By Courtney Faulkner
LETHBRIDGE – The Lethbridge Jazz and Blues Festival returns to Lethbridge on June 9 and runs until the 17, boasting an impressive line-up of local and out of town talent.
Spanning across a variety of venues, the fest offers something for everyone to groove too in its expanded lineup.
“I love that the Jazz Festival is a thing, I love that it’s a part of Lethbridge,” says singer and songwriter Mwansa Mwansa, who will take the stage with her band at the free event Jazz at the Park on Saturday, June 17 in Galt Gardens.
Mwansa will be belting out her soulful, original songs through the flair of R&B, funk, and soul. Other performers include Hippodrome, Papa King and the Boogiemen, Rooster Davis Group, and Sandwich.
“Lethbridge really has a little bit of everything, and just being a part of the festival and getting to see other performers in the past years has been really great,” says Mwansa.
“It’s nice to see the support too. It’s nice to see people come out and want to listen to jazz, or listen to music that they maybe don’t hear on the radio.”
This year’s festival is packed with stars from the jazz and blues world. Juno nominated jazz-trumpet musician Al Muirhead will play a Canada Sessions series June 16, alongside jazz singer and pianist Laila Biali and saxophonist Vern Dorge at the Sterndale Bennett Theatre.
“He’s one of the most respected trumpet players in Canada,” says Don Robb, Vice President of the Lethbridge Jazz Society, the non-profit organization that plans the festival.
“The thing with Al is he’s 81-years-old, so that speaks to the quality of what you’re going to hear.”
Other highlights for the festival are Lethbridge based vocalist Anna McBryan, who will lead the Sweet Inspiration Gospel Jazz performance at Southminster United Church June 14.
“She’s doing a lot of cruise ship stuff, dueling pianos, she plays in Las Vegas a lot. But her first love is gospel; she grew up in the church. So it will be Anna, with a community choir, and there will be a six or seven piece back-up band.”
This year the festival is celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Nikka Yuko Japanese Gardens with a special outdoor performance. The show will occur under the full moon, with famed jazz guitarist Nobuki Takamen. That performance will take place on June 9.
Music history lovers, don’t miss the Lethbridge Big Band’s performance of Big Bands Through the Decades on June 15 at the Enmax Centre.
“There’s going to be music from the early 1900’s right up until today,” says Robb. “From early Duke Ellington, right up until one of the most popular big bands of the day the Gordon Goodwin Big Phat Band.”
This year’s partnership with the Enmax Centre has also given the festival the capacity to bring in popular Canadian blues-rock headliner Colin James for the closing night on June 17.
There will also be a Supper Club Jazz event, where you can enjoy live music with your meal at participating local restaurants from June 15 to the 17. An outdoor afternoon of free live music, food trucks and fun for the kids at the Enmax Centre occurs on June 16. Finally, there is a free Young Lions Concert, where student bands perform at The Gate June 9.
The Lethbridge Jazz and Blues Festival runs from June 9 through 17 at a variety of venues. For more details and to purchase tickets go to www.lethbridgejazzblues.com.Al Muirhead, Anna McBryan, Big Phat Band, Boogiemen, Colin James, Enmax Centre, Hippodrome, Jazz and Blues Festival, Laila Biali, Las Vegas, Mwansa Mwansa, Nikka Yuko, Nobuki Takamen, Papa King, Rooster Davis Group, sandwich, Southminster United Church, Sterndale Bennett Theatre, Vern Dorge