Jazzapalooza was the new name for what has traditionally been a jumping great afternoon of entertainment at the Pender Harbour Jazz Festival.
The weather co-operated for this year’s 16th annual event and the four-hour, three-band concerts on Saturday and Sunday kept the audience outdoors under blue skies, enjoying the aromatic prawn chowder from the food vendors and gazing over the scenic harbour where small boats gathered to hear the music. It was enough to make the local Chamber of Commerce weep with joy.
Saturday opened with a free concert, The Redboot Trio, gypsy and swinging jazz, at the Sunshine Coast Resort that drew 90 people.
Jill Townsend took up the baton to open Jazzapalooza and to elicit the best from a 17-member big band ensemble that included such well known names as Bill Coon on guitar, Dave Robbins on drums and Campbell Ryga on alto sax. Jodi Proznick on bass is a favourite at this festival ever since an evening concert a few years ago when she performed with her stand up bass when she was a full nine months pregnant.
Festival organizer Carole Rubin pointed out that this was one of the few festivals, possibly the only one in Canada, to hire a big band as they are usually too expensive. It gave the audience new respect for the quality and variety of musicians on stage, and set fans buying the band’s CD, Tales from the Sea. Townsend is from Nova Scotia, on the other ocean, but her original compositions such as the Waltz of the Jellyfish seemed appropriate to the Harbour’s ambience.
Singer Andrea Superstein showed her vocal diversity as she moved from classics like Melancholy Baby to a more contemporary approach, a jazzed-up Radiohead song. It was a treat to hear Miles Black, Rene Worst, Joe Poole and Evan Arntzen on stage with her. Dressed in polka dots and running shoes, Super, as she calls herself, put a different look on the face of jazz.
That’s what it’s all about, said Rubin: “Excellent jazz by excellent musicians in as many styles of jazz as possible. I want to broaden the audience.”
At Garden Bay Resort, the pub was packed for five hours with a jam from Cannery Row, headed up by another festival favourite, Gary Comeau. Coast Anagram, outdoors at John Henry’s Marina, also drew a big crowd.
“Everything was well attended,” Rubin said, except for the Friday evening dinner dance. Scott Robertson’s Swing Patrol drew small numbers, possibly because of its $50 ticket price, but got everyone up dancing.
Dancing was on the bill for Sunday’s Jazzapalooza as well. It opened with the Latin sounds of Fito Garcia that had the audience moving to sambas and cha chas.
“I like having dancing music first thing on Sunday,” Rubin said, adding that it raises the energy. It was followed by the Coast’s own Steve Giltrow Quartet (John Rule, Boyd Norman, Ken Grunenberg) who were stoked to be on the main stage this year. Their smooth sounds preceded a lighter, smaller version of the Company B Jazz Band.
Those lucky enough to get tickets to the Laila Biali Trio (Joel Fountain on drums, Proznick on bass — she and Biali went to school together at Capilano) on Saturday evening, saw a whole different artist than at her previous appearances.
“She’s matured,” Rubin said.
She first discovered Biali when the pianist and vocalist was living in Vancouver, just before she left for New York to perform on a world stage.
Next year’s festival will likely continue the Jazzapalooza events with a hope for good weather and the enthusiasm of the many festival volunteers. At $20 ticket price for the afternoon, it’s “ridiculously reasonable,” said Rubin.
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