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Vancouver Jazz Festival

Every year I volunteer at the Vancouver International Jazz Festival and last night, June 22, was my first shift as the Crew Chief at the Ironworks. The show last night was fun and unusual as Francois Houle and Mats Gustafsson organized an improvisational program around the idea of a hockey game, Improv Power Play: Canada vs Sweden. The individual solo improvs that started the event were excellent with standouts in my mind being Peggy Lee (defense for Canada) on cello and Per Ake Holmlander (defense Sweden) on tuba. Everyone played extremely well and the night ended with both teams on stage playing together. The drummer or goalie, Raymond Strid, for the Swedish Team (Tre Kroner), was very playful and showed a great sense of humor in this some times “serious music” jazz environment.

June 20

I have already seen some great shows, Barry Guy (bass) and Myra Homberger filled up the room at The Western Front with delightful sonorities and tasteful improvisation. The Baroque violins that Myra specializes in playing, have a unique timbre and blend with Barry’s bass beautifully. This duo has played together frequently and they mixed composed works with less structured pieces in imaginative segues.

Unfortunately, I had a small motorcycle accident, so I was a bit disoriented and missed Benoit Delbecq at the Roundhouse. That hurt more than the bruises I sustained, as I am always inspired by his playing.

June 21

I did catch the set with Benoit Delbecq and Quator Bozzini at the Western Front and it showed me a more restrained side of his musical skill set. I will see them again on Tues and will write more after that.

My daughter recommended Pink Martini as an interesting show and they were pure entertainment. The most unusual feature of this group is the multi-language focus of the songs. Although all of the songs fell within the movie theme + Vegas show + cruise ship show band type of genre; the switch to a different language showed how far the influence of stage band jazz has reached. The group excelled at Latin music and closed with a great version of “Brazil” after singing in Chinese, Arabic, Japanese, Italian, Spanish, French, English and probably other languages as well. The pianist, Thomas L. Lauderdale, played with flourishes that reminded me of Liberace. Lauderdale is the mastermind behind Pink Martini, and the lovely vocalist Chana (citation) was credited with co-writing the songs and was amazing in her abilitiy to sing in all these different languages. Other members of the 13 piece group were outastandin musicians and helped contribute to the multi-cultural aspect of the performance.

June 22

Despite having an afternoon business meeting regarding the book, I managed to hear a bit of the Vancouver Creative Music Institute (VCMI), a co-production of Coastal Jazz and Blues and the Vancouver Community College. The large ensemble, conducted by Georgio Magenesi, was brilliantly executed with space for all the players, changes in density, dynamics and timbre that maintained interest throughout. One of the best improvised large ensemble pieces for this year. Lan Tung was featured on erhu, Chinese violin, and her tone sang beautifully.

Georgio has taught me a lot about music. Sometimes when I listen to improv, noise music or another genre I don’t completely understand — I switch into another mode of listening. I change from listening for melody, harmony, rhythm and other structures, to listening to a matrix of timbres and densities. If I can break free of my traditional music frames, I can enjoy and experience music in another way. I feel like I have never properly thanked him for this tool, and other things he has told me about conducting. He is the Director of Vancouver New Music and we are lucky that he left his native Italy to enrich out community.

Francois Houle was the Artistic Director of this years VCMI and he did a wonderful job of supporting the players. All of the faculty also play in the festival and this week long series assists Vancouver players to interact with established International artists.

Later, I volunteered at the Ironworks.

Today, I have to go to work and so will miss the shows. However, I might be able to get off early enough to use my pass to see at least one show.

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