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La Scena Musicale - Vol. 12, No. 8 May 2007

Jazz Festival Smorgasbord 2007

by Paul Serralheiro / May 30, 2007


The halcyon days of week-long stands by top-ranked jazz masters in intimate club settings may well be a things of the past, but with warming temperatures jazz buffs across the land can now look forward to the upcoming summer festival splurge as a way of satisfying their cravings. From coast to coast, aficionados of every stripe are given the opportunity to whet their appetites to the sounds of surprise while digging into a lavish spread of musical delicacies.

Although mostly concentrated in June and July, festivals abound from May until September, and if one is willing to travel, one can catch a staggering amount of quality jazz for nearly half of the year. Some cities, like Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver, present a large assortment of musics in simultaneously occurring series, while others offer a more modest, but nonetheless satisfying, menu of treats.

The season actually kicks off in May. While Victoriaville (covered elsewhere in this magazine) appeals to fans with experimental leanings both within and without the jazz/improvised music idiom, Ontario’s Thousand Islands festival is a good way to start the season. Its offerings range from traditional Dixieland to the best of contemporary Canadian jazz, all
presented in indoor venues around Brockville, some of them heritage sites. This is one event that leaves no doubt about its vocation, for its program is wall-to-wall jazz.

June, however, is the hottest month of the festival season. While the Medicine Hat JazzFest and the more eclectic Suoni per il Popolo in Montreal take off in the earlier part of the month, the onslaught really begins in the last week or so, with events like the New Calgary festival (reborn after its unfortunate cancellation last year), the Ottawa International, Edmonton International, Victoria’s Jazz Fest International, Saskatchewan, Toronto International, Vancouver International and Montreal International, the latter unfolding mostly in early July.

Later in July, festival activity shifts east with Newfoundland’s St. Johns Jazz Festival and Halifax’s Atlantic Jazz Festival, then to a Western outpost in B.C. with the idyllically-located Kaslo Jazz Festival in early August and, by month’s end, Rimouski’s International Fest-Jazz. As the weather starts to cool in September, the season winds down with two vastly different events: the cutting-edge Guelph Jazz Festival, and Fredericton’s more traditional Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival. Finally, Edmonton’s jazz den, the Yardbird Suite, sports its own event in November. Other smaller regional events with some jazz content also exist, and readers can turn to the National Jazz Festival listing page contained in this issue for further information.

So Much to Choose From

While most festivals have plenty to offer your average fan, choices are exponentially increased if one looks nationally. What follows is a mere sampling of what festivalgoers can look forward to.


The big draws for festivals are, of course, the tried and true—the proven masters.

Roy Haynes

Haynes, who still sounds as fresh and dynamic as he did when playing with Charlie Parker in the ‘40s, will be pounding his drum kit in eastern Canada (Montreal, Ottawa).

Sonny Rollins

With his current working band in tow, the venerable tenor legend still has much to say and will display his mastery in three Canadian cities. (Vancouver, Victoria)

Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock

From their tenure in the legendary 1960 Miles Davis Quintet to work in their own groups (Shorter’s Weather Report and Hancock’s Headhunters), these two are touring with their own groups, saxophonist Shorter making an exclusive eastern stop (Montreal), Hancock a western one (Saskatchewan).

ICP Orchestra

The Amsterdam-based Instant Composers Pool, which has been keeping alive the jazz tradition’s core principle of freedom since the 1960s, will make four stops across this great land (Montreal’s Suoni Festival ; Ottawa, Vancouver, Edmonton).

Interesting offbeat:

While many listeners are drawn to jazz festivals by familiar names, we all appreciate the wonder of discovery, the serendipity that makes music a memorable experience. Here are some artists to consider in this regard.

Aki Takase

Combining brilliant technique and a creative imagination, pianist Aki Takase serves up refreshing listening, to say the least. She will be presenting her “Fats Waller Project” this summer (Vancouver, Ottawa, Medicine Hat).

William Parker

Although he has established himself as a major force in improvised music, Parker is still relatively unknown to festivalgoers. An outside-the-box player with an authoritative sound, Parker is a powerful bassist at the height of his powers (Suoni-Montreal, Guelph).

Dhafer Youssef

The oud is an unusual instrument in jazz, and Youssef himself is an unusual musician whose work is hard to categorize. He experiments with sound textures and blends different voices into his improvised soundscapes (Vancouver, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto).

Can Con

Canadian artists are well represented in the festivals, so there is a lot to chose from. The following is just the tip of the iceberg.

Christine Jensen

Jensen, a saxophonist native of B.C. but now based in Montreal, is a prolific composer who won a stay of residence in Paris a couple of years ago, which resulted in material released on a recent CD. She’ll make four stops this summer (Vancouver, Saskatchewan, Halifax, Medicine Hat).

Gala Evening of Canadian Jazz

Saxophonist Mike Murley will be bringing together a group of top Canadian mainstream musicians (Guido Basso, Dave Young, Renee Lee, John Alcom, Terry Clarke, Richard Ring, and Joe Sealy) for a special event during the Thousand Islands Jazz Festival on May 5 (Brockville).

Peter Appleyard

The English-born Canadian vibraphonist who once was part of Benny Goodman’s group, and who brought jazz back to Canadian television in the late 70s, is still alive and well and performing in two cities. (Ottawa, Toronto).

Marianne Trudel

A talented young composer as well as a fiery and nuanced pianist, Montreal-based Trudel will be performing across Canada with her quintet of equally youthful sidemen (Vancouver, Edmonton, Halifax, Guelph, Saskatchewan).

(c) La Scena Musicale