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‘Ten best days for music in the city by a long shot’

Ray Piper, far right, and Gostosinho perform on a free outdoor stage at David Lam Park during the Vancouver International Jazz Festival in Vancouver on Saturday July 3, 2010.

Darryl Dyck/The Globe and Mail

Head downtown and hear great jazz, improv, soul, blues, world music and more at the Vancouver International Jazz Festival, B.C.'s largest music fest.

George Benson, Janelle Monáe, Wayne Shorter, Bill Frisell, Destroyer and Kid Koala and are just a few of the big names on board for the 10-day fest – and this weekend, you can catch all-day free shows at the new Vancouver Art Gallery/Robson Square site, which also features interactive art installations, dance lessons, an artisan market, a kids zone, two licensed outdoor bistros and more.

"We have basically created a music and arts village right in the heart of the city," says John Orysik of Coastal Jazz and Blues. "I mean I am biased, but this really is the 10 best days for music in the city by a long shot."

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Not sure where to start? Mr. Orysik recommends taking in the free downtown shows during the day – including Grammy-winning vocalist Van Hunt, Phil Dwyer's Canadian Songbook, New York R&B artist José James and trumpeter Médéric Collignon – then sticking around for the Innovation Series at Ironworks, Brazilian pianist Eliane Elias, or catching living legends Dianne Reeves or George Benson.

"George Benson is a double threat: He is one of the greatest guitar players in the world and he is one of the greatest singers," says Mr. Orysik. "And Dianne Reeves has an unbelievable four-octave voice. And she can take any material, no matter how ordinary, and make it extraordinary. She is just marvellous."

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