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Searchlight 2016: 8 outstanding jazz groups you should hear

Robert Rowat

When you think of Searchlight, jazz is probably not the first genre that comes to mind. But in fact, we received a good number of entries from Canadian jazz musicians this year, from solo vibraphone to piano songsters, from trios to swing bands. They cover a wide stylistic and geographical range, representing jazz scenes in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver as well as smaller centres.

Scroll through the list below to see some of this year's most notable Searchlight jazz contestants.

Don't forget to watch, share and vote here.

Who: Pomptet
Song: "T.S."

Contrary to its name, this Montreal collective steers way clear of pomp and instead delivers a thoughtful, tuneful composition with stylish and understated vocals by Thanya Iyer and a seductive piano solo by Zach Frampton.

Who: Jon Miller Quartet
Song: "Vitamin D"

About: Woah! Where have you been hiding, Jon Miller Quartet? In balmy Victoria, B.C., apparently. On behalf of sun-deprived Canadians everywhere, thanks for this much-needed dose of swinging vitamin D.

Who: Harvey Paris
Song: "Colder Than the Moon"

About: Vancouver jazz vocalist Harvey Paris fronts an excellent band on this tune. We like the contour of the melody, the imaginative chord progressions and the poetic but unpretentious lyrics. This song is a winner.

Who: Thunderbird
Song: "Battle Between Inside and Outside"

About: This song from Kitchener-Waterloo band Thunderbird has a captivating Jekyll-and-Hyde quality, presumably reflecting the conflict referenced in its title. Alternating between orchestral (outside?) and intimate (inside?), it's a clever musical argument with no clear winner emerging apart from the listener.

Who: Jasserene
Song: "I Couldn't Remember Your Name"

About: Move over Comden and Green, Toronto has a new songwriting duo called Jasserene that excels at old-timey piano standards. We can imagine sitting in a cozy bar and being entertained late into the evening by their winsome songs. Listen through to the end of this one for a clever punchline.

Who: Les Royal Pickles
Song: "A la folie"

About: From Montreal's thriving swing scene, here's Les Royal Pickles. Maybe you've seen one of their street performances on a recent trip to Canada's coolest city. Maybe you've even grabbed a partner and danced a bit? This song is irresistible.

Who: Aleksi Campagne
Song: "Follow Your Gut"

About: Here's a winning bit of chunk jazz from Montreal's Aleksi Campagne. "Mack the Knife" meets Stéphane Grappelli in this cautionary tale about playing it safe. "It's late and it's dark, do you cut through the park or stay by the light?," asks the opening lyric. (Hint: the light is definitely the better option.)

Who: Arnold Faber
Song: "The Green Line"

About: In his bio, Faber writes, "If gold had a sound, it would sound like a vibraphone." Agree! We love his commitment to his music, plus who can resist a Bruce Cockburn look-alike?