Five things to know about JazzYYC’s Summer Festival

Jazz has clawed its way back to comfortability and credibility in Calgary thanks to the efforts of the folks at JazzYYC.

Slowly, gradually and passionately they’ve restored the music’s reputation in the city — and reinforced that it does, indeed, have an audience — with their two incredibly well-run and superbly curated annual festivals, and programming throughout the year.

It’s something that will be on display this week as we hit their summer event — the first multi-date one of this very busy festival season.

Here are five things to know about the JazzYYC Summer Festival, which kicks off June 12 and runs until June 16 at various locations around town.


Artistic producer Kodi Hutchinson has once again stocked the fest with some of the best, with acts and artists representing all areas on the broad jazz spectrum. The two biggest shows of the week are the Mainstage performances featuring some superb international talent. First up is a Friday gig by the Benny Green Trio at Studio Bell. The New York-born, Cali-raised Green is a graduate of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers and is considered one of the best hard-bop pianists in modern jazz. The next night, some cats cut from the cloth of jazz royalty will take the same stage — Chris and Dan Brubeck, sons of the esteemed Dave, will bring their quartet to the city to help celebrate 60 year’s of dad’s classic Time Out. Some of the other talent throughout the fest includes: eclectic T.O. faves the Shuffle Demons, they of ’80s MuchMusic standards Spadina Bus and Get Out of My House, Roach; the Dirty Catfish Brass Band who bring their Big-Easy-by-way-of-the-’Peg sounds to the city; sublime Juno-nominated vocalist Alex Pangman, who’s been dubbed “Canada’s sweetheart of swing”; and some homegrown talent with some superb western swing from Terra Hazelton and The Polyjesters. And that’s only scratching the surface …


Like some other festivals — most notably the folk fest’s winter event Block Heater and the now on-hiatus Wide Cut Weekend — JazzYYC is making the most of the East Village home of the National Music Centre, Studio Bell, as an anchor for a predominantly Music Mile-located fest. Many of the shows, including the aforementioned Mainstage performances, will use the building, as well as the renovated and rejuvenated King Eddy. Other venues within hoofing distance of those rooms are Lolita’s, which will host the appropriately titled Up Close and Personal programming, with Hazelton and the ’Jesters on Thursday, June 13, as well as Montreal chanteuse Dominique Fils-Aime the next night. There’s also the Ironwood, which will welcome the Shuffle Demons on Wednesday, June 12, Dirty Catfish on Thursday, Pangman on Friday, drummer Larnell Lewis and his band on Saturday, and genre-defying vocalist and trumpeter Tara Kannangara on the Sunday. The one room that’s a little off the beaten path is Beltline hub Kawa, which will host a free show on Saturday afternoon, a jam featuring Quebec trio SHPIK.

Late night, jams and workshops

There are few styles of music more suited to the late-night vibe than jazz, and JazzYYC’s summer fest delivers with some fantastic programming for those who don’t mind paying the sitter a little overtime. The Eddy is hosting a Late Night series — as well as a more olds-friendly Friday and Saturday Cocktails one — with shows from Thursday to Saturday at 9:30 p.m. featuring local drummer Jon McCaslin’s Tribute to Art Blakey, SHPIK and Montreal-based keyboardist and vocalist Elizabeth Shepherd. The other part of the late-night aural offerings are the Jams at the Ironwood from Thursday to Saturday, hosted by the fest’s artist in residence, acclaimed T.O. pianist Dave Restivo along with his trio. Those take place from 10 p.m. and into the night. As for the Public Workshops, you can catch the trio of free events on those same days with the Shuffle Demons hosting one on improvisation, Green dealing with jazz origins and future, and Lewis on drumming — the first two are at noon in the Radio Lounge at Studio Bell, and the latter at 2 p.m. in the same room.


You say you don’t like jazz? You will. Head down to Inglewood and the Music Mile for what has become the most anticipated day of both JazzYYC’s festivals — the free all-day Jazzwalk to wrap things up on the Sunday. It takes place in untraditional area venues such as Swans, The Hose and Hound, Salt and Pepper, the new Central Library and Cold Garden brewery. Every style of music crammed into a pedestrian-friendly space for you to sample. Don’t like it? Move on. You will. Acts performing include Tim Williams, Willy Joosen and the JazzYYC Youth Lab Band.

Get involved

While the Sunday and those workshops don’t require any financial commitment, most of the other shows are highly affordable ticketed events ranging from $49 to $10, with special student pricing. If you want to immerse yourself in the entire fest, there are also a limited number of all-access summer festival passes for $125. Why not? Support JazzYYC and all of the amazing work they’ve done to reestablish the music and its reputation in the city.

JazzYYC’s Summer Festival runs June 12 to 16 at various locations around Calgary. For tickets and the full schedule please go to jazzyyc.com.