editions of this journal, we have been chronicling change: within a live set, an artist’s life and jazz music in general. It seems fitting to explore change just before watching the Zawinul Syndicate, fronted by a man who has made a fabulous career of bridging time and music generation.
At six years of age, Joe Zawinul started to play the accordion. He went from there to studies in classical piano and composition at the Vienna Conservatory. His interest in jazz piano, initially influenced by George Shearing and Erroll Garner, led to jobs with Austrian saxophonist Hans Koller in 1952. He landed on US soil in 1959 with a scholarship to the Berklee School of Music in Boston. Like other music giants, though, Zawinul did not thrive in a classroom. After one week, he left school to work for eight months in Maynard Ferguson’s band. There, a man named Miles Davis took notice. Zawinul went on to appear on Davis’ 1969 record, Bitches Brew, one of the most highly acclaimed jazz albums of all time.
The whole story of Josef Erich Zawinul is far too long and rich to tell here. Do check out some of the current biographies available.
Most of us best remember Zawinul’s role in Weather Report, and that music hit me as hard as anybody.
I was once a budding drummer and, like many musicians whose dreams grow to more than a wisp, I had a great teacher. Jim Montizambert had four kids, three Volvos and two bicycles. He loved riding the seawall around Vancouver’s world famous Stanley Park (famous for different reasons if you live here) with his wife. He played a lot around the jazz scene in Vancouver. He also held lessons in a soundproofed garage beside his house on the steep hill of a Vancouver suburb. Jim was a musical study: you played, he held a knowing hand to his grey bearded chin, and nodded. If he was slightly impressed, you’d hear “Yeeess...” through the headphones.
I had just mastered the playing of a prog-rock instrumental with 13 time changes, so I figured (in my wee rock and roll mind at the time) that I was pretty special. He picked up on that. “Well done my boy,” said a smiling Jim. He pulled out a new tape and I thought: bring it on.
“Let’s try a little of this,” suggested Jim, “and see what happens.”
Jim brought in on; Weather Report appropriately humbled me as all great music now does. Smart guy, that Jim Montizambert (God bless his resting soul).
The Zawinul Syndicate released Faces & Places (ESC Records) last September. Although the band’s previous studio album, Lost Tribes (Columbia) was released in 1992, Zawinul himself is credited for direct involvement in 160 recordings. Tonight, he brought his keyboard world, and an all-star world music line-up, to the Commodore stage.
In an interview with Chris Collins from the International Association for Jazz Education , Zawinul talked about how his songs start: “When I start improvising, first I play the drums. I have wonderful drum programs on my keyboard, but I'm not creating a repetitive, looped line to keep a pulse. I'm making a drum composition. Everything is based on the drums; it's always been that way.”
Voice gives song to a frenetic, African-based groove that rhythmically underpins Joe Zawinul’s spaced keyboarding. The effect in The Commodore was astonishing – hundreds of fans packed on the dance floor to just watch and experience the culture of a band formed from around our world.
Time is lost in Zawinul’s space. He formed the current incarnation of The Syndicate 18 years ago after Zawinul split with former band member Wayne Shorter (who is also in town for this festival; wonder if they had a cappuccino and laughed at 30-year-old memories). While these musicians haven’t pumped out prodigious amounts of music, their work is continually revered: 1996’s My People (Escapade Music) and 1997’s double live set, World Tour, were both nominated for Grammy Awards.
What a spectacular band. Guitarist Amit Chatterjee brings a fluidity to the business of picking that reminded me a little of the role Carlos Alomar played in David Bowie’s soundscape for so many years. Chatterjee seemed as comfortable in groove as she did in the limelight. That brought a potent class to her effect on the music. Linley Marthe unloaded a solo that simultaneously combined the thunder of bass and the rhythm of a soloing drummer. Nathaniel Townsley’s presence came mostly in backdrop, but without it, the band identity would have faltered. He was the ultimate anchor. Manolo Badrena, a holdover from the Weather Report days, played for great aesthetic and one senses he could play a whole bunch of other things if he wished.
Sabine Cabongo articulates so many things at once: the soul of chant and spatial effect. We sometimes forget that such music requires immense vocal technique.
Joe Zawinul’s power is located in the currency that his music retains to this day. Three generations of musical taste packed The Commodore tonight and it was inspiring to see critical thinkers from 20 to 70 years of age still engaging The Zawinul Syndicate.
Lappelectro admirably opened the show.
Daniel Lapp, the band’s nerve centre, is quite a musical story: a multiple instrumentalist whose approach provides an emotive sense of new jazz exploration. Lapp plays six-string electric violin, guitar, synth, harmonica, voice, and a horn section of trumpet, saxophone, flute and trombone.
The band’s Commodore set built nicely and the audience, subdued as it seemed, offered up generous support. Strangely, this group’s intimate style of exploration might be better experienced at less of a rock hall. Lappelectro played in Vancouver’s historic Gastown earlier in the week.
Elements in this group’s music exist within roles rather than changing in themselves. The holistic effect is transcendent but, at this point, Lappelectro needs to be swallowed whole. The bony, rock based drumming of Ryan Stuart rumbles nicely to Rick May’s exploratory bass lines. Keyboardist Danueal Tate appears to be as much a computer programmer as a musician, but his atmospheric leanings reflect an innovative approach to sounds. I think Daniel Lapp is best at trumpet. There, his skills provide a bridge between the intelligence of his musical understanding and our understanding of music itself.
