He is one of the most beloved giants of jazz, a 10-time Grammy winner, and a vocalist in a league of his own – and now, after 29 years, Bobby McFerrin is returning to the Vancouver International Jazz Festival.
"There's nobody in the world who can manipulate his or her voice, or create the kind of daringly beautiful music that Bobby can. There's just nobody," says John Orysik, co-founder of the jazz festival, who adds that Mr. McFerrin was among the performers at the first full-scale fest in 1986. "What's almost as entertaining is watching the faces of the people in the audience as they get drawn into what he's doing. It's incredible."
Other heavy-hitters this year include Cuban trumpet icon Arturo Sandoval, stunning chanteuse Cassandra Wilson, crowd favourites Medeski, Scofield, Martin and Wood, indie rockers King Khan and the Shrines, and funk master Maceo Parker, as well as groundbreaking saxophone legend Charles Lloyd, who has played with greats from Charles Mingus to Keith Jarrett.
Looking for some lesser-known acts with big talent? Mr. Orysik recommends young Chilean saxophonist Melissa Aldana, who last year became the first woman to win the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Saxophone Competition; New York saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa; and Armenian pianist Tigran Hamasyan, who has won high praise from artists including Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock, and was branded "the hottest pianist in jazz" by The Guardian. Also high on his list is New York big band leader and former Vancouverite Darcy James Argue with his 18-piece Secret Society.
"He's writing music that blows away boundaries. He uses all the music he knows and loves, whether it's jazz, contemporary, classical, rock, folk traditions, and brings that into his compositional direction," Mr. Orysik says. "And the music is layered, it's complex, but it's hugely entertaining."
The festival also includes two free jazz weekends – one at Robson Square and one at the Roundhouse – which come with outdoor performances, food trucks, interactive art installations, kids' zones, a silent dance party and more.
"But really, it's about the artists, and bringing in this wealth of creative energy from all over the world, including Canada," Mr. Orysik says, "and experiencing the transformative power of jazz."
The Vancouver International Jazz Festival runs June 20-July 1 (coastaljazz.ca).