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Jazz Festival Draws International Crowd

Michael Bai

Vancouver played host again this summer to its 22nd International Jazz Festival. During the 10-day event at the end of June, a wide spectrum of music enlivened the city.  For Producer Michael Bai, Elaine Lu takes a look at the festival.

"There are tons of people every year,”  musician Jennifer Hodge says. ”A lot of people do come from out of town."

"This is my first time here,” musician Jackie Greene adds. “But it seems like the whole city is kind of involved.”

More than 1,800 musicians from 19 countries took part in this year's Vancouver International Jazz Festival, attracting more than a half million people. Swedish pianist and composer Sten Sandell was one of them. "I like it very much because it's more open-minded than many other festivals I've been to before."

Ken Pickering, the festival's artistic director, says openness is key to nurturing an international jazz community. "It's very important for us to be outward-looking, rather than parochial and inward-looking. So we are looking out into the world, and try to showcase the best of what we have, but also invite the world to our place."

Freddy Cole, the younger brother of the late jazz legend Nat King Cole, speaks of his affection for Vancouver. "Vancouver has a magic about it. The city is a wonderful city, and the people have always been very enthusiastic about the music."

Aside from the magic of the city, the festival's programming recognizes jazz music's ever-changing landscape by incorporating traditional and classic styles, as well as avant-garde expressions. The difference in how different musicians' define jazz reflects this experimental spirit.

Cole says, "Jazz ain't nothing but blues." Jazz singer Coco Zhao counters, "Jazz is just as is."

Media director John Orysik knows the allure of the word "international" for the festival. "That's what we are trying to do -- a global perspective on the music.  We take the word 'International' in our name very seriously.  When you come to the Vancouver International Jazz Festival, you are hearing international musicians performing.  Because we feel jazz is a global music now, it belongs to the world."

And the music played across the city during the festival, from concert halls to street corners, connected world-class musicians to a sprawling fan base.

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