Wine and Jazz Festival boasts variety of wineries, acclaimed musicians

By Sue Vorenberg, Columbian features reporter



If you go

What: The 17th-annual Vancouver Wine and Jazz Festival.

When: 4 to 10 p.m. Aug. 22; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Aug. 23; and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Aug. 24.

Where: Esther Short Park, 301 W. Eighth St. in downtown Vancouver.

Cost: $60 for three-day pass, $20 for Friday only, $25 for Saturday only, $25 for Sunday only. (See website for discounted advance-purchase prices).

Information: 360-906-0441 or visit

Those with eclectic taste in music will find a lot to like about the 17th annual Vancouver Wine and Jazz Festival in Esther Short Park this weekend.

With a bit of gospel, classic and new jazz, blues and a renowned singer-songwriter, there's plenty of sounds to please even the most complex musical palate, said organizer Michael Kissinger.

"We have probably one of the most diverse lineups we've put together in a long time," Kissinger said. "I really tried to do that this year."

Headliners include the five-time Grammy-winning blues and gospel act Blind Boys of Alabama, jazz guitarist and 17-time Grammy nominee Lee Ritenour, classic jazz pianist Toshiko Akiyoshi, 2013 Grammy nominee The Heritage Blues Orchestra and renowned singer-songwriter Don McLean, who penned "American Pie" and "Vincent (Starry, Starry Night)."

"Toshiko Akiyoshi, I've wanted to have her come for a very long time," Kissinger said. "She's 84, and she's kind of the tail end of that classic Duke Ellington, Dave Brubeck generation of musicians."

The musician, born in 1929 in China, came up in an age when jazz was very male dominated. Through her long career she's had 14 Grammy nominations and was the first woman to win the Best Arranger and Composer competition in Downbeat Magazine.

The festival will be a rare opportunity for music fans to listen to her perform live, Kissinger said.

Other acts include the Dave Brubeck Jazz Quartet, comprised of members of the Brubeck family, Stanley Jordan and Coco Montoya.

"Then we have Don McLean," Kissinger said. "The guy's sold 40 million albums. Everybody knows 'American Pie.' His style is hard to define. Do you call it folk, rock, pop? Everybody has covered his songs. He's kind of a crossover guy."

He's also excited to have The Heritage Blues Orchestra, a group that ranges from a trio to an 11-piece band depending on the music.

"They're one of these groups that, three to four years from now, they'll be huge, and we've got them first," Kissinger said.

Beyond that, the festival will have about 200 total varieties of wine — although none are from wineries in Clark County — and a wide variety of vendors and food.

Kissinger said local wineries haven't been included in the event because there isn't room for them.

"We've had wineries that we've worked with for years," Kissinger said, noting that many are from the Pacific Northwest. "We're just very loyal to them."

Unlike the wines, most of the food vendors are from Clark County, and nine of the 32 artists that will have displays set up in the park are also from the area.

"Our goal has always been to create a multifaceted cultural festival, an event where people can experience great music, sample a Northwest wine, purchase a piece of art and become immersed in an eclectic and creative weekend," said Maria Manzo, festival director.

The event draws between 10,000 and 12,000 visitors each year over the three weekend days. It also includes opportunities for young musicians to meet and learn from the star talent each year during a Thursday Jazz Education Night, held yesterday.

At the Thursday event, several school bands performed in the park, including bands from Vancouver School of Arts & Academics and Heritage High School.

That part of the event is great exposure for the young musicians, Kissinger said.

"Most people that come here for the festival don't live here," he said. "Most are visitors. We've had people come from California, Vancouver, B.C., Florida, Texas. All here in downtown Vancouver, Washington. I think that's pretty good."