Nothing like watching The Masters and seeing a wealth of performers at the top of their game.
No, I’m not talking about that prestigious green jacket golf tournament that takes place every April in Augusta, Georgia. I’m referring to another crowd-pleasing event that took place much closer to home, as in Kelowna Community Theatre on the third Friday in April. On this chilly spring night, the 40th Annual BC Interior Jazz Festival hosted its Jazz Masters’ Concert as the centerpiece of festival weekend.
This Masters’ lineup was stacked with a cross-section of jazz and big-band devotees. The featured artist was award-winning vocalist and pianist Carol Welsman. She was accompanied by saxophone artist Dr. Greg Yasinitsky from Washington State University, trumpeter Brad Turner from Capilano University, vocalist/trumpeter Rich Sumstad from Ontario, vocalist Janet Warren from Vancouver, vocalist Kinga Heming from Kelowna, the Michael Garding Big Band, and the Okanagan All-Star rhythm section of Neville Bowman (piano), Sean Bray (guitar), Bernie Addington (bass), and Scott Gamble (drums).
Before extolling the evening’s slick sounds, it should be noted that this year’s BC Interior Jazz Festival was scheduled to host more than 50 jazz groups from around the provinces. The Junior and Senior combos from various performance categories were able perform in front of professional adjudicators, attend free workshops, and in some learning situations, get personalized instruction.
The objectives of the festival are to promote and encourage the pursuit of musical excellence, promote jazz music education in the schools and community, as well as to provide members of the community (by way of workshops and high-caliber evening concerts) with opportunities to participate in the music education experience.
A high-caliber, toe-tapping concert on Friday night is exactly what wife Elaine and I were entertained by. Welsman showcased her versatile pipes and keyboard skills early in the first part of the show with some of her original songs and classics. During each number there were high-energy solos performed by various rhythm section members.
After intermission, the Michael Garding Big Band took center stage and killed it. We learned that the band only had five rehearsals before the show, and several of its performers would be young musicians gaining valuable experience. The mix of seasoned and unseasoned was splendid, especially when the teenagers earned the solo spotlight. There had to be lots of smiling moms and dads in the audience. As the band grooved, Welsman joined in and sang standards Beyond the Sea, It Had to Be You, and Come Fly with Me.
Big Finish – in a nutshell, the festival helps young jazz musicians hear, learn, and get better under the mentorship of accomplished musicians. With 40 years in the books, the organizers must be doing something right as more and more young musicians are building up their credentials and blossoming on the provincial music scene.