Why don’t we paint the town and all that jazz?

Twenty-third TD Winnipeg International Jazz Festival offers something for everybody

Toronto’s Heavyweights Brass Band is one of more than 80 diverse acts performing at this year’s jazz festival. Supplied
Lucky Peterson. Supplied
Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue. Supplied
Vijay Iyer Trio. Supplied

This year’s jazz festival promises a bevy of international and local artists that will appeal to nearly every musical inclination from classic jazz, to soul, to hip-hop and everything in between.

The 23rd annual TD Winnipeg International Jazz Festival, held over 10 days from Thursday, June 14 to Saturday, June 23, will feature iconic jazz musicians like Ramsey Lewis, as well as a wide selection of artists that will appeal to a more varied audience.

For Jazz Winnipeg’s executive director, Paul Nolin, this kind of variety is integral to the continuing success and growing popularity of the festival. His main suggestion is that people try not to pigeonhole themselves into a genre.

“Many people have an idea of what jazz is and it’s like me saying I don’t like reading fiction,” Nolin says. “Well, there’s so many types of fiction out there, so too is there so many types of jazz, and as a community-based festival it’s important to attract as many people as possible.”

While Nolin likes to include an element of traditional jazz sensibilities in the festival, he is excited to showcase artists who he calls young innovators.

“Those groups which represent the new era of jazz music, such as the Vijay Iyer Trio and Bad Bad Not Good, are really young guys who are doing a whole lot to connect jazz to a new audience,” he says.

While the buzz surrounding this year’s festival is centered on well known international stars like pop superstar Janelle Monáe, there are more than 30 local artists, such as Mise En Scene, The Noble Thiefs and Royal Canoe, who will be performing at different venues around the city.

Winnipeg vocalist Amber Epp, of the band Trio Bembe, is looking forward to playing on June 15 as part of the free opening weekend concert series at Old Market Square.

“For me, Latin Nights is always the funnest concert,” Epp says. “Everyone is happy, it’s almost summer and everyone is dancing. It’s the closest you can get to a party in Havana!”

Aside from the free opening weekend and the Jazz For Lunch series at Old Market Square, the festival also features a Theatre and Club series, which both afford a different audience experience.

The Theater Series features bigger name acts and concerts are held at either the Burton Cummings Theatre or the West End Cultural Centre. The Club Series, on the other hand, features a wide array of artists at venues such as the Pyramid Cabaret, the King’s Head Pub, the Winnipeg Free Press News Café and many more.

When asked what the best way to experience the festival is, UMFM music director Michael Elves has several suggestions.

“As a true Winnipegger, I like the bargain of the free opening weekend,” he says, adding that “the club pass is also a good idea because it gets you into different venues so you can see as much as you can over the week.”

Elves looks forward to the festival each year because it brings in touring acts that most Winnipeggers usually wouldn’t get a chance to see, but he is also excited about what the festival offers local artists.

“These (groups) are doing really interesting things and playing at local venues around the year, but they don’t always get the attention that the Jazz Fest allows,” Elves says.

Nolin shared a similar sentiment about up-and-coming Winnipeg talent.

“I think the fest is a great showcase for the community to reach a larger audience, but I’d hate to say that we are responsible for their success,” he says. “Rather, the festival is a great vehicle for exposure.”

For more information, visit www.jazzwinnipeg.com.

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Published in Volume 66, Number 27 of The Uniter (May 30, 2012)

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