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Feel the Rhythm

Halifax Jazz Festival returns, showcasing local talents and international all-stars
By Trevor J. Adams

It’s impossible not to fall in love with this city during the Halifax Jazz Festival. From July 9–14, music is everywhere. Local talents riff with international stars in intimate club shows, free afternoon concerts have a relaxed community vibe, while hundreds jam the festival tent to groove their brains out at the nightly main-stage shows.

The Halifax Waterfront Main Stage is home to the festival box office, and the centre of the action. The free matinee shows are a great way to get a sense what JazzFest is about, but things really get hot in the evening. Things get started on July 9 with an exciting night of Toronto’s Shad (host of the Emmy-winning series Hip-Hop Evolution) opens the set. Up next is Common, the Chicagoan artist who has been shaping American hip hop since 1992.

Kathleen Edwards performs on July 10, and July 11 is another hot night, as Bahamas takes the stage. With gifted licks, cool melodies, and a chill vibe, this artist has garnered legions of fans including Taylor Swift, who featured his work on her curated Spotify playlist. Get to the tent early, find your spot, and settle in for an evening of musical artistry. The Barr Brothers open the show.

Festival favourites Asia & NuGruv return to take over the main stage on July 12. This eight-musician ensemble brings tons of enthusiasm and energy to the stage, for a night of can’t-stop-dancing funk. The band features an exceptional five-piece rhythm section, two incredible horn players, and a female vocalist who always delivers a “show-stopping” performance. They’ve won multiple awards, and are widely hailed as Atlantic Canada’s best dance-party band.

That same night, you’ll also see the legendary Sheila E., who has performed and recorded with Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross, Lionel Richie, Gloria Estefan, Patti LaBelle, and Stevie Nicks among others. Many fans know her best for the single “Girl Meets Boy,” in memory of Prince.

And on July 13, the main stage has something for the jazz purists, with Ms. Lisa Fischer & Grand Baton taking the stage. For years Fischer was a respected back-up vocalist (lending her talents to acts as diverse as Tina Turner and Nine Inch Nails). Now she holds the spotlight, teaming with her innovative band to show off her impeccable vocal chops, blending jazz, soul, gospel, folk, blues, and rock influences.

Capping the schedule on July 14 is a free celebration of the blues, headlined by April Wine front man Myles Goodwyn. Opening for him is a collaboration that includes local bluesman Garrett Mason, the low profile axe-wielder who industry insiders consider one of the best guitarists in the country. This will be an unforgettable night of improvisation and virtuosity.

And of course, the main stage is just a tantalizing hint of what’s on offer. You’ll find performances at stages around the city, including free matinees at the Waterfront stage, Hydrostone Park, and Dartmouth Park.

St. Paul’s Church hosts nightly ticketed shows, featuring talents like Elsie LeGrow, the Heather Bambrick Quintet, and iskwe¯. Groove into the night at The Seahorse Tavern on Gottingen Street, where shows start at 10:30 p.m., with a lineup that includes African guitarist extraordinaire Mdou Moctar and reggae legend Exco Levi (with the High Priest Band).

Festival or no, The Carleton on Argyle Street is a must-visit destination for music fans. It regularly hosts live acts in an acoustically-ideal space, curated by music lovers who understand what true fans want. During JazzFest, the highlight will be the Easley Quartet on July 11. This collection of Atlantic Canadian jazz royalty includes Tom Easley on bass, drummer Mark Adam, and guitarists Geordie Haley and Kevin Brunkhorst.

For ticket info and schedule and venue updates, surf to halifaxjazzfestival.ca.

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