Vancouver Jazz
Feature by Willard Manus

When most visitors think Vancouver they immediately think biking in Stanley Park, hiking the Grouse Grind, or kayaking in the waters around Bowen Island. That's understandable, if only because Vancouver's mountains-meet-the-sea topography and mild climate have made it such a sportsman's paradise.

It should be pointed out, though, that the city has another side to it, an interior side that can boast of theatre, dance, museums, art galleries and lots of other cultural attractions--including a surprisingly active jazz scene.

The reason for this can be attributed to Vancouver's serious caffeine-addiction. Coffee-shops can be found on just about every block--and many of them are warm and inviting places, with oodles of books, newspapers and magazines to read, and various board games to play. There are poetry and story nights as well--and, best of all, recitals by jazz and blues artists.

Such established musicians and singers as Jim Byrnes, Francois Houle, Tony Wilson and Jeff Shucard regularly play this circuit, joined by a host of younger, lesser-known artists. These locals usually play together in a loose, jam-session kind of way, making for pleasing and sometimes exciting listening.

Vancouver can also boast of a more formal and conventional jazz scene. For ten days in mid-summer, for example, the "TD Canada Trust International Jazz Festival" takes place in forty different venues around the city. Some of the most famous names in jazz have headlined the event, whose epicenter is the Listel
Hotel on Robson Street. Adjoining is O'Doul's, an upscale eatery that offers nightly live jazz, not only during the Festival but all year round.

Among the city's other important jazz clubs are The Cellar (whose proprietor, Cory Weeds, also heads a record label, "Cellar Live"), The Skybar, The Yale, Capone's, Bacchus Lounge and Cloud 9 in the Empire Landmark Hotel's 42nd-floor revolving restaurant. The music at these venues is played mostly on

"For a homegrown musician, Vancouver is a bit like New
Orleans," said guitarist/singer Jeff Shucard. "It's hard to make an international name for yourself here--an exception being Diana Krall--but you certainly can make a living."

(Vancouver International Jazz Festival: tel. 604-872-5200 or visit For information on coffee-house schedules, pick up a copy of Vancouver's free weekly, "The Georgia Straight." Jazz and blues fans should also check out