JAZZFEST: Victoria’s festival fixture ready to roll

Hometown performers gain added exposure through TD Victoria International JazzFest

CocoJafro is one of numerous local acts playing the 2011 TD Victoria International JazzFest. They’ll be at The Office on Yates Street on Monday night (June 27).

CocoJafro is one of numerous local acts playing the 2011 TD Victoria International JazzFest. They’ll be at The Office on Yates Street on Monday night (June 27).

Local Afro-funk band CocoJafro doesn’t play “lampshade” gigs – what saxophonist Eric Hughes calls serious shows where you notice the band, the table and the lampshade. The group’s main goal is to play infectious grooves that get you to dance.

Band creator and guitarist Amine Said prefers to describe a CocoJafro song as an organic process, a smooth “trip” that travels between different members of the group. The music is very percussive and rhythmic, he says, and is a swirl of reggae, jazz, funk and even traditional wedding beats from Said’s native Morocco.

The band focuses on ‘playing the room,’ adjusting the volume and intensity of their playing to the size of the crowd to make their show as intimate as possible.

Their Facebook page even calls the music “greasy.” Hughes agrees. “It’s not choppy funk, it’s kind of sliding and slippery.”

Since its inception in 2009, the band has changed its lineup several times, but that’s typical of jazz acts and it brings lots of different talent together. Said writes most of the songs and brings them raw to the group, where they “put the icing on the cake.” The group doesn’t officially rehearse, but plays live gigs to practice for other ones.

Also part of the current lineup are Karina Morin on vocals, Karl Oystensen on keyboard, Christopher J. Mead on bass and Jason Cook on drums.

They’re thrilled to have a gig at the TD Victoria International JazzFest, as one of dozens of local acts sharing program space with festival headliners the Lincoln Centre Jazz Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis, Paco de Lucia and Steve Earle and the Dukes.

JazzFest, which features more than 350 musicians, is produced by the Victoria Jazz Society, a non-profit group that puts on festivals and workshops throughout the year to promote jazz in the city.

Creative director Darryl Mar says the festival has helped nurture Victoria’s jazz scene since its first year in 1985.

“We have been a catalyst for future jazz performances,” he says.

He notes there are too few venues dedicated to live music, and points out that the festival makes an effort to showcase local musicians. Homegrown groups will play everywhere from The Bay Centre to Alix Goolden Hall starting Friday (June 24) and running through July 3.

Hughes and CocoJafro play their JazzFest show Monday (June 27). “It’s not going to be one of those gigs. It’s going to get you to move,” he says.

The band plays The Office lounge at the Dalton Hotel, 759 Yates St., starting at 10 p.m. A cover charge applies.


JazzFest by the numbers

• More than 350 musicians will perform at the festival, scheduled for June 24 to July 3 at venues ranging from the Royal Theatre to Centennial Square and The Bay Centre.

• There are more than 80 shows to choose from – some ticketed, others requiring a cover charge and still more that are free.

• Ticket packages are available through the JazzFest office at 1031 Vancouver St. or by calling the info line at 388-4423. For more information, visit www.jazzvictoria.ca or pick up a program guide, available at most TD Canada Trust branches.