IronFest concert series jazzes up Vancouver's fall scene

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      Coastal Jazz & Blues Society programmer and guitarist Cole Schmidt has noticed a difference between “being great on an instrument and being great at music”.

      In a recent phone interview with the Straight, Schmidt explained that those who are great at music are not only talented instrumentalists but also have a keen interest in communicating with fellow musicians on-stage. This is what he was seeking in programming his society’s new fall jazz concert series known as IronFest.

      “I’m always excited to hear what the music sounds like inside the minds of these great musicians,” Schmidt said.

      IronFest kicks off next Thursday (November 18) with the Bill Coon Quartet with Campbell Ryga (saxophone), Miles Hill (bass), and Dave Robbins (drums). The event’s name is a play on the society’s Gastown venue, the Ironworks.

      “It’s just a great-sounding room and it’s got a lot of energy,” Schmidt noted.

      They’ll be followed on the same evening by Emad Armoush’s Rayhan project. Armoush is vocalist who plays the oud, ney, and guitar. He will be joined by François Houle (clarinet), Jesse Zubot (violin/effects), JP Carter (trumpet/electronics), and Kenton Loewen (drums).

      “His collaborators are people who can do pretty much anything,” Schmidt said. “So it’s exciting to see that in a live setting.”

      The two shows on the opening night reflect Coastal Jazz’s ethos, which is to serve audiences with straight-ahead jazz along with more experimental forms of music.

      The same spirit infuses the second night of IronFest next Friday (November 19). Krystle Dos Santos, a two-time Canadian Music Award–winning vocalist, will deliver her classic and neo-soul, rhythm and blues, and jazz. She will be followed by the avante-garde Handmade

      Blade, which features Peggy Lee (cello), Aram Bajakian (guitar), and JP Carter (trumpet). Schmidt said that Handmade Blade offers “a real intensity in the quiet spaces, which I think is harder than it sounds”.

      “It really pulls you in,” he commented. “They’re just great listeners; they’re great, open-minded musicians.”

      Bill Coon opens IronFest with saxophonist Campbell Ryga at the Ironworks next Thursday (November 18).

      The final night of IronFest, next Saturday (November 20), features two bass players who lead bands. Jodi Proznick’s New Horizons project includes Chris Davis (trumpet), Tilden Webb (keys), and Nick Bracewell (drums).

      Proznick has won several National Jazz Awards, twice been nominated for Juno Awards, and won Jazz Artist of the Year in 2019 at the Western Canadian Music Awards.

      Her band will be followed by James Meger’s How to Do Nothing, with Lisa Cay Miller (piano), Sam King (guitar), Andromeda Monk (no-input mixer, saxophone), and Jesus Caballero (drums).

      “It’s two bass players who are both greatly admired for their collaborative efforts,” Schmidt said. “That’s a huge role of a bass player in a band, but they’re also leaders. They’re also composers.”

      IronFest is, indeed, straight-ahead and experimental. It’s a sign that jazz is back on its feet in Vancouver in just the form that its devotees love to experience.

      Coastal Jazz & Blues Society presents IronFest: A Fall Jazz Concert Series from next Thursday to next Saturday (November 18 to 20) at the Ironworks. For more information, visit the society's website.