The Jazz Festival… recommendations?

It might be a bit presumptuous to even try to do this, but here is a quick overview of some recommendations for the upcoming Winnipeg Jazz Festival.  Even if you’re not in Winnipeg, you might want to read on, as there are links to music embedded in this post.  And if you want to explore the question of why a church site might highlight a jazz festival, try out this podcast on John Coltrane or a piece published on the site of the National Jazz Museum in Harlem.

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azz fans are a funny breed.  We are all pretty opinionated about this genre of music, and generally more than a bit ready to challenge, discuss and debate the opinions of others.  To dare to make recommendations is a little presumptuous… and depending on who decides to comment on this post, it might even be a bit risky.  But here goes…

First off, my #1 recommendation for the 2009 festival is of a band many purists won’t even consider as real jazz.  The Bad Plus make the sort of jazz music that listeners raised on rock and pop can understand, as Andrew Beaujon rather eloquently stated in a review of their 2007 release Prog.  This time out they are traveling with vocalist Wendy Lewis –  a veteran of the alt-rock scene – and doing covers of everyone from Nirvana to Pink

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Floyd to the Bee Gees.  Good noisy fun, played by great musicians, all in the cozy confines of the 300 seat West End Cultural Centre.  That would be Thursday July 2, at the affordable price of $24.50.

The other big name show we’re going to this year is also not a purely jazz show, but I’d be hard pressed to miss a chance to see Al Green (that would actually be The Reverend Al Green) live.  One of the greatest soul singers of the ’70’s, Green’s most recent recordings would suggest that he is back in fine form.  At $79.50 a ticket, this one is a bit of a budget breaker.

Beyond that, there are some brilliant theatre shows:  The Branford Marsalis Quartet, The Kenny Werner Quintet (which includes Randy Brecker on trumpet) and Jimmy Cobb’s “So What? Band,” which is touring a live version of Miles Davis’ classic album Kind of Blue.  Cobb is the only surviving member from the original 1959 recording sessions. Take your pick… they will all be great shows.

On the other hand, you might just want to surf into the festival web site, and see what you can find happening in one of the smaller clubs, which is actually the best way to hear live jazz.  I’m thinking that Le Garage Cafe on Provencher is looking to be a very promising venue.  Hey, if you’re not going to see The Bad Plus and you are a Steve Bell fan you could check out a performance by his bass player, Gilles Fournier, on Thursday July 2.

Now, it is over to you.  Enter a comment with your own recommendations, and we’ll be sure to post it up for all to see.

Jamie Howison

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