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Jazz Scene Report - Vancouver, BC

It's the most exciting time of year, and after spending most of the winter sick with a nasty flu, I'm ready for it! We've got a ton of great things going on in the Spring jazz season in this already-blooming-for-the-last-month-town, so let's get to it. As usual, the Productive Season begins around here in the Fall of each year after a Summer Hibernation period of sorts. Post-Jazz Fest (early July), everyone kind of shuts down and regroups, making plans for the next 'jazz season', which runs from about October-November through June. By about mid-Fall and into Winter, the gigs and CDs and all that great jazz just come pourin' on down. By the time Spring rolls around again, things are in full swing and building up to a crescendo for the premiere annual cultural event in the city: the du Maurier International Jazz Festival. As I've written in the past, this is THE big one, with an average of 1500 artists over 10 days at hundreds of concerts, with at least half of them offering free admission in venues all over town. It really is something to live for, and counting down the days as it approaches has grown into a tradition. We're sitting at 91 days until the 16th annual extravaganza as I write this. Three months. I think I can make it. Especially as the Coastal Jazz & Blues Society, presenter of the festival, has made the following early announcements (with full schedule to be announced in early May):

Blues guitar great Buddy Guy makes an appearance Saturday, June 30 at the Orpheum Theatre with special guest guitarist/vocalist/trumpeter Olu Dura. Now, I'm not the biggest fan of the blues, but old school done right can be pretty damned sweet.

The other teaser is the most welcome return of anything the Buena Vista Social Club name presents, this time Orquesta Ibrahim Ferrer with special guest Rubén Gonzalez for a Thursday, July 5 show that will undoubtedly sell out far in advance as all the BVSC presentations do. They just can do no wrong, and are always a huge delight for a wide-ranging audience, as album sales and the well-deserved hype continue to prove. That this show takes place in the opulent Orpheum Theatre will only further add to the experience. Tickets are not cheap for this one, but when you think of what airfare and hotel for a trip to Cuba costs, it's a helluva bargain. (Info/tix: http://www.jazzvancouver.com, or 604-872-5200)

A cursory initial surfing of musicians' websites has uprooted the following (unconfirmed) festival attendees and shows: Favorite Canadian sons, the all-star electric jazz group Metalwood is scheduled to make no less than three concert appearances, no doubt to make up for last year's drought involving NO Metalwood festival shows! (Oh the torture!) (Info: http://www.metalwood.com)

And near-ubiquitous festival attendee Dave Douglas will be back after not attending last year for the first time in years. Interesting to note the venue positioning on the two schedule concerts Douglas will perform with two very different units, which reflect the diversity of Douglas' talent. On Friday, June 29 at the Vancouver East Cultural Centre, Douglas will perform an undoubtedly mind-altering show sure to encompass some amazing improv with clarinetist Louis Sclavis, the very 'out' bassist Barre Phillips, and the talented soundscapist drummer Dylan van der Schyff. On Saturday, June 30, he'll bring to the Vogue Theatre his New Quintet, which features bassist James Genus (who was here with Douglas for a spring show at the Starfish Room two years ago), pianist Uri Caine, saxophonist Chris Potter and drummer Clarence Penn. (http://www.davedouglas.com)

And with the help of a great Spring Concert line-up of shows presented by the aforementioned CJBS, plus other venues around town, there's lots to keep us busy through the season. The world music influence continues to weave itself prominently through all of music, it seems, with jazz no exception, and CJBS continues to be all over that this season. Popping into town for a Wednesday, April 4 appearance at the Orpheum Theatre is Paco de Lucia & Septet. Hot, mesmerizing, energetic guitar oughta spice up your midweek like nothing else. (Info/tix: http://www.jazzvancouver.com, or 604-872-5200)

The weekend of Thursday-Saturday, April 5-7, the Trio lead by the beautiful, gentle guitarist Bill Coon sets a romantic dining mood at my fave neighborhood hang, O'Doul's. Just two blocks from my house, it's just a hop, skip and a jump (or stagger depending on which way I'm going) to some great jazz most weekends. (Info: http://www.odoulsrestaurant.com)

Two days later, Moreno Veloso will help keep the temperature of Vancouver at a record April high with his MV +2 show at Sonar on Friday, April 6. Sonar is home to the most modern of musics, with electronica, beats and DJs leading the regular lineup. With a last name like that, expectations will soar rather high, and word has it he lives up to it. With Alexandre Kassin on electric bass/shamisen and Domenico Lancelloti on electronic drums/percussion/vocals. (Info/tix: http://www.jazzvancouver.com, or 604-872-5200)

Because you won't have had your fill of a taste of early summer that all this below-the-equator music is bringing, Cuba's twin Puentes Brothers will do their guitar-based dance music at the Starfish Room on Friday, April 6 (part of the Port Moody Arts Festival). Part of the next generation of Cuban music inspired by the members of the Buena Vista Social Club, they'll also play the next night at the Inlet Theatre in Port Moody. (Info/tix: http://www.jazzvancouver.com, or 604-872-5200)

