Mary Ancheta is no stranger to the stage.
Having previously performed as keyboardist for Vancouver artists Kimmortal, Amanda Sum, and Ashleigh Ball, Ancheta and her keys have been in front of many an audience, but always off to the side.
Which is why the upcoming Vancouver International Jazz Festival is such a special one for the now-bandleader of the Mary Ancheta Quartet.
“It’s certainly different,” Ancheta says in a phone interview with the Straight. “I’ve been supporting so many people—I love to support artists and people playing original music. I know it’s not easy. I’m feeling really good about the songs and I’ve got a great crew with me, so it certainly makes it easier to do the job and hopefully to just have some fun, not to overthink things, and enjoy the music that we’ve created.”
Slated to perform as openers for BADBADNOTGOOD at this year’s Vancouver International Jazz Festival, Ancheta—alongside tenor saxophonist Dominic Conway, bassist Matt Reid, and drummer Trent Otter—will take to the Queen Elizabeth stage on June 29.
“We’re really, really excited to play at the Queen E. It’s my first time playing there,” Ancheta shares. “I’ve sat in the audience many times. It’ll be a different experience from the other side.”
The hometown show won’t be the debut performance for the quartet, though, as, earlier in the month, it will be making stops at jazz festivals in Winnipeg, Toronto, and Ottawa.
“So I’ll have a little run up before that BADBADNOTGOOD show,” Ancheta says with a laugh.
Though that’s not to say that the group hasn’t been in front of a Vancouver audience yet.
“Maybe a month ago we did a practice, secret show. We play as MAQ [Mary Ancheta Quartet] but we billed it as Marsupial Annual Quorum, and the poster was a bunch of marsupial heads playing instruments.”
The group played that secret show at Vancouver’s Tyrant Studios, a venue that Ancheta says deserves some recognition, and was the perfect place for MAQ to get in front of a crowd—albeit a smaller one than what’s expected in Vancouver later this month.
“There’s a different feeling when you get into a space with real people and onstage, you know, trying to feel that out, but in a lower key environment,” she says. “There are moments that don’t go as planned, but then you kind of just try to be present and make some music in the moment. I think that’s the exciting part. For me, I don’t need to plan every second of every note, you know, we just kind of go where the music takes us, at times.”
Ancheta’s phone call with the Straight marked something of a special occasion: a day prior she had picked up the seven-inch records for the Mary Ancheta Quartet’s debut album Level Up, which at the time of writing was one week away from its June 2 release.
Showcasing Ancheta’s influences like Squarepusher, the Meters, and Prince, Level Up pulls from jazz roots as well as the artist’s experience working in film and TV, including scoring Golden Delicious, the award-winning coming of age film that was a top pick at last year’s edition of the Vancouver International Film Festival.
The album also includes “Gotta Get It”, a supercharged jazz and funk jam that debuted in late April.
“It’s definitely sinking in. We’re excited,” Ancheta says of the record’s upcoming release. “We did two separate [pressings], just to be difficult. So pretty exciting. I only just realized it [the release] has kind of been creeping up on me.”
While Level Up will be available for streaming on June 2, those hoping to snag a vinyl copy will need to either buy it at the June 29 show, which Ancheta considers “a kind of hometown EP release,” or afterwards on Bandcamp.
As for who Ancheta is hoping to check out at the jazz festival, she mentions ebonEmpress and Sun Ra Arkestra.
“I love the diversity of the programming,” Ancheta enthuses.
Mary Ancheta Quartet performs on June 29 at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre as part of the Vancouver International Jazz Festival. Find more Jazz Fest coverage here.