This weekend, the Pentastic Hot Jazz Festival turns 21.
“We’re legal all over Canada,” said Michael Campbell, president of the Jazz Festival Society.
People come from all over the country for the mix of music offered at Pentastic, and from elsewhere. “We have people coming from all over the USA, including, believe it or not, New Orleans. It’s sort of like bringing the coals to Newcastle.”
Part of the draw is the eclectic mix of Jazz styles on offer.
“Some festivals live and die on Dixie or traditional, some live and die on cool jazz, which is not us,” said Campbell. That includes Dixieland, big band, swing, gospel and even a bit of rockabilly this year.
“We have as good a band lineup as there is anywhere in North America,” said Campbell. “That’s not braggadocio, that’s fact. People are crazy about the talent we bring to town and people travel a long way to enjoy it.”
The rockabilly Campbell refers to is courtesy of Dave Bennett and the Memphis Speed Kings, who are returning for their second year. But this year, Bennett is bringing a second band with him.
“The man is a virtuoso on the piano, on the guitar, on the clarinet and on the drums,” said Campbell. “Then he’s got the Dave Bennet quartet, they devote most of their music to Benny Goodman, with Dave Bennet on clarinet.”
This year’s lineup is filled with first-timers and old favourites like Lance Buller, Tom Rigney and Flambeau, Gator Nation, Bob Draga; so many that Campbell struggles to name them all.
“I don’t want anyone to think I am playing favourites,” said he said. “Marilyn Keller with Black Swan, she knocks them dead. She makes me weep every time she does gospel.”
One of the new bands is Sing ‘N Swing, a Penticton youth band, established last year as the Princess Margaret Secondary School Senior Jazz Combo.
“I am looking forward to seeing them again,” said Campbell, who reviewed the band a few months ago at the request of their instructor, Don Grant. “We liked what we saw and heard, so we invited them to our event for this year.
“We like to showcase locals. We’ve had some pretty good musicians come up through the school ranks.”
The bands will rotate through five venues around Penticton, giving everyone lots of opportunities to see their favourites. It all kicks off with the tradition outreach concert on Friday, a by donation show starting at 1:50 p.m at Princess Margaret Secondary and featuring Benny and the Good Men.
More information about the bands, tickets and schedules is available online at the Pentastic Hot Jazz website, pentasticjazz.com