The annual Gibsons Landing Jazz Festival will this weekend take a syncopated step beyond the town that birthed it. Now in its 27th year, the annual music celebration has tagged the words “and beyond” onto its name, and added shows in Sechelt to the traditional Gibsons lineup.
“The extraordinary part this year,” said organizer Linda Williams, a member of the Sunshine Coast Jazz and Entertainment Society, “is the beyond. That’s what’s new. And if it works, we’ll do it again. At the same time, we’re also inclusive of music beyond jazz itself.”
The festival was cancelled in 2020 due to COVID restrictions. 2021 featured online concerts; a modest in-person event was held last year. Three months ago, the Sechelt Downtown Business Association approached Williams and asked if Sechelt could host part of an expanded festival in June.
“We decided that since we’re not shutting down the street [for performances in Gibsons], we could go to Sechelt on the Saturday and use the beautiful Hackett Park stage,” said Williams.
The festival weekend opens with a night of music being produced by Lynne Dickson, Wendy Hibberd and Patrice Pollack. A Tribute to the Legendary Ladies of Jazz plays at the Heritage Playhouse on June 23. Eighteen female singers will present a blend of ballads and upbeat swing, blues and Latin tunes.
On Saturday, June 24, two bands will perform at Sechelt’s Hackett Park amphitheatre. The Creek Big Band has planned a program of swing, Latin, jazz and light rock selections. Afterward, the nine-piece Vancouver-based ensemble Timba Cartel will perform its distinctive style of modern salsa. The group re-interprets Cuban dance music through the lens of Afro-Cuban folklore, combined with distinctly funky overtones. Sunshine Coast-based singer and producer Susana Williams will handle lead vocals.
That evening, at the Sechelt Seniors Activity Centre, the festival shines a light on jazz of the 1920s and 1930s in a performance by Deanna Knight and the Hot Club of Mars. Knight, a local singer and producer of the perennial SoulShine Garden Concert Series, has been associated with the Hot Club for almost 25 years.
“We play about once a year, so it’s a bit of a reunion for us,” said Knight. “We play Django-inspired swing; that’s why they call it hot swing or hot jazz or Gypsy jazz. We’re a pretty traditional gypsy jazz band. We have no drums — all the rhythm is driven by the guitars and the bass.”
Hot Club guitarist Michael Dunn, a former Sunshine Coast resident, is renowned as the progenitor of so-called Gypsy jazz in British Columbia. Dunn is also a world-renowned master luthier who has crafted more than 500 guitars.
Before the Hot Club turns up the temperature, local dance instructor Alex Hart of Sun Coast Swing will provide swing dance instruction at the activity centre.
On Sunday, the festival focus returns to Gibsons for a brunch concert at the Gibsons Public Market. The newly-formed Zigzag Quartet features Charlotte Wrinch on vocals and guitar, Anneka Bonser on piano, Boyd Norman on bass and John Rule on drums. Sax virtuoso Graham Ord will appear as a special guest.
A lineup of three performances is scheduled for Winegarden Park in the afternoon: Juno-nominated Adam Robert Thomas from Vancouver, Sunshine Coast funk ensemble Open Sesame and the Daniel Brubeck Quartet. Drummer (and Gibsons resident) Dan Brubeck played to sold-out crowds at last year’s festival alongside his brother Chris; the two are sons of American jazz legend Dave Brubeck.
An informal Après Jazz Jam will conclude the festival at the 101 Brewhouse on Sunday evening, led by Hammond B3 organ specialist Peter van Deursen.
“Every style of jazz gets pulled into this festival,” said Williams, who encourages aficionados to explore new and unfamiliar styles. “One year, after some very contemporary jazz, an older couple pulled me over and said, ‘That’s not really our cup of tea, but wow, could they ever play… whatever that was!’”
A full schedule and ticket information for the Gibsons Landing Jazz Festival and Beyond appears online at coastjazz.com.