Winnipeg’s music festival season will start with a bang later this month as the TD Winnipeg International Jazz Festival welcomes a star-studded lineup of artists to join with local talent.
The 10-day festival, happening June 16 to 25, will offer a wide variety of concerts at a number of downtown venues, as well as some free outdoor shows at Old Market Square.
Paul Nolin, the executive producer for Jazz Winnipeg Inc., said this year’s festival will differ slightly from last year’s.
“This year we decided to move things back to the older model, so we’re a week earlier in June,” he said.
“The biggest change is that the free weekend has reverted back to the opening weekend, as opposed to the end of the festival as it has been for the past few years.”
While some may write the festival off as not their style of music, Nolin believes a loose definition of jazz music allows the festival to appeal to many who wouldn’t consider themselves fans of the genre.
“The reality of the festival is that it’s not just jazz,” Nolin said. “Jazz is what defines us, no doubt, but there are also many offshoots to our program that are designed to appeal to and attract as broad an audience as possible.”
Nolin points to the shows being held at the Pyramid Cabaret, as well as the “Blues and Grooves” series being held at the King’s Head Pub and Times Change(d).
“There’s so much to discover at the festival that taking the ‘I don’t like jazz’ position is wrongheaded,” said Nolin.
Chris Smith, jazz columnist for the Winnipeg Free Press, said that ideally he would like to see more traditional jazz acts on the main stage, but understands that the festival needs to embrace crowd-drawing artists to remain financially viable.
“Robert Plant is not a jazz musician by any stretch of the imagination, but he’s a popular act and he draws in people and makes money for the festival, which helps pay for Gary Burton or Trombone Shorty or even the Lincoln Center (Jazz Orchestra),” Smith said.
The summer festival is only the most visible part of a jazz scene in Winnipeg that continues to run strong.
“The festival is a celebration of the local scene,” said Nolin. “And also, by attracting world-class talent to the festival, like Winton Marsalis or Robert Glasper, you bring them out and they connect to that scene; and that can only serve both parties, and audiences as well.”
Those who aren’t willing to pay big money for the shows at the Centennial Concert Hall should consider the nightly club wristbands, which allow unlimited access to all the smaller venues for one night.
“You slap one on and if you’re not feeling what you’re hearing on one stage, you’re five minutes away from finding something that’s bound to be up your alley, just down the street,” Nolin said.
For more information, including the full festival lineup and ticket prices, visit www.jazzwinnipeg.com.
More 2011 TD Winnipeg International Jazz Festival coverage:
Published in Volume 65, Number 26 of The Uniter (June 2, 2011)