Beginning this week, JazzTimes will be regularly posting the “Farewells” included in our March 2019 print edition. Each piece features a prominent jazz figure offering his or her recollections of a member of the jazz community who left us during 2018. To start the series off, we asked John Gilbreath, executive director of the Earshot Jazz Festival in Seattle, to share some words on his colleague in event coordination, Vancouver International Jazz Festival founder Ken Pickering. This online exclusive is being presented for the first time here.
It is remarkable that the creative passions of one individual could tangibly shape the cultural identity of a major international city like Vancouver, B.C., but Ken Pickering was a remarkable individual. He was the founder and longtime artistic director of the Vancouver International Jazz Festival, which well deserves its reputation as one of the most important jazz festivals in the world. Through his clear artistic vision, amazing organizational skills, and a personal mission to make creative music freely available to the widest possible audience, Ken built a sophisticated cultural aesthetic wrapped in the mid-summer package of a raucous and downright joyous community celebration.