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Fest Relies On Avant-garde Artists : Vancouver's World Fair Of Jazz Set

June 21, 1986|RICK MITCHELL | Mitchell is a free-lance writer on jazz based in Portland, Ore. and

If you want to see and hear the musicians on the cutting edge of contemporary jazz, then head for Canada next week .

Vancouver, host city of this year's Expo '86 world's fair, also is staging the du Maurier International Jazz Festival, an ambitious weeklong series promising more than 120 concert and nightclub performances spread around 24 locations in town. The festival is set to open Monday and run through Sunday.

Relying on an array of lesser-known avant-garde jazz artists as well as regional performers, promoters of the du Maurier festival hope to re-create in North America the spirit of the great European jazz festivals, such as the North Sea festival in the Hague, the Netherlands, and the Montreux festival in Switzerland.

"There's more of an artistic tradition in those countries," Orysik said, than in the United States, where entertainment--rather than artistic values--often dictates the content of jazz programs.

Cases in point, for him, are the two-day mainstream blowout at Monterey and the slick Playboy Festival at the Hollywood Bowl.

"We wanted the program to be adventurous and innovative, rather than the tried-and-true, safe war horses," said John Orysik, one of the festival's four producers. "Obviously, there's an element of risk involved. But we think we've put together one of the finest festivals in the world."

With corporate support for jazz waning in the United States (according to the June 14 issue of Billboard, Playboy and JVC are the only remaining major corporate sponsors of live jazz in this country), more and more musicians have had to look to Europe and Japan for opportunities to perform before large concert audiences.

Now, with what Orysik and his associates in the Coastal Jazz and Blues Society hope will become an annual event, jazz musicians may be able to find an audience a bit closer to home.

"Expo is the launching pad," Orysik said, "but we're trying to involve the community in a grassroots way. We want to raise the consciousness for jazz and blues music in this area."

Headline acts on next week's program include Miles Davis, Wynton Marsalis and Ornette Coleman. There will be a "A Tribute to Benny Goodman" featuring an octet of Goodman alumni directed by Canadian vibraphonist Peter Appleyard. Salsa percussionist Tito Puente will be on hand, as will Chicago blues queen Koko Taylor, ex-patriate South African pianist Abdullah Ibrahim and the (rarely heard in the West) Ganelin Trio from the Soviet Union. (The Soviet trio, which features Vyacheslav Ganelin on keyboards and basset horn, Vladimir Tarasov on drums and percussion and Vladimir Chekasin on saxophone, bass clarinet and ocarina, will also play at the Los Angeles Theatre Center at 8 p.m. Wednesday.)

Among the dozens of other acts are Tony Williams, Bobby McFerrin, the Cedar Walton Trio with Charlie Haden and Billy Higgins, the Steve Lacy Sextet, Roscoe Mitchell and the Sound Ensemble, the Jan Garbarek Group, Jane Ira Bloom, Tim Byrne, Bill Frisell, Ran Blake and Mal Waldron. The blues is represented by Albert Collins, Johnny Adams, Hank Ballard and the Midnighters, The Blasters and John Mayall.

Some Canadian artists will round out the bill with performances on the grounds of Expo.

After staging one moderate-sized festival last year, Orysik and fellow producers Ken Pickering, Bob Kerr and Ron Simmonds are launching this year's festival with $200,000 in grant money and promotional support from the du Maurier Arts Council.

"We're trying to follow the pattern of the Montreal festival, which is probably the largest jazz festival in North America with a $1.5 million budget," Orysik said. "They have a number of corporate sponsors, including Belvedere cigarettes and Lowenbrau, and also the support of the city."

Du Maurier, a cigarette brand of Canada's Imperial Tobacco Ltd., also sponsors an annual jazz festival in Toronto as well as the Royal Winnipeg Ballet.

Affiliation with a tobacco company met some initial resistance from non-smokers on the nonprofit jazz and blues society's board of directors, Orysik said.

"For the most part, we're very happy with them (du Maurier)," he said. "They provide financial and promotional assistance. We control it completely artistically. They have no say in terms of who's going to be booked."

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