Penticton’s Hot Jazz fest swings into action

It’s time to put on your dancing shoes, because this is the weekend the Pentastic Hot Jazz Festival hits town and turns the city into New Orleans North.

Gator Beat

Gator Beat

It’s time to put on your dancing shoes, because this is the weekend the Pentastic Hot Jazz Festival hits town and turns the city into New Orleans North.

And if you don’t dance, one of the newest additions to the show is bound to help you out. Swing Club, out of Victoria, are not only going to be doing a dance exhibition during the opening ceremonies on Friday evening, they’re going to be getting up early to do another show and dance workshop at 9 a.m. Saturday at the Shatford Centre.

The Shatford is another new addition to the lineup this year. Jazz Fest chair Michael Campbell thinks it’s destined to become one of the weekend’s most popular dance floors.

“Two of our directors, Ken Giddings and Marty Godsmark spent many hours sanding, buffing and polishing the hardwood floor,” said Campbell.

The entire building is in the process of renovation and when maple hardwood floors were discovered under the carpeting in the recital hall, the Jazz Fest directors decided to lend a hand to make sure the century-old floor was in top shape for the concerts.

In all, there are five venues this year (all handicapped accessible except for the S.S. Sicamous) playing host to 11 bands playing music from zydeco to swing, like Sister Swing. They’re a trio echoing the girl groups of the 1940s, channelling the likes of the Andrew sisters.

“They are returning after a couple of years, by popular demand,” said Campbell, describing them as a show not to be missed. “They’re really very good, a little humour and a really lively group.”

Those three factors are high on the list, Campbell said, when the jazz society is choosing the groups to invite to the festival.

“Humour is a biggie. What we look for is a show; studio musicians you can listen to on a CD,” he said. “We look for their audience appeal. Not just great music but a show.”

A lot of the old favourites are coming back, like Gator Beat, Coronet Chop Suey, Tom Rigney and his band Flambeau as well as Tom Hook.

“Tom Hook has been here with the Black Dogs and he’s been here solo,” said Campbell. “This year, he’s coming back as a trio. He’s going to be our honorary master of ceremonies for the opening and closing ceremonies.”

Those closing ceremonies are some of the best moments of the weekend, when all the bands get together to jam and finish up the weekend.

“For our closing ceremonies, we try to structure it and we go into  a lot of detail,” said Campbell. “Then we throw it all away — it’s just not going to happen the way that we scripted it, they just do what they do. And it’s great to watch, they all feed off each other.”

That kind of jamming happens occasionally during the festival as well, part of what Campbell describes as a “familial atmosphere” among the musicians.

“I think it happens more at our festival than others,” he said.  “Most of them are friends at the beginning of the festival. By the end of it, they’re all friends. They love jamming with each other.”

While the bands come from all over North America to perform at Pentastic, a couple of local groups are some of the biggest favourites, according to Campbell.

“One of the real popular bands is a local group, Off Ramp, and that’s headed up by Justin Glibbery, a music teacher at Penticton Secondary. They are really a great band to watch and dance to,” he said, adding that they’re also thrilled to have another local crowd pleaser, the Cactus Jazz Band, on the menu.

“And once again we have our free gospel service on Sunday morning with the incomparable Marilyn Keller as the singer,” said Campbell. “She is just out of sight.”

Youth passes at $10 each, will be available, but only at the venues, said Campbell.

“We encourage families with young kids to come,” he said. “We try to have something for everybody, and our lifeblood will be in the younger people coming up.”

The Hot Jazz Festival gets underway Friday and runs through Sunday at a variety of venues. For the full schedule, visit www.pentasticjazz.com.