Vancouver's acid jazz hot stuffs Millennium Project, who just released their latest album on Mo' Funk Records (and have hopefully answered their last question about how they got the infamous Bill Laswell to produce their disc) have taken up residence at the Sugar Refinery on all Tuesdays for the foreseeable future. According to club god Steven Horwood, it's sort of like a weekly practice session, with the club's patrons having the benefit of listening in. I'm not sure how he's managed it, but Horwood has managed to create an atmosphere closest to true artistic freedom in the "Shug" where anything is completely free to happen, and often does.
Rob McConnell & the Boss Brass Band finally have a date with British Columbians at the Centennial in North Vancouver on Fri Feb 4. I've never heard McConnell, but they floored The Jazz Review's Editor/Site Manager when he saw them early in 1999 and I'm excited to hear it for myself. (Info: 604/984-4484.)
Sat Feb 5 brings Hospital, one of the young groups around town that keep cropping up to reinforce the fact that while the rock scene seems to be constantly flailing and losing clubs (rumor has it that the Starfish Room, one of the city's longest-running rock venues which does host jazz periodically, will be heading toward DJ'd dance nights), jazz just keeps evolving and turning out fresh and exciting new groups. There are many cliques in Vancouver jazz, many of them young players from the Capilano College Jazz Studies Program, others from the Vancouver Community College program and others who come from neither, and still others who are more 'old guard' - it's nice to see when they start mixing with each other, too. Haven't seen Hospital yet, but the description I was given is thus: "Tim Berne-ish punk saxophone with effects that seems to be getting heavier as they go along". This show is at the Vancouver Little, a venue that usually hosts theater productions, but has branched out on dark nights to let musicians do their thing.
Amazingly warm, sensually fluid blues and funk-permeated performances by New Yorkers Michael Blake's Slow Poke were highlights of the 1998 du Maurier International Jazz Festival Vancouver. Their Fri Feb 11 appearance at the Starfish Room should present new music from their upcoming disc, "Redemption" coming out on Intuition later this year. It seems the further I travel in jazz, the smaller this world becomes, and this group is no exception: Saxophonist Michael Blake was Vancouver-bred and has lived in New York since the mid-'80s, forming groups of his own like MB's Free Association, and playing with the likes of The Lounge Lizards and Ben Allison's Medicine Wheel. Blake calls his Slow Poke bandmates David Tronzo (slide guitar); Tony Scherr (bass); and Kenny Wolleson (percussion) "probably the greatest rhythm section in the world... in terms of playing blues-oriented music and coming out of a strong tradition of New Orleans music and, dare I say it, funk...". The group's new disc, "Redemption" (out later this spring on Intuition) is a satisfyingly slow, slinking thing that edges its way around some pretty dark corners with its strong bluesy framework that sprouts up into funky, jagged, thoughtful structures. Look for tracks by Johnny Cash, Kurt Cobain, Keith Richards & Mick Jagger, and some great compositions by the Pokers themselves. (Info: http://www.jazzvancouver.com) Can't wait? The band sneaks into town a little before that, and you can catch Scherr, Wolleson and Tronzo performing Scherr's music the night before at the funkiest little club in town, the Sugar Refinery. Also on the bill are some of the busiest of the city's "young pups of jazz": alto saxist Masa John Anzai, guitarist Kelly Churko and percussionist Skye Brooks are Almost Transparent Blue, doing their original collaborations. And with these three, edgy, tense and forceful are guaranteed to be on the bill. Should be a night of incredibly adventurous music and you couldn't pick a better, more appropriate venue for that.
The Vancouver Little is hosting an Improv Festival Feb 16-18 and including some musical entertainment in the mix. Wed Feb 16 features Hospital, Unclean Wiener and Broken Record Chamber. Thu Feb 17 has Ujaku and Cunt, an all-female improv group. Ujaku ripped the house up last Fall with its intense performance of the music of John Zorn's Naked City, so this show is a must-see for those seeking to have their state of consciousness wiped clean and readied for a re-birth. Fri Feb 18 is gutsy bassist Travis Baker with Portland, OR bassoonist Sara Schoenbach, noted for her work with Vinny Golia's Large Ensemble.
