Jazz Fest 2023: the Straight's top picks

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      The Vancouver International Jazz Festival has showcased some of the world’s most exciting and innovative artists on its stages. And this year, its 38th edition taking place from June 23 to July 2, is no exception. Here are the top five picks you won’t want to miss. Tickets are available online


      At the Georgia Street Stage on June 24

      The work of Colombian-born, Toronto-based Lido Pimienta boldly explores politics of gender, race, and identity as she combines Afro-Colombian musical styles like Cumbia and avant-garde electronica with her beautifully ecstatic singing voice. The Polaris Prize winner’s artistic vision, paired with her endless talents—Pimienta is also an exhibiting visual artist, has scored the New York City Ballet, and hosts her own CBC variety show, LidoTV—make her an absolute force, and a Jazz Festival performance not to miss.  –Yasmine Shemesh


      At Ocean Artworks on June 24

      If there ever was a Vancouver jazz supergroup, this would be it. Led by acclaimed drummer Jesse Cahill, the quintet features some of the local scene’s most prominent players: Cory Weeds, Dave Sikula, Chris Gestrin, and Jack Duncan. The combo lends to a soulful and swaggering musical experience, as Nightcrawlers take sonic cues from great organ bands of the past like Big John Patton and Booker T. and the M.G.’s. –YS



      At Performance Works on Granville Island on June 24

      With melodious saxophone, energetic moves, and harmonious voices, Sun Ra Arkestra takes the stage. The iconic jazz group is known for its Ellingtonian big band swing, and recently received a 2022 Grammy nomination for its album, Swirling. The group was formed in the mid-’50s by Afrofuturism pioneer, Sun Ra. His cosmic musical experimentation influenced many artists, and today’s 13-piece unit carries the late Ra’s legacy through jazz, dancing, chanting, and Afro-pageantry. Sun Ra Arkestra has been led by original member and multi-instrumentalist Marshall Allen since ’95. You need further life accomplishments? He turned 99 years old on May 25. –Bridget Stringer-Holden



      At the Vancouver Playhouse on June 26

      Arooj Aftab’s soulful singing earned her the first Grammy received by a Pakistani, which she won in 2022 for Best Global Music Performance. Now, the New-York based artist has released a collaborative album with multi-instrumentalist Shahzad Ismaily and pianist Vijay Iyer, following their debut as a trio in 2018. Love in Exile weaves piano, bass and distinguished vocals together into a mesmerizing performance. –BSH



      At the Queen Elizabeth Theatre on June 29

      Fusing ’70s soul-jazz, alternative hip-hop, and experimental electronica, BADBADNOTGOOD redefines what it means to be a crossover band—the musically adventurous trio is truly in a category all its own. On its latest album, 2021’s Talk Memory, BBNG improvised in the studio and came out with a vibrant and virtuosic psychedelic journey that earned a nomination for the Polaris Prize. The group’s expansive approach has made them sought-after collaborators with like-minded innovators from Kendrick Lamar and Ghostface Killah to Kaytranada and Thundercat.–YS

      Find more Vancouver International Jazz Fest coverage here.