Lappelectro is touring Canada right now to promote the July 3 release of its new record, Closer Than They Appear (on Vancouver’s Maximum Jazz label).
Stay tuned for more from the streets, concert halls and history of Vancouver – tomorrow at All About Jazz.
Day Six (June 25, 2003):
The Jazz Journalists Association of America held its Seventh Annual Jazz Awards ceremony yesterday in New York City. All About Jazz was named the “Best Web Site Covering Jazz” for 2003. Congratulations to AAJ Editor and Founder Michael Ricci. Some of the musical award winners performed in Vancouver this week, including Wayne Shorter and Jason Moran.
Vancouver shone in fine style today, with a fiery orb circling the sky with heat and light. When you find that it’s 17 degrees (Celsius) at 8:30 am, you know it’s going to be a hot one! Did I mention that Vancouverites (and visitors) live for the beauty that our city shows on days like this?
We have another full slate today. Jon Bentley, Kenny Wheeler, Brad Turner and John Taylor converge on the Vancouver East Cultural Centre where some fabulous concerts have occurred this week. Plena Libre and Rumba Calzada continue the New Groove Series at The Commodore. Satoko Fujii and Natsuki Tamura combine jazz with traditional Japanese folk music over at the Western Front. Local drummer and teacher Dave Robbins brings his sextet (featuring Dennis Esson, Jodi Proznick, Brad Turner and the great Miles Black) to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation studios downtown. Michael Moore is lecturing pedestrians about the gun culture of Vancouver at Main and Hastings – just KIDDING!! In fact, we refer to the Michael Moore who will conduct a workshop on saxophone and clarinet down at Tom Lee Music from 2-4 pm. Jazz education has been an important part of this festival; let’s hope they keep doing it in the coming years. For a list of today’s performances :
Festivals are wonderful for bringing people of divergent backgrounds together. Howard E. Aldrich is a jazz philanthropist who became a fan in the 1960s. Now, in addition to teaching (sociology and business), he contributes financially to two online jazz radio stations in North Carolina. The University of North Carolina puts on a festival each year and, as it turns out, Howard is directly involved. You might say he has seen his share of talent over the years.
I enjoyed swapping ideas with Aldrich on the performance displayed by Mike Zilber, Dave Liebman and their band at the “Van East” on Day Four . We mutually agreed to swap more ideas. Here is Howard’s experience of the recent performance of Swedish jazz singers Lina Nyberg, Rigmor Gustafsson and Jeanette Lindström.
“I should start by saying that theirs was a courageous, even heroic, performance. They only got into town two days ago and thus were suffering from nine-hour jet lag (they mentioned this several times during the night). They were clearly not in the best of form, and so we got only a glimpse of what they can do. Lindström is also suffering from a herniated disk, aggravated by the long flight, so she sat down on stage. She left the stage several times. Lindström was in obvious discomfort, but seemed to shake it off when called on to perform. Despite being billed as a trio, the three have not sung together very much. It showed.”
Back problem, severe jet lag? Wow. In this case, the performance itself was the accomplishment.
Aldrich really dug Brad Turner’s trio.
This day’s concert highlight was the Mike Stern Band with Alain Caron at The Centre for the Performing Arts – my first visit to that venue at this year’s Vancouver International Jazz Festival.
Jazz stories are all about who knows who, and Mike Stern’s biography fits. He is another descendant of the celebrated comeback of Miles Davis in the early 1980s. Stern’s story begins before that, however, when Stern’s teacher at Berklee, a 22-year-old Pat Metheny, suggested that the producer of Blood, Sweat & Tears hire Stern. At the time, Mike Stern was, himself, only 23. He has never looked back, playing with jazz giants like Joe Henderson, Jim Hall, Michael Brecker, Bob Berg, David Sanborn, and Steps Ahead. It really is all about who knows who, isn’t it?
Mike Stern has been touring the world this year to promote a new album (as yet untitled) scheduled for release this September on ESC. Stern’s last album was 2001’s Voices. Stern arrived in Vancouver fresh off a week at New York City’s Blue Note with Ron Carter, George Coleman and Jimmy Cobb. The Vancouver incarnation of the Mike Stern Band featured Alain Caron on bass, Bob Franceschini on sax and Lionel Cordew on drums. After this, Stern makes his way East to arrive back in Italy by July.
Tonight’s performance by Mike Stern and his four-piece band united pure jazz, fusion and rock to establish the rare domain of integrity that we have reserved for Pat Metheny and Jeff Beck. Stern and Co. pulled off a gutsy, bold performance in a theatre where the cool of affluence would have been more hip. They walked on to a sparse stage set wearing all black and proceeded to create grooves that had about 1500 heads bobbing, legs gyrating out from the seats into the aisles and fans doing what is also not cool to do in “The Centre:” “YEAH!!!!” “WOOO!”
The group shattered all pretence with an honest love of the music – what a festival is really all about. Stern spent the set shifting his weight from leg to leg while he picked in pure jazz, wailed in pure rock and hit the bluesy middle ground for an expert use of time. Alain Caron speaks with his music and he made his bass sing in the upper register so that the listener (who had he had not been in the hall) might have thought it was Stern playing a lower register. At other times, Stern and Caron jammed with a rock and roll heart. Included in the set was a beautifully groovy song from Stern's upcoming record. Lionel Cordew is clearly a jazz drummer but he combined his advanced improvisational lexicon with a power driven by rock mentality. Bob Franceschini was the least pronounced member musically but he played his melodic role beautifully. When he blew, and believe me he did, he also got the crowd yelling. Had we watched the same set in a million garages all over the world, we would have been equally inspired by this group’s performance. Seldom do we have so much fun in less than two hours.
