TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival Sharpens Its Defiant Spirit

Friday 14th, June 2019 / 12:06
by Yasmine Shemesh

Wu-Tang Clan

TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival
June 21 to July 1, 2019

Since Rainbow Robert took over as managing director for artistic programming at the TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival in 2018, she’s made it a point to highlight the louder, more unexpected expressions rooted in jazz.

“It’s protest music,” Robert says. “It’s music where there’s a free dialogue about what’s going on in the world. Whether it’s the celebration or indignation, I think edgy music wakes us up. It’s something that’s really important to invite and to enjoy.”

In the defiant spirit of its roots, the jazz festival, now in its 34th edition, has always featured artists not afraid to challenge,” to speak out against injustice, or honestly portray the realities they live in.

This sentiment rings especially true this year. Alongside rhythmic jazz innovator Herbie Hancock, the lineup includes hardcore hip-hop greats Wu-Tang Clan, the experimental and improvisational Yonatan Gat and Eastern Medicine Singers, transgender singer-songwriter Beverly Glenn-Copeland and Russell Wallace — the festival’s 2019 Indigenous Artist in Residence.

“It’s a pretty wild world that we’re living in now,” Robert says. “And I think putting forward music that really speaks to that is particularly important.”


Herbie Hancock
8 p.m. on June 29 at Queen Elizabeth Theatre. Tickets from $69.

Hancock, a pioneer of the funky and abstract post-bop jazz, has made incomparable contributions to music through more than six decades of work as a composer, pianist and bandleader.

Wu-Tang Clan
8 p.m. on June 23 at Queen Elizabeth Theatre. Tickets from $69.

Co-founder RZA has always been open about the iconic New York hip-hop group’s mission to open minds. Socially-conscious, philosophical, gritty and brilliant, they’re one of the most important acts of our time.

Beverly Glenn-Copeland
8 p.m. on June 25 at Performance Works. Tickets from $29.

Whether you know him from Mr. Dressup, his canon of work as a folk singer-songwriter and electronic music pioneer, or his inspirational life journey as a transgender man, both Copeland and his long, diverse career are truly extraordinary.

The Roots
8 p.m. on June 28 at Queen Elizabeth Theatre. Tickets from $79. 

Often referred to as hip-hop’s first “live band,” The Roots have redefined the genre over and over again with their ingenious mix of freewheeling grooves and insightful lyrics.

Yonatan Gat and Eastern Medicine Singers
7 p.m. on June 30 at David Lam Park. Free.

Gat refused to join his native Israel’s mandatory military service and his work with the Algonquin drum group is just as rebellious. Swirling Middle Eastern guitar, tribal rhythm, and confrontational harmony make for an unforgettable live performance. Gat was also a key member of the deranged and entertaining Monotonix, but this project is in a league of its own.