Vancouver International Jazz Festival



Jared Ferrie/Metro Vancouver


Amalia Townsend of Sekoya strikes a pose at Edie Hats on Granville Island. The Vancouver-based quartet performs Monday at the Centre for Performing Arts (777 Homer St.) and June 30 at the Roundhouse (181 Roundhouse Mews).


Musicians are notoriously averse to being pigeonholed by genre, and in Sekoya’s case most labels do indeed ring false.

The Vancouver-based quartet, which plays two dates at the TD Canada Trust Vancouver International Jazz Festival, draws on an almost bewildering array of styles.

Their old-school jazz leanings combined with hip-hop beats and electronically induced soundscapes have often seen them saddled with the dissatisfying Acid Jazz tag. Then there are Amalia Townsend’s vocals, sometimes straight-up soul, often veering into spoken word.

“Jazz traditionalists don’t want to call us jazz,” said Townsend. “Dance aficionados don’t want to call us dance, because it’s different. It’s really peculiar music with complex arrangements.”

Perhaps it is in Japan — where Sekoya is garnering an ever-growing fan base — that their music least confounds.

“Out there it’s just called Club Jazz,” she said.

Sitting outside on a bench on Granville Island, the smooth sounds of bossa nova played by a busker on acoustic guitar drifted through the air. It was a fitting backdrop for the interview, Townsend noted, because Sekoya is opening for Bebel Gilberto on Monday night.

She’s the daughter of famed Brazilian musician Joao Gilberto, who helped found bossa nova.

The fact that jazz now crosses so many generations and styles is one of the most exciting aspects of the music, said Townsend.

“I think jazz just stands for good music,” she added.