If proof is in the audience reaction, two standing ovations and one encore for the Mike Stern Band made the point. Stern also made a classy point of appearing in the lobby of The Centre to autograph CDs afterwards.
Catch a broadcast of this festival highlight on the CBC show, Jazz Beat .
The Centre for the Performing Arts will likely spell the demise of Vancouver’s historic Queen Elizabeth Theatre. “The Centre” is less than two years old and it is situated across from the main branch of the Vancouver Public Library. Both structures were designed by the same architect. “The Centre” is in the heart of downtown Vancouver and, in location, will draw a generation of performers to it.
Canadian jazz fans love Alain Caron (pictured on the right of the album cover). Caron first dazzled me at the old Commodore two decades ago in a very leading edge fusion group called UZEB. It was fabulous music. The funniest thing came in the set break, when a younger Caron went up to the mike and said (I paraphrase due to age...): “We take break now. Back 15. You drink beer.”
The Steve Smith 5 offered an interesting but tired 50 minutes of music to open the Mike Stern concert. Falsely billed as a specially written seven-movement suite, the tunes vacillated within the exploratory confines of the modern convention. Some of the music leaned towards cool, much more of it was ensemble and a little bit of it was standard. The ability of the musicians is above reproach. Most of them are fixtures on the local scene, including group leader Steve Smith, who moved to Vancouver two years ago. Kevin Elaschuck and Dave Say displayed their trumpet and tenor sax work respectably, and Dylan van der Schyff shone in solo drumming. Pianist Lisa Miller appeared most ready for this gig and intuitively explored the keys for a comforting emotional effect. It ended very quietly, though.
Members of the “5” have been criss-crossing town in an admirable immersion of gigs during this jazz festival. The fatigue of doing so came through tonight.
Day Six began with a lovely trip to the Performance Works on Granville Island to watch the free improvisations of Hasse Paulsen, Torsten Müller and Paul Rutherford. All three are veterans of free improvisation and they have international exposure to the genre. Paulsen divides his time between Paris and Copenhagen. Paul Rutherford’s work includes time with Eddie Prevost, although improv lovers will most recall Rutherford’s 1976 album Gentle Harm Of The Bourgeoisie. Torsten Müller continues to explore the sonics of bass as he has since the 1970s. Jazz fans will recall that Müller is a co-founder (with Wolgang Fuchs) of the ten-piece European ensemble, King Übü Orchestra.
The performance of Paulsen, Müller and Rutherford was beautifully atmospheric, due in large part to the venue. Open sea breezes, from nearby False Creek, wafted through large openings at the back and sides of the hall. It was great to just sit at a spacious table while music lovers drifted in. A mother breast fed her baby at the next table (hungry little bugger!). A movie crew was shooting a film down the street – a common sight on Granville Island. Anything cultured happens most comfortably at Granville Island and this mid-week sojourn to see free-minded music was lovely.
Keep on coming back for more from the 18th Annual Vancouver International Jazz Festival. We’re loving it. I hope you are too.
Day Seven (June 26, 2003):
I just love talking to musicians, especially at festivals. Jazz musicians have that rare sense of community so most welcome an extended hand at the end of a set. In discovering a personality behind the performer, much is to be learned.
I’d like to introduce you to Tim Harries a 44-year-old native of England who filled in tonight on bass with Iain Ballamy’s Food. Tim Harries brought such love of music to the stage that I was compelled to meet him. We sat for a brief few minutes after the set outside the “Van East” – Harries tugging on a local lager (that a boy!) and a smoke while we spoke. The two men were very different – one a transcendent avant-garde bassist on stage, the other a down-to-earth, well-spoken person out the back door.
Harries was (in Ballamy’s words) “drafted” to play the band’s Canadian dates because their full-time bassist stayed home to prepare for parenthood. Harries is a polite and, obvious, articulate person who identified Evan Parker as one of his main musical influences. Harries and band leader Iain Ballamy go back 15 years back to the Old Country. Harries has greatly enjoyed his stops in Canada, breaking into spontaneous grin when recalling his trip to Saskatoon (Saskatchewan).
Tanya Kalmanovitch, who performed multiple gigs in Vancouver (reviewed here on Day Four ) is on the move. After her gigs in Vancouver, Tanya took the Hut Five to play in Victoria. Kalmanovitch now leaves her home in Calgary (Alberta) to live abroad for at least two years. Let this be a lesson to us all: we never know when we’ll get to see these artists again.
I also learned that drummer Owen Howard is from Alberta’s capital city of Edmonton. For our international readers, Alberta is a prairie province one door to the East of British Columbia, Vancouver’s home province.
At the Mike Stern concert, the impossible almost happened: two people with two identical tickets at the same concert for the same seat. So there I was, sitting as jazz journalists do, when a very nice lady tapped me on the shoulder to suggest that perhaps I was in the wrong chair. I apologetically dug out my ticket and the usher compared them: row number, seat number, ticket date – all identical. We all raised our eyebrows and eyed each other. Could it be? After some minutes and even closer scrutiny, the poor lady discovered she had the wrong event. Whew! What are the chances in this digital age?
