JazzFestival gets off to a rousing good start

Published on Thu, Jul 15, 2004 by ack Kintner

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Jazz Festival gets off to a rousing good start

By Jack Kintner

“I’ve never been to Blaine before,” said Blaine Jazz Festival faculty member Vijay Singh, “but what a gorgeous place!” Singh joins the festival’s faculty this year along with bass player Clipper Anderson, who played here last year with the Karen Kajita Quintet, drummer Judd Sherwood from Bellingham and pianist Darin Clendenin, who along with Anderson often backs festival headliner Gretta Matassa in concerts and recording sessions.

Singh said he plans to return with his family for a visit soon from their Ellensburg home, where Singh is on the music faculty at Central Washington University. His specialty is choral music, the focus of his graduate program at Portland State University following undergraduate studies at Willamette University.

Despite his name, Singh, 38, looks more like a younger version of the Irish actor Pierce Brosnan. “I was adopted by an east Indian couple,” he explained in a rolling bass baritone that poured out of him like chocolate syrup. At Tuesday night’s faculty showcase at Semiahmoo’s Packer’s Lounge his three and a half octave range had him scatting note-for-note with Matassa one minute and plunging to floorboard-rattling depths the next with all the aplomb of an artist thoroughly in control of his instrument.

In other words, he fits right in. No surprise, given his earlier work in Fairbanks, Alaska with artistic director Ted DeCorso. Last year DeCorso predicted that “this festival is getting big fast, like a baby whale,” and one way he tries to make this happen while guaranteeing a positive experience for all concerned is by having a top-quality faculty. “Once you’ve got them all together then it’s an opportunity to offer a good in-depth learning experience. Students who go through the week come out greatly enhanced,” DeCorso said.

In addition to added faculty, this year’s third annual Blaine Jazz Festival has more students and runs a full week, three days longer than last year. Performance venues again include Fairhaven’s Village Green and Birch Bay’s Grassy Knoll (behind the Dry Dock restaurant). New this year was Tuesday’s noon faculty showcase at Blackberry House on H Street. Next year the town’s new boardwalk will provide a performance pavilion for yet another new spot to hear live jazz performed as well as it ever is, anywhere.

Singh said he likes the Blaine festival because of the scale, “not so big you can’t get to know the kids. There’s such constant involvement with morning practices and afternoon ensemble groups and private lessons. The kids are tired by the end of the day, and so are we,” he grinned.

Singh and the rest of the jazz festival faculty perform July 15 for free at 7 p.m. in the Fairhaven Village Green in Bellingham, and tomorrow night at the festival’s central event, the String of Pearls concert in Blaine’s Performing Arts Center.
Remaining schedule:
Thursday (today) July 15
Noon to 1 p.m. – Bellingham Youth Jazz Band, Marine Park, Free
7 – 9 p.m. - Jazz Faculty Showcase, Fairhaven Village Green, Free
Friday, July 16,
7:30 p.m. - String of Pearls Jazz Concert, PAC, $15 for adults, $7.50 for students.
Saturday, July 17
3 – 6 p.m. Student Jazz concert, including Jazz Choir, at Birch Bay Discovery Days, Free