Wine and Jazz Fest puts city’s growing neighbor on the map

About 14 years ago, Michael Kissinger had the vision that his new wine and jazz festival would be something big, an event that would draw people from beyond the Pacific Northwest. “It’s the largest jazz festival in the Northwest now,” says Kissinger, who proudly says that the Vancouver Wine and Jazz Festival, set for Aug. 26 to 28 at Esther Short Park in Vancouver, Wash., has “put Vancouver on the map” — literally. A National Geographic geo-tourism map lists the popular event among the highlights for any would-be visitor to the Portland area. “When you hit that level, it’s a different level,” says Kissinger, the event’s founder and artistic director. The festival features 20 musical acts, including, for the first time, multiple-Grammy winner Al Jarreau, the work of 40 artists, fare from nine restaurants and a bevy of wines — about 200 in all. It runs from 4 to 10 p.m. Friday, Aug. 26 ($20 at gate), 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 27 ($25) and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 28 ($25). A three-day pass is $60 at the gate. With the Mt. Hood Jazz Festival faded into the past, the Vancouver Wine and Jazz Festival fills the void while building on its well-earned reputation. Coco Montoya and Bill Frisell join Jarreau as first-time participants, joining the likes of Arturo Sandoval, Stanley Jordan, Diane Schuur, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Spyro Gyra and blues legend John Hammond. Sandoval (8 p.m. Aug. 26), Jarreau (8:30 p.m. Aug. 27) and Spyro Gyra (7:30 p.m.) are the featured evening performers. Check for more information. The festival also has some local flavor, with esteemed bass player David Friesen, a Portland resident, starring in the David Friesen Jazz Quintet and Circle 3 Trio. The Dan Balmer Trio, Junkyard Jane and Go By Train also perform. Kissinger’s company, Bravo! Vancouver, runs the wine and jazz festival, and he says the group has expanded to, of all places, Croatia, recently starting a new festival in Dubrovnik. Kissinger and his wife work with Dubrovnik’s orchestra. The Vancouver Wine and Jazz Festival has featured 100 major acts in 14 years, including Bo Diddley before he passed away. Can’t go wrong with combining wine and jazz, huh? “It’s an important culture mix in the Northwest,” Kissinger quips. “It’s like coffee and books.” After extensive beautification in downtown Vancouver, including with Esther Short Park, it’s a great location. “It’s like a living room, like (Portland’s) Pioneer Courthouse Square,” he says.

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