The first performance at the 18th annual Gibsons Landing Jazz Festival last weekend was a dance number by a creative local group, members of the SC Dance Society.
It was titled Dances on Water, which was appropriate, since the street on which they were dancing, Gower Point Road, was steps away from a font of pure drinking water that bubbles up from the Gibsons aquifer. Dressed in white, the dancers performed a contemporary piece that they hope imparts a message of conservation about the world’s most precious resource.
The rest of the weekend’s music was like water too — smooth and flowing.
Celso Machado, internationally renowned guitarist and percussionist, set the rhythm and the crowds gathered to hear him on the street instead of at last year’s Dougall Park venue.
The riotous Legion of Flying Monkeys Orchestra from Vancouver picked up the fun factor with their provocative songs and their gospel-like parodies, proving that you can accomplish a lot with home-made wooden instruments and a sense of humour. However, the Monkeys’ music was not in the same league as professional trombonist Hugh Fraser who brought his quintet to the stage with sophisticated ease to give the audience some pure jazz sound.
The highlight of the weekend had to be the incomparable voice of Katherine Penfold, sometime Coast resident, crooning jazz standards with, as she called them, “the best band ever.” Anna Lumiere was on keyboard, Jon Bently on bass, John Rule on drums and Graham Ord on sax and flute.
Penfold’s smooth stylings on a Ray Charles favourite or on smoochy ballads such as Dancing Cheek to Cheek sent me digging out my Penfold albums to play that evening and wishing I’d bought her latest, titled Love.
A stellar lineup on Sunday’s free stage at Gibsons’ Winegarden waterfront park opened with the Creek Big Band conducted by Ord. Master of ceremonies Michael Maser gave a shout out to Les Fowler who founded a big band on the Coast 40 years ago. WAG, or the Westerly Acappella Group, that followed, was enjoyable with a mix of original, quirky songs and covers. Mimosa, mostly local musicians, added a soupcon of French flair to the music.
The new street venue with grassy seating on the hillside and chairs in the shade appealed to most.
“Trying something completely different,” said organizer Linda Williams, “is always very exciting, slightly overwhelming, a little scary and in the end most rewarding.” Williams said that the paid entry to Saturday’s event doubled over last year and with the added donations of those passing by, the overall attendance increased three-fold.
Weekend boaters and attendees from off-Coast were visible.
Many local restaurant events in the week leading up to the festival were also sold out, as was the Saturday night dance with Soulstream and the Sunday brunch at Leo’s with youthful Ali Milner.
Williams particularly thanked the efforts of volunteer Carol Stewart for this success. Though it was vastly underused over the weekend, the Gibsons hill shuttle bus plied back and forth taking visitors down to the festival and up to the malls. The bus will be a big bonus for the summer season’s forthcoming events.
The Jazz Festival organizing committee would appreciate feedback from anyone attending. Comments can be sent by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.