Halifax Jazz Festival presents Ms. Lisa Fischer, Rolling Stones mainstay and star in Oscar-winning film 20 FEET FROM STARDOM
This spring the Halifax Jazz Festival presents critically acclaimed New York vocalist Ms. Lisa Fischer with her band Grand Baton.
"Fischer's name may be new to Haligonians but she has a familiar voice," states Laura 'Lulu' Healy, Halifax Jazz Festival Artistic Director. "She is an absolutely stunning vocalist and performer with an impressive resume, touring extensively as a backup singer with the Rolling Stones, Sting, Chris Botti and Nine Inch Nails."
She has also worked with Tina Turner, Chaka Khan, Beyonce, Dionne Warwick, Dolly Parton, Bobby McFerrin, Alicia Keyes, Lou Reed, Louie Vega, Aretha Franklin, John Scofield, George Benson, Laurie Anderson, Lee Ritenour, Jackie Evancho and many others. In 1992 Fischer won a Grammy for Best Female R&B Performance for her hit single "How Can I Ease the Pain". More recently she was featured of the 2014 Oscar-winning film 20 FEET FROM STARDOM.
Ms. Fischer will be joined by her band Grand Baton. Opening the night is Reeny Smith, winner of the 2013 Galaxie Rising Star Award at the Halifax Jazz Festival. Originally from North Preston, Smith released her debut album I Am Reeny in the fall of 2014.
Ms. Lisa Fischer & Grand Baton | Reeny Smith takes place 8 PM Thursday, April 2, 2015, at the Rebecca Cohn Auditorium, Dalhousie. Tickets for range from $24.50 - $57.50, and are on sale online at artscentre.dal.ca, at the Box Office located in the lobby of the Dalhousie Arts Centre, or by telephone at (902) 494-3820 or 1-800-874-1669.
The TD Halifax Jazz Festival is a huge success thanks to our volunteers. As 2014 winds down we would like to acknowledge the volunteer milestones of the following individuals:
Mary Ann Daye
Mary Rose McIntyre
Thank you for your time, energy and enthusiasm. Your support and commitment helps us bring live music to our community each summer.
If you’d like to volunteer at the 2015 TD Halifax Jazz Festival visit halifaxjazzfestival.ca/volunteer. Applications will open May 15, 2015.
Last year we chatted with legendary Halifax drummer and musician Jerry Granelli. He spoke extensively with us about his background as an artist, working with the Vince Guaraldi Trio and the making of the music for A Charlie Brown Christmas. You can find that blog post here.
We caught up with him again to talk about Tales of A Charlie Brown Christmas, the Halifax Jazz Festival's 11th annual fundraiser to support its music education programs. Here's what he had to say.
Halifax Jazz Festival: Why are you doing Tales of A Charlie Brown Christmas again this year?
Jerry Granelli: People wanted it and last year was pretty magical. It was great and it helped the Halifax Jazz Festival. In my heart I knew Vince Guaraldi always wanted to write a standard and he did end up writing one, "Christmastime Is Here" (four million records later and recorded by everybody in the world). Maybe I would just like to see Charlie Brown as a Nutcracker alternative, or at least something people bring their kids and grandkids to every year.
HJF: You're taking the concert on the road this. Where else are you presenting it?
JG: We're doing it again it Ottawa, and new places like Calgary and Edmonton.
HJF: What's it like to work with children's choirs?
JG: Doing it with the kids was always part of the piece. Getting to know the kids is really fun. I usually fly in, rehearse with the kids, have pizza and hang out with them. There was one little girl last year, she just grabbed my leg whenever I came to rehearsal. It's hilarious. I become their crazy uncle. Their choir directors are so sweet and wonderful, and I try to be their crazy uncle and keep them relaxed for when they go on stage. It's a big concert, they've got a trio, they've got me, and the poor choir director can't be on stage.
HJF: What will be different at this year's concert compared to last year?
JG: There may be a couple new pieces of music, and the story will probably be a little different. I think we'll have a little drummer boy in the choir. It is an improvisation and anytime we do it, there's a slight difference. The music has these sentimental moments that you get to hear, along with kids in their excitement. The fun between the choir and the trio is great.
HJF: Why is this concert so special to you?
JG: Vince Guaraldi was an uncompromising artist and he fought against all odds. Cast Your Fate to the Wind was hit record because he threw a fit to get it on the back of the record companies. Charlie Brown got on the air against CBS. It feels like now (working with Vince) planted a seed in me that said, 'If you really do what you do and don't give up, something good happens.' And that's true.
