Summer 2024: A Jazzlover’s and Festivalgoer’s Guide


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For jazz fans, the summer festival season is often a unique occasion to see musicians and bands perform live that are otherwise only approachable through recordings. However, with a plethora of festivals and as many schedules, one can easily get a bit lost. As is the custom this time of year at LSM, we once again offer our readers a few suggestions to help navigate this summer’s festival extravaganza.

Understandably, many of the headliners for today’s jazz festivals are names that bring big crowds: the presence of André 3000, George Clinton, Hiatus Kaiyote or Killer Mike almost guarantees full houses, and a smile on organizers’ faces. Sometimes, though, looking a bit farther down the list of names on the big poster will be more rewarding for the ears (at least from a jazzist’s point of view).

Preservation Hall Jazz Band


This is not to say one can’t enjoy the festive atmosphere associated with those big summer gatherings; after all, jazz undoubtedly grew up in a party town. The Preservation Hall Jazz Band, one of New Orleans’s essential institutions, will bring the party this June to Winnipeg (20), Toronto (22), Ottawa (23) and Montreal (28). The Crescent City will be represented in Ottawa by the popular Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews and his band Orleans Avenue (June 21), and by Chief Adjuah (aka Christian Scott) five days later; the latter will also appear in
Montreal (July 1). The Haitian diaspora will also be in the spotlight this season, as the Montreal Jazz Festival has announced an evening (July 1) around the theme of the Haitian revolution, seen through the lens of jazz tradition (with Melanie Charles, Theo Abellard, Jonathan Michel and the band Rara Soley). New York-based drummer Ches Smith will also be heard with his project We All Break, a collaboration with artists of Haitian origin around the influence of voodoo rhythms (Ottawa, June 28; Vancouver, June 29). Finally, saxophonist Jowee Omicil will return to his hometown to present Spiritual Healing, a project that evokes the slave revolt of Bois-Caïman (Montreal, July 3).


It is fairly common for jazz musicians to perform at numerous Canadian festivals in a given season. But 2024 seems destined to be a year of unique events, as demonstrated by a quick look through the available programs. A case in point is the opening day of the Ottawa Jazz Festival (June 21), where composer Darcy James Argue will be featured with his superb big band Secret Society, as will New Yorkscene veteran Tim Berne with his project Oceans And. Also exclusive to Ottawa this year is maverick trumpeter Steven Bernstein’s Millenial
Territory Orchestra (June 26). For its part, the Montreal Jazz Festival will apparently be the only one to feature an all-Ellington concert by pianist Jason Moran (July 1), as well as saxophonist Kenny Garrett’s most recent project, Spirits from the Ancestors (July 4).

Bellbird. Ph.: Evan Shay


Canadian bands are present year-round on local scenes, and play a big part in the success of our many festivals. This year, Bellbird, the quartet that recently won the François-Marcaurelle Award at the last Montreal OFF Jazz Festival, will present the music of their album Root in Tandem in Ottawa (June 21), Victoria (June 25), Vancouver (June 26), Edmonton (June 27), Toronto (June 29) and Montreal (July 3)! Toronto singer Sarah Jerrom, for her part, released the ambitious double album Magpie last April. She will present this suite twice this summer: in
Toronto (June 26) and in Markham, Ont. (Aug. 20). Pianist Marianne Trudel, with her trio Time Poem, will be on stage in Quebec City (for the festival Jazz en Juin, 26), in Ottawa (June 28) and in Montreal (June 30). Last but not least, drummer John Hollenbeck (with his quartet George) has finally been offered his own Montreal Jazz Fest show (June 29) after close to nine years teaching at McGill—six days after his appearance in Vancouver.


Without a doubt one of the rising stars of today’s jazz, media darling saxophonist and Grammy nominee Lakecia Benjamin will present her album Phoenix in Victoria (June 26), Vancouver (June 27), Edmonton (June 28), Calgary (June 29), Ottawa (June 30) and Montreal (July 1). In a very different vein, the French saxophonist and improviser Sakina Abdou will feature her solo work in Hamilton, Ont. (Something Else! Festival, June 22), Toronto (June 23), Ottawa (June 25) and Vancouver (June 27-30). Sax phenomenon James Brandon Lewis, in his early 40s, will be touring with the eclectic/electric trio The Messthetics (featuring two former members of Fugazi!), introducing the music featured on their eponymous collaboration released on Impulse Records; they will be in Vancouver (June 23), then at the Winnipeg Folk Festival (July 12) and at the Hillside Festival in Guelph, Ont., on July 19. From Norway, pianist Kjetil Mulelid’s trio has the Canadian festivals rolling out the red carpet for them. They will appear in no less than five (consecutive) events in June: Victoria (25), Vancouver (26), Edmonton (27), Medicine Hat (28) and Ottawa (29)!

George Coleman


For the more conventional jazz fan, one can safely bet on mainstream jazz veteran saxophonist Scott Hamilton to deliver a few memorable sets, accompanied by the Vancouver combo Triology in their own town (June 27) and in Victoria two days later. For another evening of classic jazz in a club setting, in the tradition of the Village Vanguard or the Blue Note, we heartily recommend one of the rare legends of the 1950s-’60s that is still active, the always great saxophonist George Coleman (89 years old!), at Upstairs in Montreal (July 5 and 6). At the other end of the jazz spectrum (avant-garde), we find the busy Swedish baritone saxer Mats Gustafsson and his project The End, both in a duo format (Nanaimo, B.C., June 18; Victoria, June 19; Hamilton, Ont., June 20) and with the full quintet (Hamilton, June 21; Montreal—for Suoni per il Popolo—June 22; and Ottawa, June 25).

Read our record reviews of festival artists here.

This page is also available in / Cette page est également disponible en: Francais (French)


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