A&E » Arts

Sekoya creating quite a stir

by

comment

New band is deep in experience and musical theory

Who: Sekoya

What: Whistler Jazz and Blues Festival

Where: Whistler Village Free Outdoor Concert Stage

When: June 13, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

Acid jazz, nu jazz, electro jazz – whatever you like to call it – is the stuff those compilation-collecting, cocktail-party-throwing friends you love to visit always have oozing from their stereo. How often do you ask what the CD is but never get around to buying it? Well now you can see some of these acts in concert, and many of them for free, at Whistler’s 13 th annual Jazz and Blues Festival next weekend, from midday Friday, June 13 to midnight Sunday, June 15.

One of the biggest buzz bands in the electro jazz biz would have to be Sekoya, playing in Skiers Plaza (at the base of Whistler gondola) next Friday at 5:30 p.m. Sekoya’s music is smooth, sexy and sweet listening. It’s uplifting enough to fill a party with just the right mix of coolness and relaxing enough to tap away to under the dinner table. Whatever way you like your jazz, or even how it’s served, chances are you’ll like Sekoya.

This Vancouver-based broken beat project with the funky, organic name has three super experienced and diverse music makers at their core. Vocalist Amalia Townsend fronts the act with her soulful, sultry R&B-tinged songs and spoken word. Think Ursula Rucker meets Joni Mitchell.

Doing the tweaking and turning for the trio is programmer Dan Kearley, who oddly enough comes from a background in metal and rock (working with Nickelback and more) before moving into the jazz scene.

The third installment is Alvin Cornista, who comes from a long jazz lineage, learning to play the sax on his grandfather’s stylin’ gold heirloom before a decade studying music and collaborating with the likes of Ingrid Jensen, Hugh Fraser, Norah Jones and even the Swollen Members’ Moka Only.

Sekoya may only be eight months old as a unit, but don’t let that worry you. These guys are tight. They had known about each other for years but were just too busy working on other commitments and collaborations to get together.

"We all went to school with mutual friends who told us about each other but it took a good 18 months to finally meet and then it took another six months of phone calls to actually play together," said Cornista. "One day we finally all nipped it in the bud and said ‘okay, let’s do it tomorrow’. So we hooked up and made a song in less than three hours. It was very in the moment and we knew we had something special."

That defining moment became the start of a snowball, still gaining momentum. That song they recorded on Day One ended up on a Nutone 2003 compilation called Sunset Nights, garnering great reviews from Chicago and Miami – some of North America’s biggest jazz scenes.

"Because the compilation got in the hands of all the different press across the continent, it gave us a much wider audience than we could have done on our own at this point," said Cornista.

The first time Sekoya played live on stage was opening for Micheal Franti and Spearhead in Vancouver.

"That was a great debut for us and it was really incredible to have Micheal come up on the stage after we played," said Cornista.

Canada Council agreed to fund their first album, due for release any day now. "It’s getting pressed as we speak," said Cornista. Special guests on the CD include world renowned drummer Greg Hutchinson and bassist Reuben Rogers from New York; plus Canadian composers Brad Turner and Chris Gestrin on keyboards.

Sounds like it’s all systems go for Sekoya.

"Definitely," said Cornista. "I believe the three of us truly encompass the whole history of music. Dan and I have studied classical music and everything from baroque to romantic to 20 th century music. Amalia has been singing since she was a girl, writing great songs since her teens and has the most amazing record collection. So we probably have an advantage when it comes to making tunes and moving forward at a faster rate than other bands who’ve just started out."

For the Whistler gig, Sekoya has pulled a cast of their Vancouver-based favourite performers to fill the project. Bernie Arai will be on drums, Jack Duncan on congas, Chris Gestrin on keyboards and Kent Wallace on trumpet. For more information, pick up a program around the village, call 1-877-972-7374 or go to www.mywhistler.com.

Add a comment