Photo credit: Jerry Granelli at 2013 Tales of A Charlie Brown Christimas by Ed Boutler Photography.
There will be two presentations of Halifax Jazz Festival's Tales of A Charlie Brown Christmas, 2 PM and 8 PM Sunday, December 7 at the Spatz Theatre. All tickets are $40 and available at online here.
Pianist Chris Gestrin is one third of the Jerry Granelli Trio. The group is coming together to perform at Tales of A Charlie Brown Christmas, the Halifax Jazz Festival's 11th annual fundraiser to support its music education programs. We caught up with Chris to talk about music, creating and A Charlie Brown Christmas.
Your background is in film scoring. Are you still working in this field or has your musical practice shifted to live performance, recording and composing?
Chris Gestrin: I've always been involved in a lot of different areas of music making. I did get a degree in Film Scoring at Berklee College of Music and I've always been interested in music for film, but all along the way I would say I've been equally interested and involved in live performance, recording and composing. In fact the focus in the past many years has been mostly in performing and recording. Recently I think I am shifting more towards creating in the studio and possibly performing less often. Perhaps mostly because I just don't have enough time to do it all!
HJF: What are you currently creating?
CG: I just finished a couple of feature film projects. A comedy called Songs She Wrote about People She Knows and a horror film titled BIND. I'm also producing a bunch of different albums in the studio. A new Pugs and Crows release (our last production received a JUNO in 2012), a great album of co-written original material with vocalist Christie Grace that I'm very excited about, and a drum and vocal/guitar duo group called CAST which is going to be fantastic. Also just about to be released is a duo ambient music recording with Seattle bassist Keith Lowe titled The Thoughtfulness of Distance. I'm just putting the final touches on it now. (I often take a LONG time doing this). It will be released on my label Phonometrograph sometime in the next couple of months.
HJF: What's on your iPod/8 track these days?
CG: Charlie Brown of course! Ha. The best way to learn the music is to hear it over and over and over, by osmosis. We do have an 8-track machine in my younger daughter's bedroom. I believe the only 8-track we have is called 'Polka Party'. I find myself listening to nothing a lot actually. I do so much intense listening in the studio that quite often outside of that time, like in my car driving, I prefer to have silence. To finally get to your question though - a shortlist of some random stuff on my iTunes is Chet Atkins, Simple Minds, Brian Eno, Peter Erskine, Stephen Layton's Polyphony, my children's Christmas albums, Petra Haden, Keith Jarrett, Me, Edgar Froese, Hindemith, Gary Peacock, Eckhart Tolle and various rough mixes of projects I'm working on. I often also listen to vinyl, CDs and cassettes.
HJF: How did you become a part of the Jerry Granelli Trio?
CG: I originally started working with Jerry as a part of Simon Fisk's trio. (Which happens to be the same trio, just performing different music). That was back around 2007 I believe. We instantly had a great rapport together both musically and personally and have always had a great time together.
HJF: What's your connection to A Charlie Brown Christmas?
CG: I think similar to most people, I grew up watching A Charlie Brown Christmas on TV every Christmas. It was a special event. It's much different now of course now that you can have it on DVD, or stream it and basically watch it anytime of the year you want. That's a great convenience that we have these days but it's a very different experience when you can ONLY watch it that one or two times a year when they aired it at Christmas time. With today's technology and easy access to everything, I don't know if it would be possible to create that type of magical limited experience again. We would be so excited at Christmas to be able to see A Charlie Brown Christmas, the classic Rudolph animation, and Frosty the snowman. At Halloween, The Great Pumpkin! That was it! You'd have to wait the entire year to see it again! Years later my brother and I would often listen to the trio soundtrack and it would always bring up that magical feeling.
HJF: What makes this concert special for you?
CG: I love playing music with both Simon and Jerry in any context. They are amazing musicians. Having the chance to perform the Charlie Brown Christmas music is special for the reasons I mentioned above. Hearing and enjoying this music growing up so much and then years later being able to perform it with someone who was actually ON that original recording is really amazing. I'm really honoured that Jerry has chosen me to join him for these concerts.
HJF: What can we expect for this year's performance?
