This year’s eighth annual Lethbridge Jazz and Blues Festival is set to go June 8-16 with familiar faces, new faces, new venues and a little something for everyone. The event is not only longer this year, but also features more events and some familiar faces.
“The schedule has changed a little bit. We’re starting on Friday, June 8 to accommodate the school bands (performing at the Gate for the Young Lions Concert),” said Lethbridge Blues and Jazz Festival vice-president Don Robb.
The annual Jazz at the Park event features an all-local lineup performing Galt Gardens, June 9, beginning at noon with Papa King and the Boogiemen followed by Paul Kype and Texas Flood, Hippodrome, new band the Metrik Jazz Tentet and the Lethbridge Big Band at 4 p.m.
“There will be an open market as well. And it will be a great opportunity for people to find out what is happening for the rest of the festival,” he continued.
The major events are centred around the the Enmax Centre with the bigger shows in the Enmax Centre or in the upstairs lounge. One of the big returning events is the Food Truck Frenzy, June 15, featuring numerous artists plus the Superhero and Princess jazz show, for which kids are encouraged to come dressed as their favourite superhero or princess. Local musicians HBO3 and the Steve Keenan band will provide the soundtrack for the afternoon. Calling all Superheroes and Princesses is at 3 p.m. during the Frenzy.
The festival begins at the Gate, June 8, with the always popular Young Lions Concert, featuring plenty of talented young musicians performing beginning at 12:45 p.m.
The festival welcomes several new venues including the Stoketown Cafe which hosts a blues brunch on June 10 at noon, with local bluesman Papa King and his trio.
The Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden brings back New York-based, Hiroshima-born guitarist Nobuki Takamen, who was a highlight of last year’s festival.
“The Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden thought it was a great show and wanted to do it again, so they thought about how to make it different. So this time he brings his trio,” Robb continued. Tickets are available through http://www.lethbridgejazz.com for $35.
Jazz jams have always been a staple of the festival and jazz music in general. The Owl Acoustic Lounge hosts the jazz jam again this year, June 12 at 7:30 p.m. with Josh Davies and HBO3.
The Owl features a few festival shows, including an afternoon show, Saturday, June 16 when the Allison Au Quartet will be playing at 3 p.m., featuring Juno Award-winning saxophonist, composer and band leader Allison Au. Tickets for that show are $20.
“We played the afternoon at the Owl with the Metrik Octet and it went well. So we thought we’d try an afternoon show,” Robb said.
The Slice features Saskatoon bluesman B.C. Read, June 15 at 9:30 p.m. Tickets for that show are also $20
The Sweet Inspiration Gospel Concert is another popular draw.
Marcus Mosely returns to hosts this year’s concert at Southminster United Church, Wednesday, June 13. Admission is $10. Mosely, who also sings with Vancouver-based gospel blues band the Sojourners, last hosted the Sweet Inspiration Gospel concert in 2015 and played the Geomatic Attic with the Sojourners in 2011.
The Suppertime Blues series returns for the festival with music at a variety of new venues as well as old favourites.
The Telegraph Taphouse features Randy Epp and Don Robb on June 14.
Streatside features Randy Epp on June 15 and James Oldenburg on June 15.
Firestone is a new addition to the festival featuring James Oldenburg on June 14, Anna McBryan and Cal Toth on June 15 and Randy Epp, June 16. Another new venue is Coulee Brew, which features the Papa King Trio on June 15. Plum is a new addition featuring a lunch-time presentation with Randy Epp and Andrea Walker, June 14.
Mocha Cabana returns with Dale Ketcheson, June 15.
Organizers are bringing back the guitar show and shine to the SAAG, June 16.
“For various reasons we haven’t been able to do it for the past couple years,” Robb said.
Edmonton vocalist/band leader and arranger Mallory Chipman is excited to make her Lethbridge Jazz Festival debut, if only, because she is not only performing with her band on June 15, but sitting in with the Calgary Jazz Orchestra for a tribute to her grandfather Tommy Banks, who inspired her and even produced her most recent CD “Rags and Feathers: A tribute to Leonard Cohen.”
Her Leonard Cohen tribute, which Tommy Banks produced, ended up being perfectly timed, as Cohen passed away shortly before the release. But it’s roots go back to 2014.
“I’m a vocalist. My voice is a my first instrument. I always like the improvisational part of jazz music. It’s unpredictable,” said Chipman, a voice instructor at Grant MacEwan College in Edmonton. She was inspired by jazz singers like Etta James and Sarah Vaughan who always incorporated scatting into their music.
She will be joined by long time pianist Chris Andrew, guitarist Brett Hansen, bassist Murray Wood and drummer Jamie Cooper for her June 15 show. She will also be coming a day early to sit in with Johnny Summers and the Calgary Jazz Orchestra, who will be playing the Enmax Lounge at 7:30 p.m., which is also where she will be playing her solo show. Tickets for each show are $35.
“I’ve never played wth them before, though Johnny and I have worked together. But that’s what I like — playing with new people,” she said, adding she is honoured to honour her grandfather in song.
Johnny Summers and the Calgary Jazz Orchestra return to the festival this year to play the Canadian Western Bank Lounge, upstairs at the Enmax Centre, where several big shows will be happening due to losing the use of the Yates/Sterndale Theatre due to renovations. They play everything from Harry Connick Jr. and Michael Bublé to Frank Sinatra.
Eccles is excited to present the Metrik Tentet.
“We’re a new band. We wanted to bring together some of Lethbridge’s best jazz musicians. And we wanted to do something a little different than the Lethbridge Big band is doing. We play things like Miles Davis Birth of the Cool — smething that challenges us,” he said.
Due to the challenge of co-ordinating the 10 band members’ schedules, they don’t perform live very often. They play a Saturday afternoon at the Owl Acoustic Lounge about once a month including this week, April 21 at 3 p.m.
Food Truck Frenzy returns to the Enmax Centre parking lot, at 11:30 a.m., June 15. Children of all ages are encouraged to come dressed as their favourite superhero or princess.
The Slice hosts a big blues night for the festival as award winning bluesman AC Reed perform at 9:30 p.m., June 15. Tickets are $20. On Saturday the Owl Acoustic lounge hosts the Allison Au Quartet at 3 p.m. Tickets for that show are $20.
The big event is at the Enmax Centre, Saturday, June 16 as Holly Cole plays the Enmax Centre, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $51.50 for that concert.
“We were looking for someone big and someone who hasn’t played here before. Holly was at the top of the list. She’s been performing for 25 or 30 years. She’s terrific,” said Robb.
Tickets for that show are at available at the Enmax Centre. All other tickets are available online.
“We wanted to offer the best entertainment we could while keeping the ticket prices down,” he said.
“We have a great board of directors. It has definitely been a team effort,” he continued.