TD Winnipeg International Jazz Festival

The Jazz Age comes to Downtown Winnipeg


For performers and audience members alike, the TD Winnipeg International Jazz Festival is a place for forming connections. Paul Nolin, the festival’s executive producer, witnessed one of those pivotal moments last year during a set by Joanna Majoko. 

“We had an end of festival party at Maw’s Beer Hall, and Joanna Majoko was invited to perform,” Nolin says. “I’m a huge fan of hers, and I guarantee, while she was up there singing and pouring her heart into that set, in the back of her mind she was like ‘holy crow, I’m singing for Esperanza Spalding and Otis Brown III.’” 

Four months later, Brown invited Majoko to tour with him in France. 

“I take no credit for all that talent, but I’m quite excited at the notion of bringing these people together,” Nolin says. “It’s what I love.”

As Winnipeg’s largest downtown music festival, Jazz Fest unfurls with a sort of electric energy that’s partly due to its urban setting. This year’s festival runs from June 16 to 26 at nine venues across Winnipeg including Old Market Square, the Burton Cummings Theatre and the West End Cultural Centre. 

“The buzz and the high you can get from hopping from venue to venue and just discovering great music in these places that you’re familiar with, it’s a real trip.”

Equally thrilling are the performers in this year’s lineup: acclaimed American saxophonist Kamasi Washington, veteran Canadian pianist Oliver Jones, and Swedish pop group Peter Bjorn and John. The festival’s mandate is dedicated to presenting and promoting jazz music, but Nolin notes that he is less concerned with genre and more with quality. 

“My philosophy, especially in this day and age, is that people like good music, right? (Music is divided into) different genres... but I don’t believe that’s how real music fans think,” Nolan says.

“I believe you can love Bach, you can love Miles Davis, you can love Justin Bieber, all at once. You can probably find all three of those on my iPhone... maybe. I’m making no admissions.”

Published in Volume 70, Number 27 of The Uniter (June 2, 2016)

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