The TD Victoria Jazzfest kicks off this week and while some purists may complain about the number of non-jazz acts in the lineup, it’s important to remember those pop/rock acts are the cash cows that help fund the jazz ones. Even fabled jazz impresario George Wein’s 1969 Newport festival included Led Zeppelin and Jethro Tull alongside Miles Davis, Dave Brubeck and Art Blakey.
So for both the jazz fans and the merely jazz-curious, let’s take a look at what’s on offer over the next 10 days.
● The festival kicks off with vocalist Madeleine Peyroux. She’s been here several times before and has a dedicated following for her Billie Holiday songs from the Contemporary Songbook.
● The big jazz name this year is Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, a group dedicated to the leader’s concept of jazz as American Classical. Expect jazz standards and a new long-form work by Marsalis played with precision, virtuosity and just a few surprises.
● While not strictly a jazz performer, Spanish guitarist Paco de Lucia has worked with lots of jazz musicians and his version of flamenco is infused with improvisation. His upcoming Montreal appearance is sold out, but tickets aren’t moving very quickly here. His seven-piece ensemble is said to be dynamite — this just might be the show people kick themselves for having missed.
● Three rather different approaches to jazz piano will be on display at the Alix Goolden hall next week. Robert Glasper is a fine straight-ahead pianist with a penchant for more contemporary directions, often spiking his tunes with hip-hop rhythms. Misha Piatigorsky, familiar to many locals from his teaching stints at the Victoria Conservatory, is bringing a new, more edgy group he calls Sketchy Black Dog featuring drums, bass and a string quartet playing a repertoire of Bowie, Zeppelin and Hendrix tunes. And Cuban pianist Hilario Duran returns, this time with his 13-piece Latin Jazz Band featuring flautist/soprano saxist Jane Bunnett. Should be mucho caliente.
● Want some good old-fashioned Blue Note style hard bop? Look no further than bassist Christian McBride. Much in demand as a sideman — his website lists 275 recordings in a supporting role — McBride and his new band, the most aptly named Inside Straight, harken back to the glory days before The Beatles changed the face of popular music and jazz was still the epitome of all that was hip and cool.
The Alix Goolden is a pretty intimate space, but for the real jazz experience (well, minus the cigarette smoke), Hermann’s Jazz Club is the place to be. There, you’ll see everything from Django-style gypsy jazz to classic jazz vocals, jazz-funk to afro-cuban rhythms, classically influenced compositions to free jazz.
● Pianist Marianne Trudel is a familiar face in town — she gets out here from Montreal several times a year, but usually she’s playing solo or with at most a trio. This Friday she gets to present her new septet, including Victoria’s own Anne Schaefer on vocals, which lets her add a lot more colours to her intricate jazz/classical compositions.
● Canadian/Danish quartet Koptor takes an outside/inside approach that’s highly adventuresome and satisfying. They could well find themselves pushed just a little harder this Saturday night if Wynton Marsalis and some of his sidemen show up after their gig at the Royal to sit in, something the trumpeter has done pretty well every time he’s played here.
● Toronto-based vocalist Alex Pangman has a real affinity for the songs of the early jazz and swing eras — you can almost hear the scratches on those old 78s when she sings. Her band includes sizzling violinist/saxman Drew Jurecka, most recently seen here driving Jill Barber’s more ’60s-styled act.
● Québecois pianist Francois Bourassa has a real thing for the music of rebellious bassist Charles Mingus, one of the finest composers of the bop era. His own compositions wear the Mingus imprimatur quite openly — tight playing, tricky changes and great melodies.
● Other great choices at Hermann’s: Scandinavian quartet Atomic walk the line between typical European austerity and fiery American bravura; drummer Mark McLean brings da funk and the afro-cuban beats, and local favourites, the Marc Atkinson Trio, keep the spirit of Django Reinhardt alive and picking.
Pick up a Jazzfest program, see the ad on Page 24, or check out the web site at jazzvictoria.ca for times and venues. M