Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival Fredericton NB September 9 to 14

Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival Fredericton NB September 9 to 14
Now in its 18th year, the Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival is now established well enough that it can attract some impressive acts, as demonstrated in this year’s line-up.

The Derek Trucks Band were more than capable of blurring the line between jazz and blues, and then going beyond that. They played off each other and stretched songs out right to breaking point. The Polaris Prize-nominated Two Hours Traffic brought a healthy number of fans with them, all lapping up their addictive pop songs, which make it easy to understand why they’ve become the biggest export from PEI since Anne of Green Gables.

L.A. band the Frequency really didn’t live up to their own Mogwai comparisons, apart from a few songs that started quiet and got loud. Instead they swooped along on a wave of atmospheric electronic music that was pleasant enough, but hardly new or original.

Even in the two decades since her days in the Communards back in the 1980s, Sarah Jane Morris’ voice hasn’t lost any of its appeal, especially with the quietest acoustic accompaniment. Some of her own songs were a little too earnest in their subject matter, but when she started to throw in some cover versions, including an inspired take on Britney Spears’ "Toxic,” things really came alive.

There really isn’t much anyone can say about Buddy Guy: he still puts on the kind of show that makes it easy to understand why he is deemed a legend. And in a city that seems to lean more towards the blues side of the festival, he was warmly received and didn’t disappoint.

Bloc Party started off by apologizing for being neither jazz nor blues, though they needn’t have worried because an adoring and eager crowd greeted them. Despite that, they were still business-like at the start as they focussed on newest record, Intimacy. About five songs in, the band began enjoying themselves, becoming more playful and joking that you can’t believe everything you might have heard about the band’s bad attitude. And as if to demonstrate the point, they started kicking balls around the crowd threw on stage, they tried their hand at a classic blues riffs and Okereke even sang half a song whilst crowd surfing.

From that point on, they sounded wonderful with their jagged guitars and the newer electronic elements, pulling out early songs like "Helicopter” and "She’s Hearing Voices” for the encore. Hopefully organizers can make an equally inspired to provide a fitting climax to next year’s festival.