The 2012 Vancouver International Jazz Festival opens this Friday, June 22, for 10 days of live jazz in Lotusland. CBC Music asked artistic director Ken Pickering to sketch out an overview.
There’s a lot of excitement around the charismatic Janelle Monae – last month she sold out two dynamite shows at the Sydney Opera House.
Spectrum Road’s another one – I always loved the original Tony Williams Lifetime; that band represented the intense hard-edged beginnings of fusion back in the day when it was new and revolutionary. This reincarnation is burning with original member Jack Bruce, plus Cindy Blackman Santana, John Medeski and Vernon Reid.
And François Houle 5+1: François came to me with an idea to put together a new band with American trumpeter Taylor Ho Bynum. Over espressos at Milano I suggested Brooklyn/Canadian expats Michael Bates (bass) and Harris Eisenstadt (drums). Bates brought Swiss-born, Berlin-based trombonist Samuel Blaser on board and finally Parisian pianist Benoit Delbecq was invited to join. All close personal friends and leaders in their own right. Songlines recording coming out any minute now, Canadian festival tour and voila – one of the best new jazz bands on the scene!
I think that the core programming vision is the key to our identity. We search out the best talent for our international showcases and collaborations, including the entire Innovation Series, and balance the overall program between the mainstream and the cutting edge. This somewhat unique approach sets the festival apart from most urban jazz festivals in the world.
I get a lot of great feedback from musicians about the love and commitment to the music that they feel from everyone that works on the festival – and this special feeling is what makes Vancouver a festival destination where the musicians know that they’ll be treated with the utmost respect.
The other thing is our ambitious multiple-stage cross-genre, jazz-rooted program that takes place in venues throughout the city. New this year is Downtown Jazz and we’re really psyched to finally have stages right in the core of the city bounded by Georgia, Howe, Robson and Hornby streets.
Come for the festival, stay for Stanley Park
My fave Vancouver thing to do is to head out for a leisurely stroll on the seawall, including Stanley Park. With kilometres of public waterfront access, this is the quintessential outdoor Vancouver experience. I’ve travelled a lot in North America and Europe and there’s very little to compare to our amazing seawall.
From the memory banks
I still have great memories of an encounter (and gig) with the mysterious Sun Ra in the late '80s at the old Commodore. I was heading backstage to pay the band and was directed to his dressing room. Once inside I realized that fest photographer Chris Cameron was also there to take a few informal shots. An unforgettable encounter – Mr. Ra sat us down and laid out a half-hour cosmic monologue that was a once in a lifetime experience. Awesome!
• CBC Music's 2012 festival guide
• SPF '12: Summer preview of jazz and world music festivals
• Jazz festivals’ rising costs spark program changes
• Miles vs. Wynton, Beatles vs. Stones, Handel vs. Mattheson
on Jun 19, 2012