Darius Jones is only booked for one gig at this year’s TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival, but if you’re paying attention, you might see a lot of him around town. The Coastal Jazz and Blues Society and the Western Front artist-run centre are teaming up to turn his one-night stand into a monthlong stay, with the plan being that he’s going to write a piece that combines a string trio with a jazz rhythm section and his own genre-defying alto saxophone, and then present it here next year.
It should be a chance to stretch for everyone involved, not least Jones himself.
“I haven’t written a piece, or composed a piece for strings, specifically in this manner, ever,” the 41-year-old musician confesses, in a telephone interview from his New York home. “Now, I’ve done gigs with string players, and I’ve written melodies for them or something like that, but not with the full intention that they’re going to be a component inside an ensemble that I’m making. I’m thinking about what they can do and what it can’t do, how they’re going to interact with my horn, all that stuff—and I have not done that before.”
Jones is also reading up on the technical side of violin, viola, and cello: how the instruments are made, different techniques that can be used to produce unconventional sounds, and even the way bowed instruments are used in different cultures around the world.
“I’m going to try to do some research on African fiddle musicians and American country fiddle players,” he says. “And I’m going to try to check out some more Indigenous kinds of fiddle-playing, because I know that the First Nations element is so prevalent inside of Canadian society. I want to try and tap into that—and that’s also kind of up my alley. I’m always trying to pull from the past, and trying to pull from Indigenous types of culture as well—but also trying to get a modern element in there.”
Jones will have good partners in the band he’s building here. The bass player and drummer are still to be determined, but he knows who he’ll be working with in the string section: Jesse and Joshua Zubot, virtuoso brothers who both double on viola and violin and have an encyclopedic knowledge of fiddle styles, and cellist Peggy Lee, an equally eclectic and accomplished player. Lee, along with her drummer husband, Dylan van der Schyff, and pianist Angelica Sanchez will also join Jones for his Ironworks concert this week.
The saxophonist is enthused about being able to introduce the Vancouvermusicians—and Vancouver audiences—to Sanchez. “If you have the chance to check her out, you should,” he says. “She’s one of our premier female… No, I don’t like to say that. She’s just a great pianist. She’s an amazing pianist.”
If possible, he’s even more enthused about getting an in-depth look at the Lower Mainland.
“Ever since I first came to Vancouver, I have had just the greatest response from the audience,” he explains. “The feeling, the love… It’s one of the best places to perform, because the way the artist is treated is just superb. So I’m hoping to take that even further and create a relationship with the Western Front that we can grow.”
Darius Jones, Angelica Sanchez, Peggy Lee, and Dylan van der Schyff play the Ironworks on Thursday (June 27), as part of the TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival.