JazzYYC’s Canadian Jazz Festival still building the city’s reputation while nurturing its appreciation for the music

Growth can be measured in many different ways.

Respect is one of the most valuable.

And in that regards, the growth of the JazzYYC summer and fall festivals over the past five years is off the charts.

No, it’s not steroid driven. It’s all natural.

With patience, diligence, kindness and lessons learned from past failed fests here, the team behind the mainly volunteer-driven events that bring Calgary to life semi annually with too-brief bursts of all things brassy, bassy and, um, jassy, have made the music a viable thing in this city and, more importantly, the city a viable thing in the music.

“I think our reputation has been growing,” says artistic producer Kodi Hutchinson. “I know our reputation outside of Calgary is quite good, and that was something we were really focussed on because of the previous history of (jazz) festivals in Calgary from different organizations not succeeding.

“Our whole thing was, ‘OK, let’s make sure that we have stable organization, stable funding and festivals.’ And our goal, too, was treat the artists coming in as well as possible, and this last summer was possibly the best-run festival we’ve done and the feedback from artists was really great — we had a couple of artists that said this was their favourite festival to play in Canada.

“So that’s a positive thing for us knowing, ‘OK, we’re changing the perception of what Calgary is as a city.’ ”

This year’s Canadian Jazz Festival, which runs Thursday, Nov. 8 to Sunday, Nov. 11, should only enhance and accelerate the makeover, with a choice, cherry-picked lineup of talent from across the nation.

It should also bring a few more ears into the fold, thanks in part to how eclectic the collection of artists is and Hutchinson’s willingness to broaden the definition of what most people assume jazz is, beginning with the marquee act.

“We’re trying something a bit different with our headliner this year — they’re more of a crossover group into different genres,” he says of the world-renowned Montreal Guitar Trio, who will perform at Studio Bell Friday, Nov. 9.

“They’re three classical guitarists who delve into jazz, world and flamenco. It’s a totally different thing for us, we’re really excited to try to this out.”

The entire festival kicks off at the Ironwood on the Thursday with the first concert of the Canadian Stage series — Harry Vetro’s Northern Ranger, a Toronto sextet whose self-titled debut was inspired by composer Vetro’s travels across the country and specifically interactions with musicians in the six Indigenous cultural areas of Canada.

“I thought that was really cool,” says Hutchinson. “This is the thing in jazz, it’s one of the most inclusive musics … but it seems to be the missing element is that there’s not a lot of jazz that you hear coming from Indigenous artists.

“Harry’s not Indigenous, but it was just something he was really passionate about.”

The rest of the ticketed shows throughout the festival are: Edmonton artist Audrey Ochoa, whom Hutchinson calls “arguably the best trombonist in Canada,” and a performer whose star is on the rise on the North American jazz circuit; superb Calgary vocalist Allison Lynch; Juno-winning East Coast drummer Ethan Ardelli with his quartet that also features fellow Juno fellah saxman Luis Deniz; monster Quebec trumpet-player Rachel Therrien, who now resides in NYC; and sweet and sassy T.O. chanteuse Barbra Lica.

“You’re trying to find a cross-section of different regions of the country and different styles and players,” Hutchinson says of the programming.

Other events throughout the festival include free public workshops at Long & McQuade (225 58 Ave. S.E) from Thursday to Saturday, a late-night jam session at the Ironwood on Friday with the Morgan Childs Quartet, the Kawa Jam at Kawa Espresso Bar on Saturday featuring Steve Fletcher, and, of course, the perennial summer and winter fest favourite, the free Inglewood JazzWalk on Sunday afternoon at various venues throughout the neighbourhood.

Highlights of the very diverse latter include a 1 p.m. Remembrance Day-themed show at the new Central Library featuring local legend Al Muirhead and his big band along with a swing dance team and free dance lessons, and a 4 p.m. set at craft beer site Cold Garden by Edmonton’s AC Dixie, who perform rock and metal tunes in the Dixieland style.

“The whole point of the JazzWalk and why we first came up with it was that the opportunities for jazz … and where people discover it seem to be less. When you listen to radio there tends to be rock and pop and country and rap, but even though jazz is everywhere — people would be surprised by how much they do listen to jazz — it’s just harder for people to learn about it, to know about it because it’s not as commercial,” Hutchinson says.

“So we were like, ‘How do we get people to learn about the different types of jazz in a way that’s easy for them and family friendly’ — that’s totally JazzWalk, just this free day of music, 10 different shows of music where people can get a whole sampling.”

And grow a new respect for it.

JazzYYC’s Canadian Jazz Festival takes place Nov. 8 to 11 at various locations around Calgary. For tickets and the complete schedule please click here.