Once again, Halifax will be alive with the sound and spirit of jazz this summer, as the city gets ready to host the 20th annual TD Canada Trust Atlantic Jazz Festival. At a press conference last week at the Garrison Brewery, festival organizers from JazzEast accentuated both musical community and diversity as they released details on the festival, to be held in a variety of venues across the city from July14th to July 22nd. "Once again, we will be showcasing artists from both around the world and here at home" said musical director Susan Hunter. "This year offers something for everyone; from the jazz purist to world music aficionados and everyone in between."
The event will feature over 450 local, national and international artists and is expected to draw more than 65,000 people over the nine days. This year's festival features two main ticketed concert stages, a variety of series featuring solo and group performances, a series for new works in music and film, free outdoor concerts daily, workshops (including the annual Creative Music Workshop), and the ever popular late night series at Stayner's Wharf.
The opening night gala will kick off festivities at the Mainstage Festival Tent, in the downtown core, and will feature local saxophonist Jeff Goodspeed and three of his Latin jazz ensembles, followed by legendary Cuban group Sierra Maestra. The venue will then be home for a week long fiesta of world music, featuring evening concerts by Juan Martin, Afro Musica, Kaba Horo, Aurelio Martinez, Seikou Keita and other global and local performers.
The Commons Room Cabaret Concert Series at the Holiday Inn Select on Quinpool Road will host the festival's biggest names, with the likes of Jim Hall, Jeri Brown, Mose Allison, Geoff Berner, David Braid, Phil Nimmons, Tena Palmer, Francois Bourassa and Roberto Occhipinti taking centre stage.
The CBC Roots Series will showcase several solo Canadian artists, including Halifax's own Shauntay Grant, each day at noon at the Festival Tent. The Showcase Series will take over the same venue from 4pm-6pm each afternoon and spotlight up and coming international artists David Virelles, Melissa Stylianou, Pierre Cartier, John Gzowski and Halifax's own violinist-composer Chris Church.
The Festival Tent will also be the scene of free, week long mid-afternoon concerts from a variety of local and regional artists. New to the festival this year is the Music-Film-Word-Space Series at the Dalhousie School of Architecture Auditorium, featuring live original music that will accompany screenings of silent films.
Several concerts by local new music masters Sanctuary are slated for St. Mary's Basilica, and a Halifax Pop Explosion co-produced show featuring Toronto electro-house-techno wizards MSTRKRFT will bring other unique sonic elements to the celebration.
A closing night gala at the Dunn Theatre in the Dalhousie Arts Centre will bring the festival to a finale with the East Coast Orchestra, featuring Chris Mitchell leading twenty-four past and present Nova Scotia artists through original compositions in both large and small ensemble formats. The evening will be recorded by CBC Radio for future broadcast.
Hunter believes that along with the strong and diverse schedule of events, some of the festival's best musical moments can be found in between the shows, when artists and club owners decide to slate in some stage time on their own. "Some of those late night sessions at Stayner's and elsewhere have been incredible through the years. Musicians drop by just to hang out and have a drink and pretty soon their sitting in with the band and the place starts jumping!
"I think that is what makes our festival so unique; the casual, intimate environment has both the players and the audiences so very relaxed and at ease. That is what we have always strived to achieve with the Atlantic Jazz Festival is all about; creating a strong sense of community through musical dialogue."
For details on the 2006 TD Canada Trust Atlantic Jazz Festival visit www.jazzeast.com.
Writer: Stephen Clare