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Top picks at the Edmonton International Jazz Festival

Top picks at the Edmonton International Jazz Festival

Posted by PanamericanWorld on June 16, 2015

It’s looking like the year of the piano at this summer’s edition of the jazz festival, given the number of piano-led shows and several special events with stellar pianists such as Fred Hersch, Renee Rosnes and Kenny Werner. But that only hints at the breadth of styles and sounds, as artists from over 10 countries present their own takes on jazz-oriented music.

Singer Lisa Fischer (June 22) and The Bad Plus Joshua Redman (June 26) headline concerts at the Winspear Centre downtown.

Look for many shades of jazz plus a good helping of exotic global sounds with bands from all over Europe (three Polish groups alone), the U.S. and Canada upping the options. Select late-night shows fill out the fest, and you can even take in special afternoon workshops with some of the artists at JazzWorks MasterClass.

Most ticketed smaller shows happen in Old Strathcona, usually two sets each night at the Yardbird Suite or OSPAC (Old Strathcona Performing Arts Society), situated across from each other on Gateway Boulevard.

Here’s a taste of the variety of sounds at this year’s jazz fest:

Sicilian Jazz Project

When: Saturday, June 20. Two shows, 8 and 9:30 p.m.

Where: OSPAC Cabaret Series

What to expect: Leader guitarist Michael Occhipinti (Toronto) leads a special aggregate of jazz and Mediterranean musical flavours, featuring special guests clarinet great Don Byron (New York) and vocalist Pilar (Rome, Italy). Previous visits from SJP offered a brilliant mix of sounds and traditions in exotic, innovative arrangements.

See: michaelocchipinti.com/sicilianjazz

Hilario Durán, Ignacio Berroa and Edmonton Jazz Orchestra

When: Sunday, June 21. Two shows, 2 and 7:30 p.m.

Where: Yardbird Suite

What to expect: Heated rhythms when pianist Duran (Toronto) and percussionist Berroa (New York) — both giants of Cuban music — bring their own rhythm section and vast experience to collaborate with a 12-member edition of the EJO.

See: hilarioduran.com

Heavyweights Brass Band

When: Tuesday, June 23, noon to 2 p.m.

Where: Works With Jazz stage, Churchill Square

What to expect: Toronto’s lively six-piece turns the tradition on end to weave shades of jazz, funk and Latin into the traditional New Orleans roots of the music.

See: heavyweightsbrassband.com

Ranee Lee Quintet with Strings

When: Friday, June 26, 8 and 9:30 p.m.

Where: Yardbird Suite

What to expect: Canadian star and award-winning Montreal singer Ranee Lee taps the standards songbook with guitarist Richard Ring and band, plus a string quartet underlines the nuance and emotion of the music. Her recent recordings featured tributes to Billie Holiday and Marvin Gaye.

See: raneelee.ca

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