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Vancouver International Jazz Festival 2009

By: Kenneth Law, MMV Contributing Writer

With a wide range of acts and an abundance of free shows available at various locations around Greater Vancouver for attendance, this year’s Vancouver International Jazz Festival failed to disappoint, living up to its reputation for being a perennially stellar event.

Recap of some highlights, all of them were free to attend:

  • Hiromi Uehara’s Workshop, Tom Lee Granville: The eclectic avant-garde jazz musician’s concert was a cool $30, but her workshop was entertaining in its own right and free. She still played music and plinked on the piano, albeit without the rest of her band and likely with less of the usual stage presence that would be expected at a show. It was well worth it just to get a chance to have a chat with Hiromi, who for the record is perfectly fluent in English.
  • Robin Nolan Trio, Gastown: Gastown was closed entirely during the first weekend of the festival to traffic, which makes for a fair-like setting in the middle of one of the grittier yet chic spots of downtown, complete with food vendors, non-homeless street performers and games with free prizes. Two stages were planted in the area, though I found the Water and Carrall intersection in front of Chill Winston, usually replete with traffic to be the much more ergonomic setup. Robin Nolan was a highlight for me with his gypsy style jazz guitar playing, including in his setlist a timely rendition of Michael Jackson.
  • Mimi Snider, Capilano Suspension Bridge: The Vancouver-based vocal jazz musician was a welcome respite amongst the many “fusion”-type jazz acts that I was a patron to throughout most of the event. As always, the Cap bridge is free during the weekend of the festival, which is great if it’s your first time there in a while or if you bring some friends along as the bridge is about $20 to cross. Each way. It’s also a good idea to pre-eat and BYOB as the choices there are very pricey, but it’s definitely a captivating experience to listen to smooth jazz amidst the backdrop of trees and flowing rivers.

Last but not least, were the various acts at David Lam Park.  This is the venue with the largest audience and open field in the middle of upscale Yaletown, bordering the coastline. It also generally featured music that was the furthest thing from Jazz throughout the entire festival.

Christy Doran’s New Bag is more of a progressive rock/jazz virtuoso outfit, with a level of aggression in their sound that does not really befit the festival genre. 

Wil Campa y su Gran Union sounded like something you would hear in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico which was interesting at first, until they continued playing what was more or less the same thing for the entire duration.

Delhi 2 Dublin closed off the festival on Saturday and is a relatively big name amongst its peers on stage, playing a rather odd mix of Indian, electronica and dub. Again, not jazz, and hence true jazz connoisseurs would be disappointed, but if you arrive with an open appreciation for music it was a nice and hot summer day to pitch a lawn chair with a beer. The real highlight here was walking through the blue bouncy castle, which continuously ejected mist to make the near Nevada-desert temperatures bearable.

Looking forward to next year’s festival after the Olympics infrastructure is fully in place.

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