Jazz Festival Smorgasbord 2007by 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
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
The big draws for festivals are, of course,
the tried and true—the proven masters.
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).
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).
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).
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.
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).
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,
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).
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.
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
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).
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).
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).