The Nanaimo International Jazz Festival returns this weekend and will fill downtown with groovy tunes at multiple venues.
The three day festival, from Sept. 16-18, will start with an afternoon of free performances along Wesley Street in the Old City Quarter from noon to 5 p.m.
The first day will see two shows. The five-piece alt-rock Nanaimo-based band, Cosmosaurus, will play the Queen’s on Victoria Crescent, followed by Joshua Holloway and Friends at the Minnoz Restaurant and Lounge on Bastion Street. The Port Theatre will see two jazz shows over the weekend; the first being the Brubeck Brothers Quartet on Saturday, and the last being a unique feature of ‘Disney Digs D’Jazz.’
François Savard, the current president of the Nanaimo International Jazz Festival Association, said the festival will also include jazz jams on Friday and Saturday.
“Any musician can come and join in,” he said. “We’ll have our own groups there as well.”
John Lee will jam at the Nanaimo Bar on Front Street on Friday night, and Nico Rhodes will jam at the Vault Café on Wallace Street on Saturday night.
As a returning highlight, the New Orleans-style street parade, scheduled for Saturday at noon, will start at Wesley Street and continue around the square.
“It’s people dancing and singing, playing music on the street … It’s always very joyful and happy,” Savard said.
According to Savard, since the association’s Canadian Heritage grant for the festival determined that local musicians be spotlighted, and also reinforced by the association itself, most of the performers will be local to central Vancouver Island.
Although, finding their way to Nanaimo from across the U.S. border will be the Brubeck Brothers Quartet, featuring Chris Brubeck on bass and trombone, Dan Brubeck on drums, Chuck Lamb on piano and Lucas Pino on saxophone.
Chris Brubeck said he originally met and heard Pino play when the saxophonist “was a kid” approximately 25 years ago.
“He was amazing, he was definitely a jazz sax child prodigy,” Chris said, adding that he advised Pino to apply to the Brubeck Institute, a special program founded by his father, Dave Brubeck, at the University of the Pacific’s Conservatory of Music. “To me, it’s an interesting story that comes around from him being an outstanding student and going through the program to being a well-respected and well-reviewed pro. And getting a chance to play together again after all these years … It’s actually really fun to play with different guest artists sometimes.”
Chris said festival-goers can expect a lot of his dad’s music, played in their own style.
“If you were a fan of the old Dave Brubeck Quartet, you’ll enjoy hearing what we play and how we play,” he said. “Dan and I know his style and his tunes intimately but we play his tunes in our own way – for example, my dad did not grow up hearing anything like what we would call funk. That didn’t exist. Nor reggae … We have little touches of those influences in what we do.”
Following the Brubeck Brothers, and as a final hurrah for the jazz festival, will be the Nanaimo Jazz Orchestra performing ‘Disney Digs D’Jazz’ with 16 instrumentalists and four vocalists.
“We’re going to be playing pieces in this concert that have never ever been heard in Nanaimo,” said Andrew Homzy, past-president of the jazz association and musical director for the show. “I would be so bold to say that we’re going to play some pieces that have never been played in a live public performance in Canada.”
The show will feature fresh interpretations of beloved songs from children’s movies such as Snow White and Encanto.
Guests will likely recognize favourites like When you Wish Upon A Star, Everybody Wants to Be a Cat, and You’ve Got a Friend in Me.
Homzy said the show will also include two pieces not associated with Disney but that illustrate the influence of jazz in the Disney pieces.
“Jazz deeply influenced many, I would say even most, of the famous Disney movies that came out … That’s why I’m doing these two pieces … because they show different aspects of what the Disney songwriters and orchestrators took from jazz and put right into their movies.”
Further ticket and schedule information for the Nanaimo International Jazz Festival can be found online at www.nanaimojazzfest.ca.