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Hot Ticket: Vancouver International Jazz Festival

Bassist and singer Esperanza Spalding will be making her first Vancouver appearance.

Elaine Thompson/AP

He was a member of the famed Miles Davis Quintet, a synth music trailblazer, an award-winning film composer, a genre-crossing collaborator, and even an interpreter of the music of Joni Mitchell. Now Herbie Hancock is returning to the coast for the Vancouver International Jazz Festival.

"He's a musical hero, and someone who has always been ahead of the curve," says festival co-founder John Orysik. "The jazz writer Whitney Balliett described jazz as 'the sound of surprise' – and that's what you're going to get at a Herbie Hancock concert."

Also on the bill for this year's fest are heavy-hitters including Dr. John and the Nite Trippers, saxophonist David Murray's Infinity Quartet featuring Macy Gray, guitar guru John Scofield, Olympic chanteuse Nikki Yanofsky, and the first Vancouver appearance of fast-rising bassist and singer Esperanza Spalding, who beat out Justin Bieber, Drake and Mumford & Sons for the Best New Artist Grammy in 2011.

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Among Mr. Orysik's other must-sees are saxophonist Colin Stetson, soulful singer Gregory Porter, Korean vocalist Youn Sun Nah, the Alan Jones Canadian All Star Sextet and the "bhangra, funk, dhol 'n' brass" of Red Baraat.

Now in its 28th year, the festival draws hundreds of artists from around the globe and more than half a million music fans who pack indoor and outdoor venues around the city – among them Robson Square, where jazz fans will converge this weekend for free live shows, an artisan market, a DJ dance party, interactive art installations and two licensed outdoor bistros.

"People always ask me, 'What is your favourite concert?' But it would be impossible to pick just one," says Mr. Orysik, who launched the fest with a few friends in 1985 and has since seen thousands of shows. "But Duke Ellington said it best when they asked him what his favourite composition was and he said, 'The next one.'"

The Vancouver International Jazz Festival runs from June 21 to July 1.

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