The West Coast World Music Festival starts on Fri Feb 18 at Britannia Auditorium with a concert by percussionist Sal Ferraras and Friends called "Celebrating World Music Day". The friends include Fana Soro, the Masabo Culture Company, Kathy Kidd, Laurence Mollerup, Jack Duncan, Pepe Danza and Amir Kushkani, performers who will bring together the music of cultures of Africa, Cuba, Uruguay, Iran and Canada. (Info: http://www.jazzvancouver.com) The WCWMF continues Sat Feb 19 with Echoes of a Blue Planet - FREE dance and music workshops from 10am-3pm. That evening will see the day's workshop leaders perform in A World Music Cabaret ($10 at the door, 8pm). Both events at the Roundhouse Community Centre. (Info: http://www.jazzvancouver.com) Sun Feb 20 the WCWMF wraps up with the thick, fiery Latin jazz of John Korsrud's Orquesta Goma Dura at the Roundhouse Community Centre. This 20-piece orchestra, which not only occupied the stage, but half the dance floor at their 1999 du Maurier International Jazz Festival Vancouver appearance, almost literally turned the unusually cold rainy summer night into a hotly rhythmic steam bath. This Roundhouse show should allow for more space for band and audience alike (bring on those dancers who couldn't do their thing quite as freely as they'd like in the confines of the Starfish last summer!), although in a musical way that's kind of sad since the physical proximity no doubt added to the overall heated vibe of the night. (Info: http://www.jazzvancouver.com)
One of the hottest tickets of the season is without a doubt the Orquesta Ibrahim Ferrer and Ruben Gonzalez y su Grupo in a double bill under the Buena Vista Social Club banner. These two Cuban band-leading elders (chronologically only, it would seem) are expected to bring unbridled warmth and freedom of passion that belies their country's history for a once-in-a-lifetime concert experience at the Orpheum Sun Feb 27. It's so hot it's sold out, but thankfully they've recently added a second show for Tue Feb 29. (Info @ http://www.jazzvancouver.com)
After about a six-month or so hiatus (okay, so they weren't lazing around - that period included a cross-country tour) Vancouver's deepest grooves resurfaced in the form of the acid jazzy funksters, Crash at their birthplace, Cafe deux Soleils for a sold-out show in early January. (Started my year off right.) They hit the same spot for a two-nighter Fri Mar 10-Sat 11 on a double bill with the funk/reggae/world beat Grames Brothers for what looks to be a 'dare-you-to-sit-still' programme that will include tenor saxist Jerry Cook and alto saxist Cory Weeds of Crash joining the Grames Brothers for part of their sets on both nights. Crash hits the stage first on the 10th at 9:30pm, and the next night the order is reversed. (Info: 604/323-6808 and http://www.mofunk.com) The last in the Capilano College Performing Arts Theatre's winter season performances is vocalist Dee Daniels appearing on Sat Mar 18. (Info: 604/990-7810)
Metalwood, Canada's best and most prominent jazz fusion band puts in a rare appearance at Capilano College Performance Arts on Fri Mar 3. With the drummer in New York, the saxist in Toronto and trumpeter Brad Turner along with fantastically open bassist Chris Tarry firmly ensconced on the opposite end of the continent in Vancouver, it's hard for these guys to get together. But when they do, it's combustion city, aka time to send out insanely vibrational grooves fused with catchy melodies anchored by mature, very confident playing. It all adds up to memorable performances every time. (Info 604/990-7810)
Ambitious young guitarist Ken Aldcroft knows how to take care of business and, as such, is building quite the profile around town and beyond for his musical activities. His "Big Picture" CD was released last year, and he's already following it up with a new disc by his Ken Aldcroft Trio +1 called "His Mistress Never Sleeps... a tribute to the Life and Music of Duke Ellington". The trio includes Brian Harding (trombone) and Bernie Arai (drums), the +1 is the very well-established (mostly) soprano saxophonist Graham Ord. Aldcroft is doing a mini-tour in Alberta with a workshop on Fri Mar 10 in Calgary; a show that night at the Yardbird Suite club, then the next night (11th) at Beatniq, also in Calgary; then Sun Mar 12 a date TBA in Edmonton. Early warning on what should be a good one: Aldcroft's Trio +1 is performing TUTU, a tribute to Miles Davis (Info: http://mypage.direct.ca/a/aldcroft) on Sun Apr 2 at the Havana. Ellington, Davis - whoever said youth has no respect for its elders doesn't know too many jazz musicians.
The du Maurier International Jazz Festival Vancouver 15th Anniversary Celebration is not so very far away anymore. The big anniversary should mean extra-special goodies all the way around, and as usual, I cannot wait. This year's dates are June 23-July 2, and a couple of major headliners are to be announced shortly, with the full line-up scheduled for release May 3. I'll keep you posted and you can check in with their website, too. Only 153 days to go! (Info: http://www.jazzfest.mybc.com)