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23rd Annual TD Canada Trust Vancouver International Jazz Festival

Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra

A weekend at the TD Canada Trust Vancouver International Jazz Festival can feel like a whirlwind jet-setting adventure, a dizzying sprint through some of the music’s most exciting redoubts. If it’s noon at the Roundhouse this must be Amsterdam. Or Lisbon, Berlin, London, Chicago or Tokyo. Produced by the Coastal Jazz and Blues Society, the festival has become one of North America’s essential jazz showcases. Its commitment to booking underexposed artists from far-flung scenes is coupled with an ongoing program pairing British Columbia-based players with foreign counterparts, a strategy that pays ever-steeper creative dividends over the years. The 23rd annual edition of the Vancouver Festival was a triumph on every front, with one thrilling, jaw-dropping and downright entertaining musical encounter after another.

On the first of my five nights in Vancouver, starting on Wednesday, June 25, the power of the festival’s seemingly simple concept of bringing together far-flung aggregations was driven home by the Barry Guy New Orchestra, an international 10-piece ensemble featuring saxophonists Evan Parker and Hans Koch, trumpeter Herb Robertson, trombonist Johannes Bauer, Mats Gustafsson on woodwinds, pianist Agusti Fernandez, drummers Paul Lytton and Raymond Strid, and Per Ake Holmlander on tuba. As part of the festival’s Innovation Series at the Roundhouse Performance Centre the galvanizing British bassist opened the packed concert with a piece for brass trio based on long tones and a tidal tuba drone that slowly gathered force as the full ensemble joined the proceedings. It sounded like a huge, clanky homemade vehicle gathering momentum while rolling downhill, shedding parts along the way. For the second set, the ensemble offered a stunning tour de force full of multidirectional lines, varying the density of passages with the kind of careful calibration and textural shading that marks the finest free improvisers.

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