CG: I think like last year, it will be a very special experience for all. Seeing the images from the cartoon, the trio performances of the music and Jerry's stories about his time with Vince's trio and the making of A Charlie Brown Christmas all combine to bring up those magical feelings we all have in common from growing up with the show. We're adding a bit more material this year as well, so the show will be a bit longer.
There will be two presentations Tales of A Charlie Brown Christmas, 2 PM and 8 PM Sunday, December 7. All tickets are $40 and available at online here.
Vivace Children's Choir and conductor Krista Vincent welcomed the Halifax Jazz Festival into one of their rehearsals for their upcoming appearance at Tales of A Charlie Brown Christmas. We found out how preparations were going and how the kids felt about their upcoming appearance in the concert.
Thanks for having us Vivace! We cannot wait to see you perform live at the Spatz Theatre.
Tales of A Charlie Brown Christmas is the Halifax Jazz Festival's 11th annual fundraiser to support its music education programs such as the annual Creative Music Workshop. There will be two presentations, 2 PM and 8 PM Sunday, December 7. All tickets are $40 and available at online here.
Vivace Children's Choir is just one of many choirs supported by HRSB's All-City Music program. The program provides outstanding music education opportunities to students from grades four through twelve in Halifax City.
Three-time JUNO nominee Elizabeth Shepherd is back in Halifax next week releasing her fifth album The Signal. We caught up with the Montreal based pianist and vocalist before she heads east for Contact East this weekend in Pictou, Nova Scotia. Here's what we chatted about.
Halifax Jazz Festival: What got you started in music?
Elizabeth Shepherd: I have an older brother (five years older) who started piano lessons when I was an infant. I can remember wanting to learn music from that moment on. I asked my parents if I could learn piano when I was about four, and was told I had to wait until I was six - the age my brother was when he started lessons (it's only fair). My parents (who were both Salvation Army ministers) were also musical, so I think music was just always part of me. I learned a brass instrument at church, sang in choirs, and on top of that I took piano lessons at the conservatory. Basically for as long as I can remember, I was making music every day.
HJF: What is your song writing process?
ES: I love ideas. I read philosophy for fun ... so I am always jotting things down - ideas, observations, notes - that then work their way into song lyrics (after a lengthy and difficult process - lyrics don't come easily to me). Simultaneously, I'm always writing musical ideas (composition comes much more naturally). Eventually, I pair them together later, when I feel either is ready. They are really separate processes.
HJF: What can we expect that is different for Signal than your previous albums?
ES: This is the first album where I really felt free of any constraint. For some reason before, I always felt this subtle pressure - to be good enough, to be "jazz" enough, to prove myself. Maybe it's having a child that has shifted my priorities and has made me more grounded. Regardless of the reasons, I don't feel that same need to prove myself. So I think the sound is more - complex? nuanced? Certainly it's less categorically jazz (or anything for that matter). I think that's also partly a result of having grown up in cities like Montreal, Toronto and Paris - surrounded by so many different types of music that invariably make their way into what I do. These are incredibly multicultural places, so that cross-pollination of genres is inevitable (and this is a good thing, I think!). This album has more guests - steel pan player Mark Mosca, guitar genius Lionel Loueke, upcoming vocalist Alex Samaras (to name a few). Also, the themes on this album are a little more dense and political (though I hesitate to use that word, because it implies some kind of agenda, which is not the case). Another difference with this album is that I really tried to optimize my time in the studio. There is an art to making an album, that lies in the choices of how to utilize all of the resources at ones disposal in the studio setting. There are seemingly infinite choices - what mic to use, where to place it, what effects to use, where to place the instruments in spatial relation to each other, what instruments to use, what treatment to give each voice/instrument ... and the art lies in how you make the decisions given all these options. And finally, this project was a complete vision, not just a collection of songs. I had a vision for the artwork, the album as a whole (that it play from start to finish with interruption), for the staging of the show.
HJF: How has making music changed since motherhood?
ES: In becoming a mother, life has changed in ways that I can't begin to list. The biggest shift I would say, is away from myself. Someone else has become my priority and her life, my responsibility. That's big. I began to think more about the kind of world she will grown up in, what life will be like for her, what kind of world I will pass down, how do I help her navigate this crazy new technology-driven era that is still so new and untested, in many ways. These were all questions that I attempted to deal with in "The Signal". It's a way of working some of these things out, of raising some questions, some awareness. And of offering something to my daughter (and others).
HJF: How old is your daughter now?
ES: She will be 3 in 2 weeks.
