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Duos at Vancouver International Jazz Festival

As mainstream jazz steadily streamlines some of its improvisational and conceptual risk-taking in an effort to regain its long-lost pop appeal, many underground dance-music artists who perform deep house, drum ‘n’ bass and broken beats are trying to elevate their music above the disposable club grind by goosing up their material with jazz aesthetics. Sometimes the jazz influences are so abstractly implied that the nu-jazz moniker, used by many dance-music retailers, becomes nothing more than a new marketing catchphrase for well-worn ideas. Then, there are other times when legitimate jazz artists like Uri Caine, Marc Cary, Roy Hargrove, and George Benson mix it up with the likes of Masters at Work, Joe Claussell or I.G. Culture-explorative DJs and producers who have a deep knowledge and respect for both jazz and dance music-and the results are quite rewarding.

This negotiation between jazz and DJ culture proved to be one of the highlights at the 16th Annual du Maurier Downtown Jazz Toronto festival. “The festival attracts some 400,000 people and all styles of music are presented,” says Patrick Taylor, the festival’s executive director. “Jazz is a huge umbrella of music, and dance-jazz is style of music that we embrace. We used it really for audience development. This is our new audience and they are being exposed to jazz.”

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