Thursday, June 23, 2011

Jazz Fest Is Upon Us

Tomorrow is the start of the 26th annual Vancouver International Jazz Fest.  I have been playing the festival every year since 1993 or so, missing one year at some point during my three-year stint in Oregon.  Coastal Jazz and Blues does an amazing job with the event.  I always hear a few things that surprise,interest, and inspire me and the artist pass has enabled me to see literally hundreds of shows over the years.  Many thanks to Ken Pickering, John Orsyk, Rainbow Roberts, Lorraine Hamilton and all the other good folks who make it happen.

My gigs during the Fest are as follows:

June 24, 12pm, Synergy (Brad Muirhead Trio) @ Canada Place
June 29, 9-midnight, Len Aruliah Quartet @ El Barrio (not an official Festival venue but cool nonetheless)
June 30, 12 pm, Delta Quartet @ Canada Place

Following the Vancouver Jazz Fest, my own South Delta Jazz Workshop happens, then some recording with Len Aruliah, a gig at Goldies with Len' sextet July 20, then some holiday time.

I'm especially looking forward to seeing Rob Kohler who gets in to town in a few days.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Colin MacDonald Pocket Orchestra - Modus Operandi

I have an amazing gig coming up with Colin MacDonald's Pocket Orchestra.  We are playing a house concert which will be simultaneously broadcast on the internet.  I hope you'll come along in person if you live in Vancouver or tune in remotely if you're not.  Details below.  Seating is limited so get tickets early.
Colin MacDonald's Pocket Orchestra
Modus Operandi
June 19, 2pm PDT
Yarilo Contemporary Music Studio
34 Shoreline Circle
Port Moody, BC
Tickets $20/15 at the door or online at

Livestream at
Colin MacDonald and David Branter (saxophones), Geeta Das (trumpet), Brad Muirhead (bass trombone), Danny Tones and Martin Fisk (percussion), Jared Burrows (bass guitar), Anna Levy (piano), Elyse Jacobson and Stefan Thorardson (violins), Stefan Hintersteininger and Doug Gorkoff (cellos).
Yarilo Contemporary Music Society is excited to present the Colin MacDonald Pocket Orchestra in a program of energetic post-minimalist music by British and Canadian composers.

Formed in 2006, the Colin MacDonald Pocket Orchestra is unique in the Vancouver contemporary music scene. This 12-member chamber orchestra specializes in the music of post-minimalist composers, and its repertoire includes works by Michael Nyman, Terry Riley, David Lang, Graham Fitkin, Steve Martland, Michael Gordon, and bandleader Colin MacDonald. Live performances by the ensemble are exciting to behold as the group performs rhythmically virtuosic music without a conductor, an experience once described as "tap-dancing on a tightrope without a safety net."

With Modus Operandi the Colin MacDonald Pocket Orchestra continues its mandate of presenting genre-defying contemporary music that blurs the lines between jazz, rock, and classical. British composers lead the way in energy and drive, starting with Graham Fitkin's playful take on familiar symphonic themes in "Beethoven 7". Michael Nyman, world-renowned for his Oscar winning score to The Piano, brings us music from the soundtrack to Peter Greenaway's Prospero's Books in the dancing rhythms of "Yellow Sands". The usually hard-edged sounds of Steve Martland are softened somewhat in "Mr. Anderson's Pavane", a study in texture and tonalities wrapped in an archaic dance form. Canadian composers add to this exciting program, starting with the lively "Shameless", by Pocket Orchestra cellist Stefan Hintersteininger, an audience favourite at its premiere in 2009. Orchestra leader and saxophonist Colin MacDonald presents two new works, including the world premiere of the modally-textured "Modulo", and a new arrangement of his paean to the moon, "Vers la Lune".

UPDATE - the gig went well and has been recorded and archived.  Check it out online at