HJF: Wow! That's a busy age. How do you manage to keep a work life balance?
ES: I'm not sure I do. I try hard to do it all, but like most working mothers, I'm often burnt out, feeling spread thin, like I'm doing a poor job on all fronts. This is where it is tremendously helpful to have a husband step in, help me recalibrate, and tell me that I'm doing just fine.
HJF: Jazz is at the heart of Halifax Jazz Festival programming. How has jazz and jazz musicians influenced your work?
ES: To me, music is freedom. Jazz was something I came to a little later (in my early 20s), at a time when I was beginning to really explore that relationship between music and freedom. In discovering jazz, I felt this incredible relief and opening, as though I were coming to a new language that had infinitely more words than the language I previously knew. Jazz has informed everything I've done since; I also strive to make music accessible, to communicate with people, but at the same time, I bring the language of jazz to what I do. It is a sophisticated form that is demanding, and at times runs the risk of being esoteric and exclusive. I try to maintain a balance between remaining accessible and interesting.
HJF: What's on your 8 track/walkman/Ipod these days?
ES: Tiken Jah Fakoly - "Human Thing"
Tanya Tagaq - "Umingmak"
Eric Bibb - "Have a Heart"
Paul McCartney - "Temporary Secretary"
Joshua Redman - "East of the Sun"
Organized Konfusion - "Maintain"
Camille Saint-Saëns - "The Carnival of the Animals" (always on hand for my daughter)
Thomas Mapfumo - "Kwaedza Mu Zimbabwe"
HJF: Thank you for sharing Elizabeth!
The Halifax Jazz Festival and Scotia Festival of Music presents Elizabeth Shepherd 7 PM Thursday, October 2 at the Peggy Corkum Music Room. She will be joined by an all-star quartet of Canadian jazz musicians including trumpeter Kevin Turcotte. Tickets are $25/ $20 (students, seniors and Halifax Jazz Festival members) and can be purchased advance online or at the door.
Montreal pianist and vocalist Elizabeth Shepherd is back in Halifax releasing her fifth album The Signal at the Peggy Corkum Music Room 7 PM Thursday, October 2. Co-presented by Scotia Festival of Music and the Halifax Jazz Festival, this three-time JUNO nominee will be joined by an all-star quartet of Canadian jazz musicians including trumpeter Kevin Turcotte.
Pianist and vocalist Elizabeth Shepherd arrived on the international scene in 2006 when her debut album Start To Move was voted one of the Top 3 jazz albums of the year by the listeners of the Gilles Peterson Show on BBC Radio Worldwide. Since then, the Montreal-based souljazz innovator has released three widely acclaimed records and toured extensively in North America, Europe, Japan and Latin America. The three-time JUNO nominee has sold out legendary clubs from Tokyo to Detroit, played festivals like Montreal and North Sea Jazz Festivals, shared the stage with greats like Victor Wooten and Branford Marsalis and opened for Jamie Cullum at The Hollywood Bowl.
Join Shepherd as she presents music from her latest album The Signal. The subject matter for the songs covers topics as wide-ranging as Monsanto and motherhood, witchcraft and war.
Tickets for Elizabeth Shepherd are $25 ($20 for students, seniors and Halifax Jazz Festival members). The Peggy Corkum Music Room is located at 6181 Lady Hammond Road. Doors open at 6 PM and all ages are welcome. For more information and to purchase tickets please visit the event page or call the Scotia Festival of Music at 902-429-9467.
Halifax Jazz Festival fall season begins with diverse world rhythms from New York City's Banda Magda
New York City’s Banda Magda will make its Halifax debut Saturday, September 27 at The Company House. Presented by the Halifax Jazz Festival, local duo Magnolia opens the night starting at 8 PM.
"This is one of those rare musical opportunities you don't want to hear about after the fact,” states Laura 'Lulu' Healy, Halifax Jazz Festival Artistic Director. “Magda has a unique charm and obvious passion for the beauty in life, and the pool of talent in the band is immense"
Banda Magda is a four-piece, led by Greek-born singer, accordionist, film scorer and composer Magda Giannikou; Giannikou has caught the attention of everyone from the Kronos Quartet to Louis CK. Banda Magda's music is a blend of Greek dance rhythms, French pop, jazz manouche and more. Sung in six different languages, their songs hearken back to the golden age of Brazilian bossa and the lush chic of vintage French pop, all while drawing on the band’s global background. Some members of Banda Magda will be familiar to Halifax; in 2009 bassist Haggai Cohen-Milo and percussionist Keita Ogawa performed at the Halifax Jazz Festival, and returned later that year to execute a live recording with The Secret Music Project at the Sonic Temple.