Vancouver’s Orpheum Theatre is a wonderful story of how the little people saved a legacy. The 2800-seat theatre opened on November 7, 1927 to vaudeville shows but, in the 1970s, it faced a demolition ball. A public decision was demanded: either repair it or scrap it all together. As with so many things related to the arts, the most pressing issue was expense versus savings. A number of concerned citizens started a “Save the Orpheum” raffle ticket campaign (well before the modern Western phenomenon of the lottery) and began to raise money to rescue the place. My dad spent many Saturdays in a lawn chair selling those tickets outside a local retail store. That’s how badly average Vancouverites wanted to keep The Orpheum.
Nice bumper sticker: “If the people lead, the leaders will follow.”
The City of Vancouver purchased the theatre on March 19, 1974 and completely refurbished its interior. The Orpheum re-opened on April 2, 1977 as the permanent home of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra and a nicely renovated home to concerts. Last year, she celebrated her 75th anniversary. This year, Cesaria Evora , Denzal Sinclaire, Holly Cole and thousands of guests will be able to say they were there.
It was a thrilling victory. The grunts saved The Orpheum with a street level campaign of conviction.
Lots of action is in store on a very eclectic Day Seven. One of the highlights will be the Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra making a return visit, this time to The Commodore. In the tradition of Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, Antibalas (Spanish for “bulletproof”) unites Nigerian highlife, jazz, funk and traditional African elements with political messages. They bring 15 pieces from Brooklyn to pound us with polyrhythms and lyrics that apparently incite insurrection in English, Yoruba and Spanish.
That’s just what Vancouver needs: a little more insurrection.
In other action: the Eye of Newt Collective is fusing visual and aural display at the Western Front. Violinist and computer musician Stefan Smulovitz leads this group in a performance that features an avant-garde documentary on Soviet workers and film-making. Masa J. Anzai will handle sax and electronics, Joel Lower takes violin and drums, Kelly Churko uses laptop and Chris Kelly swings between sax, electronics and a sampler. Down on 7th Avenue, Studio 16 hosts To Be Ornette To Be with Jon Bentley on alto sax, Brad Turner on piano, trumpet and percussion, Darren Radtke on bass and Bernie Arai whacking drums. This group pays tribute to Ornette Coleman and Keith Jarrett’s American Quartet of the 1970s. The Vancouver Festival gets more cultural as we go, so check out the list of today’s performances.
Iain Ballamy’s Food took the “Van East” stage tonight – a gang of four, two from Norway and two from the United Kingdom. They put on a positively seductive display of how acoustic and synthetic sound can be so fused as to be indistinct. Tim Harries was the only musician that didn’t take turns with sampling. Arve Henriksen played trumpet (and sang) and Thomas Strønen hit many things, drums included. This band unified as a single instrument of understanding; what we saw was not necessarily what we heard and that was way cool.
I have nicknamed Henriksen “The Voice” for his ability to make us think the proceeds of his throat were actually the sounds of nature (I guess, in a sense, they were). I was watching. However, Food so enveloped my awareness that I just didn’t notice (until later) that Henriksen had lowered his trumpet, doubled over and articulated wildly ambient sound into the microphone.
In this case, the stillness of the audience reflected the depth of its engagement with the band. The venue was just right. This type of music is best visually enclosed as it was on the relatively small "Van East" stage.
We’ll show his face, but I had to take leave of René Lussier et Son Orchestre. This francophone post-bop guitarist levelled my patience within four songs of discordant noise that will only ever please 50 or 60 sets of ears. Lussier is obviously a gifted musician (that was clear) but the breaks were fractured and the bridges had holes in them. How much punishment should the listener absorb before asking convention benders to codify their intentions just a little bit?
It was sunny earlier in the day, but clouds began rolling in during the evening. There is no threat of rain, but the forecasters say we can expect more cumulus soon. The daytime high hit 22 degrees (Celsius) on the coast, about 27 inland (although it felt hotter). Vancouverites consider “inland” to mean the Fraser Valley and east, where temperatures routinely climb several degrees higher in the midday sun than they do by the water.
That’s all from Vancouver on Day Seven. Now it’s dark.
Day Eight (June 27, 2003):
The weather people are calling for a chance of showers as the stage hands clean up the remains of the gala closing: the concert by Holly Cole Sunday night at The Orpheum. Today began with cloud cover but it slowly broke up under considerable heat.
We must always pay homage to where we began, so what better than to provide a picture of Sonny Greer – a drummer who pioneered percussion in the days of ragtime. Beyond his use of funky drum rhythm, Sonny is remembered as one of the first drummers to use gongs, cymbals and instruments from other cultures. Historians call some of Greer’s creations the first "jungle music.”
Sonny Greer teamed up with bassist Jimmy Blanton to form a penultimate rhythm section with the Duke Ellington orchestra. Sonny kept the beat in the “Duke’s” Cotton Club band between 1919 and 1927. Sonny Greer would leave Duke Ellington’s musical company in 1951 to join the John Hodges band.
We look back (at least these days) to discover how to look forward.
Let’s look forward to Day Eight, which features headline billing for the NOW Orchestra . The band has been a fixture in Vancouver for over 25 years and they took The Vancouver East Cultural Centre stage tonight. NOW features: Achim Kauffman on piano, Kate Hammett-Vaughan on vocals (last night’s emcee), Clyde Reed and Paul Blaney on bass, a sax section of Graham Ord, Saul Berson and Bruce Freedman, John Korsrud and Bill Clark on trumpets, Brad Muirhead and Rod Murray on bones, Peggy Lee on cello and the seemingly everywhere Dylan van der Schyff (get that man a beer!) on traps. Vancouver-based pianist/composer/improviser Paul Plimley opens at the “Van East” on the explorations of 88 ivory keys.
