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Halifax Jazz Festival

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 HEADLINERS
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.

AROUND THE CITY
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.

Concierge Q & A

Concierge_Stephen-Morris

Starting his journey as a bellman in Lake Louise, Alberta, Stephen Morris has worked in the hospitality industry for the last 24 years and been a concierge for the last decade. He’s an active member of Les Clef ’s d’Or, Atlantic Region, seeing himself as an ambassador for the Prince George Hotel and the city of Halifax.

Q: What are July’s can’t-miss events for visitors?
A: July offers many things in Halifax but the one event you cannot miss is the Halifax Jazz Festival from July 10 to 15. Many venues, many artists, and a slice of coolness to go with the hot summer nights.

Q: What patios do you suggest for afternoon drinks with friends?
A: The best way to beat the heat is on the Gahan House patio located directly on the Halifax waterfront in the Historic Properties. An excellent assortment of Maritime-brewed beers and an amazing menu makes the Gahan House a can’t-miss.

Q: Where can visitors find a unique memento of their visit to Nova Scotia?
A: Take a stroll to the Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market on Marginal Road. Local artists and vendors provide you with memories of Nova Scotia and Halifax that can fit into any suitcase.

Q: What tour experience should visitors be sure not to miss?
A: Everyone visiting Halifax must try the Harbour Hopper by Ambassatours Gray Line. Informative and fun, this amphibious tour gives you a unique perspective on the city from land and sea.

Q: If you only had one day in Halifax, how would you spend it?
A: My day would be spent grabbing a coffee from Steve-o-Reno’s Cappuccino on Brunswick Street, taking a stroll on the Halifax waterfront boardwalk, lunch at the Gahan House, an afternoon cruise of the harbour on the Tall Ship Silva operated by Murphy’s The Cable Wharf and then finishing off with a memorable meal and nightcap at the Barrington Steakhouse & Oyster Bar.

A Traveller’s Guide to the Halifax Jazz Festival

It’s no surprise that the Halifax Jazz Festival has plenty for jazz enthusiasts but you don’t need to be a hardcore fan to enjoy the event. With a variety artists and a mix of venues around the city, the festival (running from July 6 to 14) boasts something for any musical taste.

Halifax Jazz Festival

Much of the action centres on the Festival Tent on Lower Water Street. Every afternoon, the tent hosts free concerts, featuring acts like The George St. Blues Project (July 7), The Sanctified Brothers (July 8), Daniel Matto (July 11) and the Big Valley Swing Orchestra (July 14). There are also free evening shows on July 9, 10 and 11.

The other evenings, admission is charged at the tent as it hosts the festival’s biggest shows. Things kick off on July 6 with Soul Rebels and continue Junior Watson on July 7, My Brightest Diamond on July 8 and Deltron 3030 on July 12.

Other venues around the city include Saint Matthew’s United Church, the Schooner Showroom at Casino Nova Scotia, The Carleton, Tall Ship Silva, The Press Gang, Onyx, Obladee and Bearly’s House of Blues & Ribs.

In fact, the wide range of musical options can be overwhelming. To help, we asked Megan Couture, music blogger with our sister publication Halifax Magazine, for her picks. Number one with a bullet is the Deltron 3030 show on July 12. “Likely, you’d recognize Del’s unique voice and hip-hop stylings from the first Gorillaz album and most famous single ‘Clint Eastwood,’” she says. “To top things off, Deltron 3030 will be performing with a full orchestra. Personally, this is my cannot-miss of the festival.”

She gives honourable mention to My Brightest Diamond in the Festival Tent on July 8 (“Her vocal stylings are unique and experimental”), Sophie Milman at Casino Nova Scotia on July 8 (“Capable of holding down romantic, vast, orchestral tracks and unpredictable jazz tunes…should make for an outstanding performance,”) Osaka Monaurail in the Festival Tent on July 11 (“An intriguing funk group that likely wins the award for most distance travelled to perform,”) and Grupo Fantasma in the tent on July 14.

For tickets and more information, surf to halifaxjazzfestival.ca.