A highlight for many music lovers, Penticton will be filled with riffs, blowing sessions and other swinging sounds this weekend for the 16th annual Pentastic Hot Jazz Festival.
“We have a band for every taste and an incredible group of volunteers that make everyone feel welcome and a hard working and diligent board of directors who work very hard to bring this three-day event to life,” said Pentastic Hot Jazz Festival president Michael Campbell. “We also have a reputation of being a nice festival to play at and musicians tell other musicians.”
One of the bands Campbell is looking forward to hearing is Dixie Talks, which hails from Lekeberg, Sweden. They play traditional jazz in New Orleans style. This year they have added Lennart Axelsson, a Swedish trumpet player who has performed all over the world with famous big bands and top jazz groups. He also played solo/first trumpet with the James Last orchestra for a number of years.
“I was very impressed by them. Their vocalist is great and (Axelsson) is a biggie in the jazz world,” said Campbell.
The Original Wildcat Jass Band from Arizona whose musical energy is steeped in good humour, Dixieland Express Jazz band from Victoria with leader Norrie MacFarlane and Draga’s Dragons also are on roster for the weekend.
The West Coast’s hardest hitting Zydeco once again returns with Gator Beat, who will be giving their hand-clapping, foot-stomping, high-energy performances this weekend. They are also performing a free concert on Friday from 1:50 to 3 p.m. in the courtyard of Pen High. A silver collection will be taken and any donations will go to the high school music program.
And you can’t have music without dancing. Campbell said they will once again be holding free dance lessons for ticket holders on Saturday at 9 a.m. at the Shatford Centre. Four instructors from Victoria’s Red Hot Swing Club will be teaching new and veteran dancers.
“That is for people with two left feet like I have, or for people who are well along but want to sharpen up their steps,” said Campbell. “Absolutely it helps get people up and dancing. Not everyone can dance for fear of not looking cool and this brings a large degree of coolness to the dancers.”
Penticton’s Eric Wood, drummer with Aged to Perfection who will be performing at the festival and a member of the Pentastic Hot Jazz committee, expects a good turnout for the three days because it is one of the few remaining festivals of its genre in the Pacific Northwest.
“It has always been a favourite of people. A lot of people go from one festival to another of this type and we have a variety of music. There is 10 bands or so and while you might hear the same tune played by each one of them, chances are they are 10 different arrangements or 10 different sounds,” said Wood.
The other local band is the Offramp Jazz Sextet, who are comprised of musicians from Penticton and Summerland. They are led by pianist Justin Glibbery with Aidan Mayes on vocals, Larry Crawford on saxophone, Stan Sabourin on saxophone, Stefan Bienz on bass and Mike Treadway on drums.
Both Campbell and Wood said the volunteers that help run the Pentastic Hot Jazz Festival are amazing and this year they stepped up again to fill all the volunteer positions.
“Some of our volunteers have been doing this for 15 years. That is how dedicated these people are. They know everyone is having a great time and they hear the remarks and might get to catch a couple of tunes from the bands playing. Without sponsors or volunteers we couldn’t do this,” said Wood.
Tickets for the Pentastic Hot Jazz Festival can be purchased online at www.ValleyFirstTix.ca, at the Best Western Inn on Skaha Lake Road or at the Penticton and Wine Country Visitor’s Centre.