A different fascination is the story of how Blonde Redhead made it from their native Italy, through a brief stop at Berklee and on to the Big Apple where, eventually, Sonic Youth drummer Steve Shelley produced its first recorded music. Twins Simone and Amadeo Pace (not to be confused with Ian Paice!) brought their experimental avant-rock to one of Vancouver’s excellent rock halls, The Commodore Ballroom. High Tone , billed as a group capable of integrating every kind of influence, opens the show. Of course, there’s always the complete list of today’s main performances .
Nice to meet Amalia Townsend a few days after one of her performances with Sekoya. Townsend also works at Maximum Jazz a local independent label. Although I accused her of injuring herself on Day Three , she’s in good health. I was only kidding.
The Capilano Suspension Bridge , one of the free venues at this year’s festival, spans 450 feet across and 230 feet above North Vancouver’s beautiful Capilano River. The musicians don’t actually play on the bridge. That would be a new kind of improvisation indeed.
Of course, there is a history behind the attraction. In 1888, George Mackay could see a distinct difficulty in trying to cross the mighty Capilano River from the hill on which he had just bought land and erected a house. So what did he do but turn to that other cultural strength of Vancouver: hemp. Mackay suspended a small, private bridge across the Capilano using a combination of hemp rope and some cedar wood that he had close by. It worked then and it’s still working.
Performances at a park near the bridge take place Saturday through Monday at 7 pm.
Tonight’s comment on Iain Ballamy’s Food focuses on how the power of music transcends its own stage. Food opened for the John Scofield Band and, in a powerful way, the ambient music of Scandanavia set the tone.
Trumpeter (and vocalist) Arve Henriksen’s fluid work was again augmented by “The Voice” (for more on that and bassist Tim Harries see yesterday’s coverage). Thomas Strønen again created an orchestral soundscape with his many percussive explorations. Band leader Iain Ballamy did the same on sax. Of course, three samplers at one time helped to blur the distinction between the ambient and the synthetic.
I remember thinking: if Food tries here what it did at the Vancouver East Cultural Centre last night, it might be in trouble.
Famous last words. The group played essentially the same opening composition to generous applause and I could feel a sedate vibe come over the hall. Last night, the group ended its second composition abruptly; tonight, almost as if it sensed catharsis, Food carried forward with a stunning conclusion – a statement of music so serene and sensitive that I felt my own respiration slow. The audience had the same reaction.
How do I know this? I almost had to awaken Tilden Webb, a local player who sat five seats away, to solicit a comment of “very interesting.”
Today’s featured concert welcomed the John Scofield Band back to town. The 52-year-old native of Dayton, Ohio brought his unique brand of post-bop, fusion and innovation to The Centre. Scofield is playing right now with Andy Hess on electric bass, Avi Bortnick on guitar, sampling and vocals and Adam Deitch on drums. The band’s arrival in Vancouver marks a three-day swing down the West Coast (Seattle and Portland next) over the weekend.
Scofield is touring to promote his latest release, Up All Night (Verve). The record features 11 original tracks, and a different bassist (Jess Murphy) than we saw this evening. Although most jazz fans will recall his work with Miles in the 1980s, Scofield discusses his immense respect for Bill Frissell and Pat Metheny. Read Scofield’s thoughts in autobiography if you have some time.
Of course, John Scofield sets his own groove and that was just fine tonight. The fans got a set that made an art of fusing Scofield’s jazz traditions with funk-based electronica. Avi Bortnick and Adam Deitch (an extremely tasteful drummer) produced warblings in addition to a downbeat that propelled Sco into the unconscious ease of fretboard improvisation. The audience got exactly what it came for.
“I hated disco. I was one of those people. I absolutely hated disco,” Sco told the crowd, adding, “but it’s a new time, a new era, a new millennium. I love disco.” Lots of laughter; that contradiction could speak for jazz itself. The band then launched into “Freakin’ Disco,” at once a tribute to that horrible time in music while improving on it this time. It began as disco, but it ended up as Scofield.
Still, John Scofield’s signature, a style that is both tasteful and aggressive, falls within the staff lines of tradition.
“Jungle Fiction,” a track from Scofield’s 2002 release, überjam (Verve), displayed a new literacy in rhythm from Deitch. I don’t (yet) know how old this drummer is, but he already possesses the best of the past while offering the new understanding of jazz. This was more than a drum solo. It was a flair of compositional brilliance.
The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) recorded the Scofield gig tonight. I sure hope, for the sake of jazz lovers, that they will include the set from Iain Ballamy’s Food. They made for wonderful contrasts in groove.
We have gone from the vinyl age to compact disc, and now to digital storage and swapping of music, in less than three decades. No wonder the music industry has a headache.
The paradigm that is now threatened was based on licensing rights and the hard copy distribution of music. That system, like any system, has flaws. We know that, in the old days, marketers made millions more than the artists who gave birth to their ideas. In the 1960s, Motown founder Berry Gordy placed his hit songwriters on salary while he paid crooners very little to animate ideas that were sold (and profited) by the unit. That’s just the way it was.
I was infuriated when the record industry pulled vinyl off the shelves and replaced it with compact discs. There was no doubt that the CD offered the brightest future for high fidelity recordings – at least, a dated version of the future. But what the hell was I to do with upwards of 500 individually bought vinyl recordings? Buy them all on CD for up to $25 a piece?
