This summer has yielded a bumper crop of festivals for fans of classical, jazz, and their respective (as well as collective) progeny. The Vancouver International Jazz Festival (June 21 to July 1), the 17th Seattle Improvised Music Festival (June 27 to June 30), and the Eighth Olympia Experimental Music Festival (June 27 to June 30) run concurrently. Each festival features compelling performers, including John Surman & Jack DeJohnette, NOW Orchestra (Vancouver), Gebhard Ullmann, Axel Dörner (both Seattle and Vancouver festivals), A-Frequency, and Noggin (Olympia). It's understandable that festivals in the region cluster somewhat concurrently to take advantage of traveling musicians (if you're playing BC, why not play Seattle?), but did the festivals in Seattle and Olympia really have to overlap exactly and splinter the audience?
If you can only attend one festival, which one should you try? Here's a rundown. "We cover the entire range of jazz," says John Orysik, music director of the Vancouver International Jazz Festival. Their program touches all the bases from fine straight-ahead fare to the experimental edges. The Seattle Improvised Music Festival, known around town as "the improv fest," focuses on free improvisation and books a daring mix of local, national, and international improvisers. The Olympia Experimental Music Festival is the eccentric uncle of the bunch, offering experimental electronics, serious as well as kitschy improvisation, and provocative performance art. Last year the Glamorous Pat masterfully taunted the audience for most of his performance with, "You're leaving? How dare you!" and then joined forces with Jennifer Robin to read Alf jokes from a thrift-store paperback. Next week: the classical festival frenzy. CHRISTOPHER DeLAURENTI
For festival locations, lineups, schedules, and prices:
Vancouver International Jazz Festival: www.jazzvancouver.com/jazzfest2002
17th Seattle Improvised Music Festival: www.seattleimprovisedmusic.com
Eighth Olympia Experimental Music Festival: www.geocities.com/agentduckhugger/ olyexpfest8.html