Published Jun 23, 2011The 25th edition of the Saskatchewan Jazz Festival gets going Friday (June 24) and runs until July 3 in Saskatoon. It's bigger than ever, featuring dozens of shows for an expected 70,000 plus patrons. The jazz festival claims it is the second biggest now in Western Canada.
The festival starts off with a bang with Macy Gray on its opening night. Ramsey Lewis, making his only Canadian appearance with his remount of his 1974 jazz funk classic Sun Goddess, also opens the festival. Other notables include the Bad Plus, Oliver Jones, the Robert Glasper Trio, De La Soul, Aaron Neville, the Sheepdogs, Tegan and Sara, and Ali Shaheed Muhammad. As always, there is a great deal of free programming to augment the ticketed shows, with much of it centered on the Star Phoenix Free Stage.
"We're really excited about recognizing the event and the growth of the event," artistic director Kevin Tobin tells Exclaim! "We had thought about theming it or doing something out of the ordinary. But we're celebrating by putting on the best event we can. I've been with the event 11 years now and it's just been tremendous growth for the festival."
Tobin cities the usual hallmarks of a well-run festival: good programming, marketing and continuity of staff. "Our community has really picked up on the diversity of the event. Saskatchewan is a growing province, so having the additional population has also helped."
As for local jazz, the festival has already strengthened what's there. "[Jazz in Saskatchewan] is very strong. I'm from Oshawa [Ontario], and when I came out here, I was really surprised at how strong the jazz scene was. There are a lot of jazz players out here; there is a long history in this province."
No matter how successful the scene and the festival gets, the Saskatchewan Jazz Festival can offer something bigger festivals can't: a superior, intimate concert experience.
"It's great to put on the big shows," says Tobin. "But I'm always interested in shows that may be a little less known like the Robert Glasper Trio or Jonas Kullhammar; the shows that don't get the real big spotlights. Those are the ones I like to check out cause there are some world-class musicians in small jazz clubs. It's the intimacy of the show; it's about the experience of seeing it."
For more information on the Saskatchewan Jazz Festival, including ticket details, visit the festival website here.