A weekend of joy in the form of vocal expression comes via Kate Hammett-Vaughan at O'Doul's the weekend of Thursday-Saturday, April 12-14. Hammett-Vaughan is a rare combination of intuitive entertainer and expressive, giving artist, one who I have seen dozens of times and never tire of hearing. She always has something new to say and new ways of saying it - a great journey to be a part of. (Info: http://www.odoulsrestaurant.com)

My favorite jazz spot these days has been the cozy, casual joint in and known as The Cellar. Since my pal, the musician Cory Weeds and his restaurateur buddy Don Guthro took over last Summer, it quickly became the place to be for hardcore jazzers, casual listeners and musicians alike. It just feels good to be amongst people who want to HEAR and enjoy the experience together. I've heard some amazing shows there, with Kate Hammett-Vaughan, Denzal Sinclaire, Metalwood, and Chris Gestrin's regular Sunday night gigs springing to mind as beautiful nights we wouldn't have otherwise had without this one room in town dedicated to this music. Sure, there are lots of other places that have jazz a night or two or three a week, but the Cellar is all about jazz, all the time, with a pretty good variety from week to week from amongst the locals and visitors to the city. The key to the Cellar is "reserve reserve reserve" otherwise you risk standing in the line-up that usually snakes up the stairs and out to the street on Friday and Saturday nights. And they say jazz is dead!

Upcoming excitement this season at the Cellar is the Friday-Saturday, April 13-14 shows by the well-respected, total pro guitarist Oliver Gannon and his Quartet. Gannon is a one of the 'elder statesmen' types on the scene (though I don't think he's really THAT elder. so to speak) and his bandmates are no slouches either. With Campbell Ryga (saxes); Russ Botten (bass); and Blaine Wikjord (drums). (Info/tix: http://www.cellarjazz.com or 604-738-1959)

The following week, Thursday, April 19 at the Cellar, sees the long-awaited return to the local stage of my favourite local group, Diversions. This modern, electric, funky jazz trio is always the best source for stimulating adventures of the mind whilst listening to the spirited sounds eminating from their unbelievable connection to each other. Ohboyohboyohboy. Jon Bentley (main composer/saxes/clarinet/etc.); Chris Gestrin (keyboards); Bernie Arai (drums). (Info/tix: http://offthefly.com/diversions, http://www.cellarjazz.com or 604-738-1959)

The weekend of Friday-Saturday, April 27-28, alto saxist P.J. Perry takes up residence at the Cellar with a stellar backup band for the weekend made up of pianist Ross Taggart, bassist André Lachance and percussionist extraordinaire Dylan van der Schyff. Perry's most recent achievement is a recording with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra. (Info/tix: http://www.cellarjazz.com or 604-738-1959)

Tuesday, May 15, Coastal Jazz & Blues presents Keiji Haino in a solo performance at the Western Front. Haino's influences vary widely (Iannis Xenakis's electro-acoustic music, Gregorian chant, the sludgy proto-heavy-metal band Blue Cheer and the Japanese improvised rock scene of the 1960s), and knowing nothing about him whatsoever makes absolutely no difference when it's a CJBS show and it's at the Western Front. Guaranteed interesting. The show press info states, "For the past three decades, Tokyo's guitar monster Keiji Haino has constructed an entire sound-realm of his very own that is fascinatingly bent, absolutely one-of-a-kind and deeply personal." Sounds great. (Info/tix: http://www.jazzvancouver.com, or 604-872-5200)

The legendary alto saxist Gary Bartz pays a visit to the Cellar on Tuesday-Wednesday, May 15-16 to perform with the crème de la crème of Vancouver's jazz musician pool. He'll be backed by Tuesday night regulars Mike Allen (tenor sax), Darren Radtke (bass) and Dave Robbins (drums). On Wednesday, Bartz, whose living legend status includes playing in Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, with the Charles Mingus Workshop, Miles Davis, and regular Vancouver visitor, the pianist McCoy Tyner, will take up with Brad Turner's regular Quartet. Now, you KNOW who that is by now, don't you? Turner on trumpet, Bruno Hubert on piano, André Lachance on bass and Dylan van der Schyff on drums. I think reserving now wouldn't be out of order on this one. Two shows each night. (Info/tix: http://www.cellarjazz.com or 604-738-1959)

Three years ago at the du Maurier International Jazz Festival Vancouver, I spent about 10 minutes learning how to properly pronounce Steve Arguelles' last name. Ar-GOI-yes. I will never forget that. Nor will I forget his creative, intuitive drumming. A little puzzled by the electronic thing he had going two festivals ago (or was that last year.) with French pianist Benoit Delbecq and Canadian clarinetist/electronics manipulator François Houle, but where a sense of adventure is a required element for enjoyment is involved, I'm always game for a listen. Arguelles is part of the A.D.D. Trio bringing a taste of European out thereness to the Western Front on Thursday, May 24. The Trio also includes Robert Dick (flutes) and Christy Doran (guitar). Should be very interesting. (Info/tix: http://www.jazzvancouver.com, or 604-872-5200)

The concerts and events noted here are but a small sample of the goings on about town this season. For complete schedules visit the mentioned websites and don't forget to stop by http://www.vancouverjazz.com for a comprehensive look at the Vancouver scene with tons of items and links to musicians, venues, listings, a jazz forum for discussion and so much more.

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