”Yes” was the collective reply from the recording industry.
That’s why hundreds of millions of people have no moral hesitation in now swapping MP3 music files online (a clear and unequivocal violation of artist copyright): they are still angry at the greed of powerful media companies. Consumers have refused to pay for it each time in each new media format.
I see evidence that the recording industry and artists are trying to adapt.
Virtually all artists I’ve seen at this year’s Vancouver Jazz Festival have tried selling their CDs at street level. A few veterans are using value added concepts to seal the deal. Mike Stern personally signed all purchased CDs in the lobby after his show at The Centre . John Scofield did the same (although he brought in a national retailer to sell the CDs). Over at the “Van East,” René Lussier sold his wares at a discount from the stage itself. The going price seems to be $20 (CDN) by cash only. That is what artists believe they need to charge to make a living on their works. Of course, music lovers decide the market, don’t they?
Media companies now use technology in their war against MP3. They send promotional copies of new album releases (excluding liner material) with a “watermark” so that cheaters could be digitally detected for loading songs on to their computers. Warner Jazz , for example, sends out a legal disclaimer form with its promo copies that reads like a lawsuit. It makes clear that the company expects jazz journalists to be responsible with the advance music that they are given. On this issue, the war will be a race of technological advance.
George Orwell saw it coming. He just got the wrong year.
Independent record labels are both endangered and empowered these days. They pay the biggest price for Internet file swapping because these companies operate so close to the profit line. On the other hand, the cheaper technology in producing CDs makes independents attractive to budding artists. Indies can serve artists more personally and they provide a marketing opportunity long forsaken by the big labels.
Still, digital storage of music is the next step. Is there a way to manufacture that using the old paradigm? Just asking.
So, Vancouver heads into the Canada Day weekend of the 18th Annual Jazz Festival. It’ll be a busy one. Tune in for more from the streets of Vancouver.
Day Nine (June 28, 2003):
Today’s heat was the kind that made you crave air conditioning in your vehicle: hot and sticky (25 degrees officially). They say it’ll be nice through tomorrow but, by evening, we’ll see cloud cover and a chance of a thundershower by the time Holly Cole hits the stage at The Orpheum Theatre. This was a day for flying around the city:
David Lam Park holds stages and meeting venues for many jazz enthusiasts. David Lam Park is very urban, very Vancouver. It’s nestled on high-priced land that buffets False Creek along one edge of the downtown core. A new generation of high-density residential towers looms over it. Today, it was the perfect place for an outdoor concert. This felt like a folk festival: people sun tanning with eyes closed, listening to jazz. Others sold crafts and still others looked after kids while mom and dad took in the scenery. This was a wonderful slice of Canada’s West Coast in summer.
It was a pleasure to hear the acoustic styling of the Mariusz Kwiatkowski Quartet in front of a healthy crowd at the Granville Island Market Stage. Kwiatkowski has been part of the Vancouver scene since 1991 and he has appeared at this festival every year since 1994. He was born in Poland, but was most inspired by John Coltrane, Wayne Shorter and Joe Henderson. Mariusz Kwiatkowski plays tenor and alto saxophone. Brian Horswill tickled the 88s, Brent Gubbels played bass and Ian Hood did the drumming.
Day Nine had the energy of the weekend. Karrin Allyson brought her bluesy vocal jazz to “The Centre.” In 2001, Allyson received two Grammy nominations for Ballads – Remembering John Coltrane (Concord). Her newest offering is In Blue billed as the most played vocal record on jazz radio. Karrin Allyson appeared tonight with Danny Embrey on guitar, Bob Bowman on bass and Todd Strait on drums.
Marcio Faraco made quite a stir of bossa rhythms and soulful singing on his debut album, Ciranda (Blue Thumb), released in 2000. Faraco is native to Brazil but he works out of Paris. He appeared tonight with Josue Domingues on bass, Patrice Larose on guitars, and a percussion tandem of Julio Cesar Goncalves and Dada.
My apologies to other musicians not mentioned here but with over 1700 musicians playing in the last ten days, that task has become too daunting. For a summary of the main events, check out the Coastal Jazz menu.
This day also featured a high-profile discussion among jazz journalists as moderated by Bill Smith. The panelists were: Paul de Barros, jazz columnist for the Seattle Times ; Mark Miller, jazz critic for The Globe and Mail and Bill Shoemaker, journalist and critic and Andrew Gilbert, a writer from the San Francisco Bay area (pictured here). These jazz writers provided geo-cultural perspectives on this topic (apparently given to them for discussion):
”Jazz is an international music. Why don’t most critics treat it that way?”
As journalists do, these five kicked around a whole bunch of topics related to the issue. The consensus on the panel was that the United States festival scene suffers from industry fragmentation and a lack of financial support for the local players. American jazz writers agreed that Canada – and Vancouver in particular – was doing an excellent job in fostering the international flavour of jazz music. This, they said, was not happening anywhere near as much in the United States.
The most provocative ideas came from Paul de Barros. His experience shows: he is seasoned enough to appreciate the message of the music itself, but he possesses the very skepticism that keeps journalists alive.
De Barros claimed that different factions are damaging the global jazz community by claiming to have most advanced the music. This is a thorny thing to say and I admired his guts for putting it like that. One of the journalists argued that African-Americans have contributed most to the development of jazz, but that they have come to feel threatened by the surging recognition that the Information Age is bringing to other musicians around the world.