Banda Magda's Yerakina , set to release on September 23, vibrates with the same bright, bold strokes as their 2013 album Amour, t’es là? (which was named by NPR as one of the year’s best world music albums). Now, instead of Magda Giannikou’s wildly romantic originals, Banda Magda turns to traditional and classic tunes of love and devotion. Diverse rhythms and melodies from different corners of the globe cross-pollinate, giving chansons Afro-Peruvian sway or Greek folk tunes with a mad dash of Northeastern Brazilian beats.
Halifax's Magnolia opens the night with their unique blend of jazz, blues and folk. Comprised of Leanne Hoffman and Scott MacLean, the duo is busy promoting their first EP. In March 2014 the group was pick of the week by CBC national radio host Tom Power. Magnolia is a restless act with influences spanning from Feist to Paul Simon to Nina Simone. Their sound brings together pop, smoky country and swing to create something unique, with an irreplaceable organic feel.
Tickets for Banda Magda | Magnolia are $20 ($18 for Halifax Jazz Festival members).
From the legendary Mavis Staples to rising acts Banda Magda and Elizabeth Shepherd to the Christmas classic Tales of A Charlie Brown Christmas, the Halifax Jazz Festival's 2014 fall line-up showcases the diversity of jazz.
The New York group Banda Magda takes the stage at The Company House 8 PM Saturday, September 27 with new songs from their second album Yerakina released earlier that month. Charismatic and multi-talented vocalist/accordionist Magda Giannikou sings in French, English, Greek and Portuguese to original Greek dance rhythms and samba beats, creating a fun and fresh show. Opening the night is Magnolia, a Halifax duo that gained notoriety when it was pick of the week last March by CBC national radio host Tom Power.
Montreal pianist and vocalist Elizabeth Shepherd performs at the Peggy Corkum Music Room 7 PM Thursday, October 2. Co-presented by the Scotia Festival of Music, this three-time JUNO nominee will be joined by an all-star quartet of Canadian jazz musicians including trumpeter Kevin Turcotte as she tours her latest album Signal.
Legendary soul icon Mavis Staples takes the stage at the Rebecca Cohn Auditorium 8 PM Thursday, October 9. Mavis Staples found fame in The Staple Singers alongside her family with her father Pops, brother Pervis and sisters Cleotha and Yvonne Staples. For more than six decades, her music has resonated with audiences worldwide. From the delta-inflected gospel sound she helped create in the 1950s, to engaged protest anthems of the 1960s and pop radio breakout hits in the 1970s, Mavis Staples is an icon of perseverance, strength and hope. Local musician Erin Costelo, winner of a 2014 ECMA Award for R&B/Soul Recording of the Year, opens the night.
The fall line-up concludes with the Halifax Jazz Festival's 11th annual fundraiser for music education. Tales of A Charlie Brown Christmas with the Jerry Granelli Trio and Vivace Children's Choir takes place 2 PM and 8 PM Sunday, December 7, at the Spatz Theatre. Back by popular demand the concert features local jazz legend and drummer Jerry Granelli, an original and only surviving member of the Vince Guaraldi Trio. The Halifax Jazz Festival extends a warm welcome to families to experience this music. During the matinee performance one child (12 and under) may accompany an adult for free.
Tickets for Banda Magda | Magnolia are $20 ($18 for Halifax Jazz Festival members). Tickets for Elizabeth Shepherd are $25 ($20 for seniors, students and Halifax Jazz Festival members). Tickets for Mavis Staples | Erin Costelo range from $24.50 - $62.50, and are for sale online at artscentre.dal.ca, at the Box Office located in the lobby of the Dalhousie Arts Centre, or by telephone at (902) 494-3820 or 1-800-874-1669.
Emma's Festival Blog: Sketches at Jubilee Swing Orchestra with Ben Caplan and Carmen Townsend | Swingology
Emma FitzGerald was at the closing night of the festival to see Swingology and the Jubilee Swing Orchestra with Ben Caplan and Carmen Townsend. She captured these lovely sketches of the final night and shared them with us. Thanks for a wonderful festival and see you in the summer of 2015!