Lineup at Jazz Fest begins to take shape
Event sponsor changes, but cost of tickets, music mandate stay same
Edmonton’s jazz festival has a new major-name sponsor. Now it’s the TD Edmonton International Jazz Festival.
At the same time, the event will stick to the same scale and jazz-centred mandate that have made it work for nearly a decade. And despite pressure from the low Canadian dollar, ticket prices won’t rise this year.
Two shows featuring The Bad Plus with Joshua Redman (June 26) and singer Lisa Fischer (June 22) at the Winspear Centre headline a list of acts from 10 different countries, in 50 separate shows at seven venues, all running June 19-28.
After a decade of lobbying various sponsors, festival director Kent Sangster was pleased to receive the support of TD Bank, which is already a name sponsor for seven other jazz festivals on the Canadian circuit.
“Considering the economy, it comes at a very nice time, but I think they realize that we’ve rebuilt Edmonton’s festival to a place we can all be proud of.”
The festival also receives funding from all three levels of government and other corporate and community sponsors, but Sangster says the TD’s “substantial contribution” over an initial twoyear agreement will allow the organization to gain greater visibility, and offer more free events.
“Moving forward, people might see a difference in our activities outside the 10-day festival run, in performance opportunities and educational outreach programs.”
While this year’s program doesn’t include a jazz-pop crossover star on the level of 2013 visitor Herbie Hancock, Sangster feels there is a good balance between different jazz styles and acts that will appeal to younger patrons, including Gogo Penguin from Manchester, England, Los Angeles quintet Knee Body and Halifax’s worldbeat Gypsophilia.
Grammy winner Lisa Fischer is probably best known for her work as a backup singer for the Rolling Stones since the 1980s and for her part in the 2013 film 20 Feet From Stardom, which documented the careers of top backing singers.
The Bad Plus made its name for bringing a punk rock energy and surprising repertoire to the piano jazz trio and their new collaboration with saxophonist Joshua Redman promises to further that heated chemistry.
In terms of mainstream jazz, it’s the year of the piano, with such top-rung pianistbandleaders as Fred Hersch, Renee Rosnes, Kenny Werner and Hilario Duran coming. There’s a spotlight on European bands, including Poland’s Obara Quartet and High Definition, the Greek connection in Banda Magda, and Czech pianist Emil Viklicky’s trio.
Notable Canadian acts include guitarist Michael Occhipinti’s Sicilian Jazz Project, Ranee Lee, Robi Botos, singer-trumpeter Bria Skonberg and a special tribute to the late Kenny Wheeler.
Free events will include a special Saturday afternoon Jazz For Kids, a new Big Band Bash, an emerging artists showcase, a duo series at the Westin Hotel, and the Works With Jazz stage in Churchill Square, including such acts as Heavyweights Brass Band and Cheryl Fisher with Eric Allison.
Most smaller shows will happen at OSPAC (Old Strathcona Performing Arts Centre) or the Yardbird Suite, with separate series at Blue Chair Café and Café Blackbird.
While the low exchange rate of the Canadian dollar added to financial pressures this year, Sangster says, “We made a concerted effort not to increase ticket prices,” with the festival’s Johnny Jazz Pass (giving patrons access to most smaller shows) staying at $99.
Tickets for all shows are available Thursday, with Winspear shows sold through the Winspear box office (winspearcentre.com), and other events through Tix On The Square (tixonthesquare.ca).
Edmonton was one of the first cities in Canada to host a jazz festival with Jazz City in 1980.
When that organization collapsed after 25 seasons, the Edmonton Jazz Society hosted the Yardbird Jazz Festival for two years, before the Edmonton International Jazz Festival started in 2007.