Shoemaker added that the greatest threat to African-America’s claim to jazz authorship is not other musicians but a fickle public. Great insight.
Forum moderator Bill Smith argued that the personality of international jazz lies within the resolve of a relatively small group of avid fans who stretch themselves beyond duty’s call to assemble festivals. In the case of the Vancouver Jazz Festival, I have to agree. The Coastal Jazz and Blues Society struts its stuff internationally for ten days a year, but it supports local jazz year-round.
Mark Miller focused more on the degree to which size does not equal quality. Miller suggested that Canadian jazz festivals are smaller than to their American counterparts, but that Canadian festivals are richer in musical diversity. He also put the debate in an economic frame. Miller said the sales of jazz music comprise merely three percent of all international music sales.
The inevitable question followed: does that marginalize the music?
The packaging of media shindigs often eclipses their value. Much posturing takes place before the fact, hence the very question of this debate: clearly, an attempt to accentuate “international” (not that there’s a single thing wrong with that). When, for example, you hear comments that are not transcribed and one journalist’s presence is not even noted, you must question the reality. Good thing I was there to hear it.
Throughout this year’s Vancouver festival, music lovers have shown me that they hold their values dear. I’ve seen it everywhere. The Vancouver festival is run with an army of organized volunteers. While chatting with a local musician last night, a fan interrupted our conversation to say how much she enjoyed his music. Best interruption I’ve ever seen. An emcee, who just minutes earlier spoke from the stage, slipped into a lone seat at the back of the hall to watch; he is a local jazz radio host. They come from all walks of life and they are united by the music.
Since jazz is all about the expression of feeling, I can’t help but observe a striking contrast that has really upset me.
If you were accosted while trying to attend a Jazz Festival event in downtown Vancouver, I apologize. Our city has many safe neighbourhoods, but Granville Street is no longer one of them. It epitomizes the clash between affluence and poverty. On one side of the street, investment is funding the construction of entirely new buildings while, on the other, the poor beg with a desperation seldom seen in these parts. Numerous times this week, I stood beside beggars who asked each individual concert-goer for change. One man pegged it at 35 cents; if they shook their heads, he asked: "Not even a penny?" Several blocks away, at a venue in "the entertainment district," hookers arrived to negotiate at concert's end. Post-concert, I almost had to lunge at a man who had catapulted himself into a busy intersection for reasons unknown. At 12:30 am on a weeknight, a person confronted my car (having just stopped) at a red to light to clean my window and ask for change - miles from the venue that I just left.
In four days, we all learn whether or not Vancouver and Whistler (pictured here) will be selected to host the Winter Olympic Games in 2010. The city is abuzz because the bid committee has been trying to sell the International Olympic Committee (IOC) since November 1998. Today, one of Vancouver’s major daily newspapers pictured our Premier waving a Canadian flag as he boarded a plane to Prague for the decision on July 2. If the IOC awards the Games to us, Vancouverites will thump their chests and hope that the resulting construction and renovation projects will pull us out of a bad economic malaise. If the IOC gives it to Salzburg (Austria) or to Pyeongchang (South Korea) – well, nobody here is talking about that.
For the last nine days, musicians from around the globe have brought their worlds of hope to our stages. Time and again, emcees have begun concerts by explicitly thanking governments in their home countries for enabling them to groove in Vancouver. In some cases, very rich corporations are positively responsible. Clearly, a lot of music was made here because funding had been provided there, wherever that is.
The Government of Canada has also been a positive influential here. Agencies like Heritage Canada, embassies and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (funded with federal dollars) have all taken an active role in recording and otherwise facilitating performances all over the city. The Canada Council for the Arts is the main source of arts funding on a national basis and those dollars put a lot of music in our ears.
Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Check out our coverage of the final day of the Vancouver Jazz Festival tomorrow.
Day Ten – Conclusion (June 29, 2003):
“Welcome to our set. Welcome to our world.” Michael Zilber, June 23, 9:20 pm.
To all the musicians who played in Vancouver this year: thank you so much. Your work is the story, period. Any musical event has moments: good, bad, hilarious, deep, moving – and the adjectives go on. So do the musicians. They go from here to keep spreading the music, and this journalist realizes how lucky he was to see it – much as one person could see from one body. For a sample of what went on today, check out the main festival schedule .
Thanks also to the Coastal Jazz and Blues Society , a non-profit agency that organizes the mammoth task of putting on this festival each year. The staff at Coastal helped us see it so you could read about it.
June 28: 1:47 pm: I’m late for the gig, I’ve snagged a surprisingly good parking spot and I’ve just reached that terrible moment – the image devolves to slow motion. You know, in that instant when it is too late: your keys are still in the ignition. $37.45 later, I get my keys back and can only utter a word that shall remain undisclosed (except to the traffic cop who smiled in all-knowing empathy).
Eastwind provided a wonderful foray into traditional ensemble jazz this afternoon at the Granville Island Market Stage (where very tough pigeons fight humans for bench space). This group is full of veterans and their experience shone in the acoustic outdoor environment. Henry Boudin swirled through the saxophone stratosphere (great soloing), Alan Penfold brought a very cultured temperament to his work on trumpet and flugelhorn, George McFetridge did the same on piano, Karlis Silins picked up the low end on bass and Tom Foster admirably drummed his way through the first of two Island gigs for him this afternoon.
