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Vancouver and Victoria Jazz Fest's top picks

06/14/2015 05:05 EDT | Updated 06/14/2016 05:59 EDT
It's jazz festival season. The countdown is on for both the Victoria International JazzFest and the Vancouver International Jazz Festival.

The music kicks off on June 18 with hundreds of acts from all over the world playing in both cities. There's so much to choose from and you may be asking where to even start.

It's Hot Air's annual tradition to enlist the help of someone with an inside scoop. John Orysik is the media director for Coastal Jazz and Blues, the folks who have been bringing us the Vancouver International Jazz Festival since 1986.

Orysik shared his top picks this year with Hot Air host Margaret Gallagher.

1. GoGo Penguin 

This trio from Manchester, England could very well be the highlight of this year's jazz festivals, says Orysik. They mix in beautiful piano melodies with break beat rhythms, combining techno sounds with classical influences. 

They are part of the Vancouver International Jazz Festival's innovation series. Chris Illingworth plays piano, Nick Blacka plays bass and Rob turner plays drums. 

GoGo Penguin perform at Hermann's Jazz Club in Victoria on Monday June 22 and at Ironworks Studios in Vancouver on June 23.

2.Cyrille Aimée 

This French jazz singer started out busking in railway stations and street corners throughout Europe and developed a real fondness for Django Reinhardt style jazz, mixing in pop sentiments and Brazilian rhythms.

In 2007, she won a vocal competition at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland. Orysik describes her voice as light, whimsical, bouncy and full of optimism.

Cyrille Aimée performs at Performance Works in Vancouver on June 21.

3. Snarky Puppy 

Originally from Texas, but now based in Brooklyn, New York, this is one of the most popular jazz groups in the world right now. They've gone from underground heroes to Grammy Award winners.

The instrumental fusion band is led by composer, producer and bassist Michael League. They're about the groove, says Orysik, blending jazz, funk and world music together with a highly tuned jazz sensibility.

Snarky Puppy performs at the Vogue Theatre in Vancouver on June 21 and at the District Night Club in Victoria on June 22.

4. Scott Hamilton 

Scott Hamilton is described by Orysik as a solid mainstream jazz artist that harkens back to the early days of the genre.

His music is influenced by saxophone legends such as Ben Webster, Johnny Hodges and Zoots Simms, but he's still managed to forge his own approach. He's also worked with some of the jazz greats such as Roy Eldridge and Benny Goodman.

Scott Hamilton performs at Pyatt Hall - home of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra - on June 22.

5. Bria Skonberg 

Bria Skonberg is a B.C. musician from Chilliwack who Orysik calls a triple threat. She plays trumpet, is a wonderful singer and a great song writer.

Originally, her music was heavily influenced by New Orleans style jazz. It still is, but having lived in New York for five years now, her music has taken on a more modern and adventurous sound.

​Bria Skonberg performs at Performanc Works in Vancouver on June 26 and at the Jazz Room at Harbour Towers Hotel in Victoria on June 28.

6. Eliane Elias 

Eliane Elias is originally from Sao Paulo, Brazil, a place that has had a huge influence on jazz. She's a great vocalist and her music is a hybrid of jazz and Brazilian folk traditions.

Eliane Elias performs at the Vogue Theatre in Vancouver on June 26 and McPherson Playhouse in Victoria on June 27.

7. The Christine Jensen Jazz Orchestra 

Juno award-winning B.C. artist Christine Jensen is known for being a top-notch saxophone player and a budding and important composer.

She'll be performing with her sister Ingrid Jensen on trumpet accompanied by a 19-piece band. Her music, says Orysik, blends the impressionistic with the expressionistic and does it with a real understated authority.

The Christine Jensen Jazz Orchestra performs at Performance Works in Vancouver on June 20 and at First Met United Church in Victoria on June 22.

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