One of Winnipeg’s favourite summer festivals returns this year with one of its best lineups to date.

The TD Winnipeg International Jazz Festival brings an eclectic blend of jazz, soul, blues and a lot more to the historic Exchange District. Executive Producer Paul Nolin says the variety is part of what makes the festival what it is.

“It’s always been a priority to include different genres,” he says. “Part of the intent is to put on a great party, and we’re music fans as much as anything else.”

This years’ lineup includes jazz headliners Esperanza Spalding and the quartet of Dave Holland, Chris Holland, Lionel Loueke and Eric Harland. Other headliners include soul greats Charles Bradley and Mavis Staples and blues legend Buddy Guy. But Nolin notes part of the jazz festival experience is finding new music.

“Every year I try to discover new artists, and sometimes I twig on to something that personally excites me,” he says. Nolin says one this year was Zola Jesus.

“I hope by including her in the festival, Winnipeggers can come out and discover for themselves. It’s going to be a great, powerful, very dramatic show.”

Zola Jesus, the stage name of American artist Nika Roza Danilova, is touring her latest record Taiga, released last fall. She says fans and newcomers alike are in for a show very different from any of her past tours.

“The new record demands a different performance. Everything about the new show is a lot more physical and aggressive,” she says. “There’s just more blood in the live show. And because the music is so personal … on stage every night, it’s like a bit of an exorcism.”

Nolin says another one of his new discoveries this year was JAN, a new solo project from former Winnipegger Kim Talon.

“We kind of stumbled across her submission and said, oh, what the heck is this?”

Nolin says he loved the music and knew they needed to bring her to the festival.

“We said, wow, if we haven’t heard about her, I’m sure other Winnipeggers haven’t heard about her, but they need to.”

JAN’s Kim Talon is based in New York City, but spends a lot of time in Winnipeg, where her family still lives and where she writes most of her music. Talon says while she won’t call it a homecoming, it will be her first time performing with JAN in her hometown.

“I’ve toured a lot in the US and Europe, but not in the prairies,” Talon says. “Even though I’ve performed in so many places, I’m kind of nervous, because there’s nothing like performing in your hometown.”

She says the festival will be a new audience for her, and she’s looking forward to the experience.

“I hope people will like it. I want to play some songs that, you know, my parents’ friends might like. I’ve never played a jazz festival before.”

JAN will be performing June 13 as part of the festival’s opening weekend of free shows in Old Market Square. The free weekend runs June 11 - 14 at the Cube, followed by a week of up to 15 shows per day at venues around the Exchange District.

Nolin says whether you buy a pass, take in the free shows or pick and choose a few events, the festival creates an environment for people to move around comfortably and have fun with varying levels of experience.

“What makes the festival distinct is the opportunity to immerse yourself in music and experience new and different things you may not have heard of.”

The TD Winnipeg International Jazz Festival runs June 11 - 21 around the Exchange District.

Part of the series: The 7th Annual Summer Festival Guide

Published in Volume 69, Number 27 of The Uniter (June 3, 2015)

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