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Sax and the city

Colin Stetson performs at the Halifax Jazz Festival on July 9 at Saint Matthew's Church.

The Halifax Jazz Festival celebrates 25 years of swingin’ sounds

By Trevor J. Adams

The city’s biggest annual music event, the Halifax Jazz Festival returns July 8 to 16. This is the 25th edition of the festival and, as befits a silver anniversary celebration, it boasts an array of established masters and hot innovators. While venues around the city host concerts, the Festival Tent is always the busiest spot. For years, Spring Garden Road hosted the party but this year it moves to the waterfront. The tent will plant its stakes at the foot of Salter Street.

The Tent is home to the biggest concerts. Things kick off there on July 8 with The Bad Plus and Yaron Herman. On July 9, the Tent hosts one of the Festival’s most anticipated concerts: Idle Warship (the latest project from MC extraordinaire Talib Kweli) with local hip-hop stars The Extremities opening the show.

The tent will be jumping on July 10, too, as the legendary Preservation Hall Jazz Band from New Orleans takes the stage. And on July 11, chanteuse Jill Barber returns to her roots. Now living in British Columbia, she began her career here. “I am very excited,” she said in a recent interview with Halifax Magazine. “I have performed at almost every venue and festival in and around Atlantic Canada but I have never played the JazzFest… Halifax will forever feel like home to me. It is the place where I found my voice and it is where I came of age both as a woman and as a musician.”

Busy every night, the Festival Tent closes in fine fashion on July 16, as the Digable Planets return to Halifax. The tent is also jumping during the day, when it hosts free matinee concerts with Samba Nova, the Ghostrider Blues Band, Jeff Torbert and many other acts. Bluesman Morgan Davis takes the stage around 2:50pm on July 11. If you’re a fan of old-school guitar blues, this is probably going to be the best free concert you’ll ever see.

There will also be free shows on the new Whirligig Stage (the waterfront helipad). Australian expatriate Daniel Matto, now living in Halifax, performs there at about 4:50pm on July 10. Matto is a smooth jazz crooner—just the thing for a sultry summer afternoon.
You can even enjoy jazz on the waves of Halifax Harbour. There are concerts for kids aboard Theodore Too tugboat, while the Tall Ship Silva hosts shows by the Carson Downey Band and Gypsophilia.

Other venues include Saint Matthew’s United Church, which hosts the free JazzEast 25th Anniversary Big Band show on July 14, the Schooner Showroom at Casino Nova Scotia (Freddy Cole on and Kenny Barron), the Imperial Ballroom at the Lord Nelson (Keren Ann, the Jubilee Swing Orchestra), 1313 Hollis (Paul Cram’s 4 Flavours, The Unsupervised), The Company House (Wordrhythm, Friendly Rich and the Lollipop People), the Georgian Lounge at the Lord Nelson and several pubs and lounges.

Clubs, pubs and bars around the city will host Festival performances too. Participants include Stayner’s Wharf on George Street, Pipa on Argyle Street, The Press Gang on Prince Street, Bearly’s on Barrington Street, Onyx (page 90) on Spring Garden Road and Elephant & Castle on George Street.

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