June 21: 10 pm: a particularly furious musical exchange between Jason Moran and his band. Bassist Tarus Mateen had carried a typically cool persona on stage that night. It all evaporated in a moment of sheer ecstasy as Mateen slowly straightened his previously hunched body. He lay at a 45-degree angle to the stiff, wooden chair that he had slouched in – eyes cast skyward. One can only imagine what he was thinking...
The appearance of the Simon Fisk Trio drew a line-up and an expectant aura to the Performance Works. I understand why. Simon Fisk is a new age of jazz pianist, trained in the classics and attuned to new styles and approaches. I most enjoyed his intellectual chord placement within a frenetic, exploratory rhythmic framework initiated by bassist Chris Gestrin and Tom Foster on drums. Foster’s playing changed dramatically from the traditional musical world of an hour earlier. He seemed more immersed in the setting of the Fisk trio.
June 23: 6:10 pm: I have flatulence. Interesting problem. If I fart, the Eddie Prevost Trio could improvise on my pronouncement for the next hour.
Ottmar Liebert’s arrival on the world music scene, almost 15 years ago, is a nice story. A radio station in Los Angeles got hold of the German guitarist’s first-born, Nouveau Flamenco ( Higher Octave ), and began to play it. Fans flooded the station for more, then flooded the record stores until the album sold out. The fans demanded more; Liebert has surely obliged. He went on to produce seven more records for Higher Octave, nine albums for Epic and two for Sony International.
Ottmar Liebert’s music is uniquely global. Its root is mostly flamenco but his music has also been characterized as new age, ethnic fusion and adult alternative. Liebert’s performance at The Centre tonight demonstrated just how far he has taken this previously regional form of music. Ottmar Liebert strikes me as a mariachi who has had the opportunity to wander the world and develop a wealth of both musical culture and technological advance.
June 22: 7:35 pm: sitting in a sandwich shop just off Vancouver’s famous Granville Street (a distinctive place noted here yesterday ). The skies had just opened up in a way that is rarely intense for Vancouver. I took a bite, looked up and saw a beautifully striking rainbow arching above The Orpheum sign. Wow. So I went back to my sandwich, took a bite and looked up again. Gone. How little time we have.
Ottmar Liebert now indulges in what he calls Earth music that which fuses myriad musical cultures in a universal exchange of ideas. That clearly happened on stage tonight in very impressive degree. The combination of Ron Wagner’s acoustic percussion and electronic percussionist Canton Becker drew great appreciation from the highly ethnic crowd. The two beautifully ended the first set with a rhythm duet. Wagner’s deft use of ten-finger drumming (on many instruments) created an especially rich, textured sound that compels as defined rhythm usually does.
Ron Wagner is quite a world music story unto himself. After making records with Chicago’s Peter Cetera, Chick Corea and Ottmar Liebert, Wagner immersed himself in the rhythms of India, South America and the Middle East. He studied tabla, the drums of Northern India, with masters Harihar Rao and Pandit Taranath Rao. After that, maestro Moacir Santos introduced Wagner to the sophisticated pulses of Brazil. In case the space of world music daunts you, Wagner is human. He began his musical journey by whacking out commercials and soundtracks for, among other things, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Voyager. Ron Wagner really is a voyager.
Tonight, Ottmar Liebert wanted us to perceive him as a minimalist. The stage was set with as few objects as possible and a little dry ice to accentuate the violet and turquoise rays that were left aflame as we entered the hall. While Liebert reclined in a chair, Wagner and Becker sat on the floor of the stage. Bassist and keyboard contributor Jon Gagan was the only member of the band that stood. Although the show reflected Liebert’s concern for our whole aesthetic experience, I couldn’t quite buy the humility that it was supposed to present.
Liebert’s fabulous musicianship made him a fortune in a time when great music occasionally did: the old paradigm of the record industry (observed here first in our coverage of Day Eight ). He plays great music and that has rightly earned him a place on our musical radars.
Ottmar Liebert has announced his retirement from the mainstream music industry. Tonight, Liebert said he doesn’t like where the corporations are taking music, citing the industry’s attempted crackdown on duplication as a main reason. Liebert contends that copying has gone on since the Middle Ages and that it always will; in fact, he’s banking on it. Liebert will sell future recordings from his official Web site and provide free MP3 downloads. If you are so inclined, check out some of his personal opinions on this and other issues.
Liebert’s announcement was welcomed with generous applause.
In case you’re wondering, Ottmar Liebert’s appearance wasn’t entirely an act of philanthropy. He played on a stage that was skirted by three promotional banners and was paid, at least in part, by the Government of Canada. All paid ticket holders who live, work and use a hard phone line in British Columbia actually paid for this gig three ways.
June 26: Iain Ballamy tells the “Van East” audience a funny story: a lady walks up and asks a musician if the group takes requests. The musician replies in the affirmative and asks what she would like to hear. She says, “I don’t know. Anything you like.”
Are 12,500 words enough to have adequately characterized the 18th Annual Vancouver International Jazz Festival? No way: not even close. Here, I merely scratched the surface of an event that has grown and drawn musical talent from all over our world. The Vancouver Jazz Fest is an embodiment of a duality that I see in jazz music itself: big enough to dream, yet small enough for the individual dream. That may be its greatest asset in an uncertain future.
My heartfelt thanks goes to you, the reader. I really appreciate you taking some of that precious little time to check out our coverage from Vancouver.
June 25: 11:10 pm: “You’re a beautiful audience. I love playing Vancouver.” Mike Stern