The South Delta Jazz Festival Approaches

It hardly seems possible, but another year has flown by and preparations are well underway for another South Delta Jazz Workshop and Jazz Festival, our 8th annual event held July 5-9.  The Workshop is a summer music program focused on jazz improvisation and small ensemble playing. The Festival provides a variety of jazz concerts and events centred around and easily accessible to the community that supports us. Students learn to play jazz through intensive small ensemble rehearsals, daily faculty concerts, masterclasses, ear training and improvisation classes in a fun and friendly environment that nurtures our student’s unique talents and abilities. Both audience members and students get a chance to develop relationships with our amazing group of teacher and performers from Vancouver, the US and the UK. The teaching component of SDJW and many of our concert events take place in and around the very relaxed riverside community of Ladner Village.
The Workshop is open to players of any instrument and singers age 12 and up, but jazz camp isn’t just for kids! Adults are very welcome at SDJW and we always have a strong contingent of mature players around. For many of our students, SDJW is a great opportunity to take a week off from their regular jobs and just focus on music. Musicians of all levels from beginner through college and university are welcome. We provide a fun and friendly environment that nurtures each student’s unique talents and abilities. Registration is open now.
Our schedule of events this year is looking good. As you can see, we feature the SDJW faculty musicians in a variety of contexts as well as providing a jam session and two student outdoor concerts.
  • Tuesday July 5 – Brad Muirhead and Faculty Band. Free noon concert @ Ladner Community Centre.
  • Wednesday July 6 – Dr. Ed Orgill and Faculty Band. Free noon concert @ Fisherman’s Hall, Ladner.
  • Wednesday July 6 – SDJW senior students. Free concert @ Diefenbaker Park, Tsawwassen, 7pm.
  • Thursday July 7 – Rob Kohler and Strings. Free noon concert @ Ladner Community Centre.
  • Thursday July 7 –Open Jam Session @ Petra’s Koffee Kafe in Tsawwassen, 7pm.
  • Friday July 8 – Bill Clark and Faculty Band. Free noon concert @ Ladner Community Centre.
  • Friday July 8 – Art in the Garden @ Delta Community Music School, 1-5pm.
  • Friday July 8 – SDJW Octet with guest, Len Aruliah @ All Saints Anglican Church, 7:30 pm. Tix $10 @ door
  • Saturday July 9 – SDJW Student Concert and Picnic @ Delta Hospital Grounds – 12 noon – 3pm.
I’m really excited about the great musicians who will be in residence at this year’s workshop. We have a really diverse and exciting group of musicians coming to play and teach. My old friend, Bill Clark (trumpet), will be making a visit from New Mexico back to his home turf, Rob Kohler (bass) will be up from LA, and Dr. Ed Orgill (saxes) will be coming all the way from Westfield College in Massachussetts to join us for his second visit to SDJW. Our usual core faculty will be there too of course: Brad Muirhead (trombone), Stephen Robb (piano/clarinet), Stan Taylor (drums), and me (guitar). UK-based saxophonist and composer, Len Aruliah, was here in Vancouver earlier in the spring and will be coming back in July to put together a concert of music arranged especially for the SDJW Faculty Octet.
I’m looking forward to another great year of music in South Delta. Hope to see lots of you out at concerts and as students!

Monday, June 6, 2011

To Hell With Cultural Relativism

This week I am taking a very different direction and making a political statement. I promise to go back to music-related stuff soon.

The CBC has been covering a story about luxury condo residents who don't want a palliative care facility built next to their luxury apartment building on the UBC campus.  Read about it here:

Apparently, having sick and dying people nearby brings 'bad energy' and offends their traditional Chinese cultural beliefs.  The spokesman for a group of condo owner and Chinese community leaders, David Choi, has asked for a more 'humanistic solution' meaning, as I understand it, that they should just build the thing elsewhere.  This kind of garbage just infuriates me.  The idea that all cultural beliefs are somehow to be automatically valued and respected is ridiculous.  There are traditional cultures who hate gays, who kill female children, who enslave other people, who hate on the basis of skin colour, who abuse their children as a matter of course, who treat animals inhumanely etc etc etc.   Are these ideas to be respected and valued in our country? NO.  Some cultural traditions and beliefs are simply not worth keeping.  They have no place in our society.  Thank goodness that some of the negative cultural values brought here by my ancestors (including racism, homophobia, and classism) are no longer accepted by the majority of Canadians.

Palliative care facilities are there to provide comfort and care to the sick and the dying and to give them a calm and quiet place to spend their last moments.  The beautiful environs of UBC are an ideal location for such a facility.  I have been to a few places like the one planned for UBC.  The feeling in and around them is beautiful and tranquil and many of the people who work in them are wonderfully kind and caring.  The design of this hospice appears to be very attractive and aesthetically in balance with the neighbourhood. The residents of that hospice are certainly not going to be making a lot of noise with loud parties or taking up a lot of street parking.  Real estate values will not be affected except in the case of potential buyers who harbour ignorant and backward beliefs.  As far as I can see, there are no legitimate reasons to oppose the builiding of this facility.

To Mr. Choi and the members of his group I ask a simple question.  Where and how do YOU want to die?  Should we ship you off to some dark corner of an industrial park where your dying won't offend someone's delicate sensibilities? If you don't want to live in a country where we treat sick and dying people with the utmost love and respect, then go live somewhere else.