When the Townsite Jazz Festival first launched in 2017, artistic director Paul Cummings was adamant that it had a slogan: “It’s about time.”
Fast forward five years and two pandemic-related postponements and this tagline has taken on a whole new meaning. Now, instead of being a cheeky pun about rhythm, it perfectly encapsulates Cummings’ eagerness to get his favourite Canadian musicians back into qathet region venues.
He won’t have to wait long. The 2022 Townsite Jazz Festival is set to return April 7 to 9.
“I am unbelievably excited,” says Cummings. “Just the way things have worked out with having public venues back up to 100 per cent capacity, and even with dancing, it was an absolute green light for our organization. I’ve missed live music so much, and I know that so many others have as well.”
Although multiple scenarios had been in the works for over a year, venues and artists were unveiled in the first week of March. Mazacote, who were part of Townsite Jazz Festival’s ill-fated 2020 lineup, will finally get their day in Powell River. So will Juno-nominated bassist Jodi Proznick. Her trio project, Triology, sees her join forces with guitarist Bill Coon and pianist Miles Black for a swinging tribute to Nat King Cole and Oscar Peterson.
Multi-instrumentalist Phil Dwyer and drummer Hans Verhoeven will also be making the trek. Saxophone wizard Pierre Komen, of Wunderbread fame, will open the festival.
“I’ve known Pierre for 25 years, mostly in a popular music realm,” says Cummings. “He’s put a group together that covers everything from jazz to funk to soul. It’s going to be really unique.”
Smaller-capacity shows, such as the ones taking place at Wildwood Public House or Shinglemill Pub and Bistro, are expected to sell out fast. The Gala Dance at Dwight Hall, featuring Mazacote, will be another hot commodity, particularly with the ability to purchase tables of eight.
“This is an unbelievably energetic and fun Latin band made up of people from all over the world,” explains Cummings. “People from South America, Central America, the Caribbean and Japan have all arrived in Vancouver and become part of this great Malcolm Aiken project.”
Many will recall Aiken’s other group, Tanga, who headlined the festival in 2019 to an energetic crowd that morphed into a 120-foot conga line.
“We’ve extended the duration of our Gala Dance event this year,” adds Cummings. “We’re going to let it run for a while so people can really get into it.”
The Saturday afternoon concert crawl known as the Ash Avenue Amble is on pause, but only for 2022. In its place will be a Jazz Lunch on April 9 at Wildwood Public House featuring multi-instrumentalists Walter Martella and Miles Black. Townsite Brewing will also host musicians that afternoon, between 1 and 4 pm.
Jazz choirs, bands and combos will travel to the region from Oak Bay High School in Victoria and Carson Graham Secondary in North Vancouver, joining local ensembles from Brooks Secondary School in opening for the pros. All will perform together at the Max Cameron Theatre on April 8 with Walter Martella as a special guest.
“These educators have specifically asked for Walter,” says Cummings. “So we’re going to weave him through that whole evening.”
The student concert also includes an exciting collaboration integrating First Nations culture with vocal jazz performance.
“For years I’ve been trying to come up with the right musical connection there,” he adds. “I talked to my friend Devin Pielle, known as Koosen, who is involved with a company called Jehjeh Media. She told me she had translated the song ‘You Are My Sunshine’ into ʔayʔaǰuθəm (Ayajuthem), and the idea snowballed from there.”
Cummings and Pielle have been visiting School District 47 elementary schools to teach the music and lyrics, reaching more than 220 students in total.
“The kids love it, the teachers love it, and the intent is to get as many of those singers from kindergarten to grade 12 to come together for a dress rehearsal and performance,” says Cummings.
Tickets are on sale via Eventbrite for $20 per concert, plus service charges. For more information, visit townsitejazz.com.