The TD Niagara Jazz Festival announced three shows between now and the end of the year in their third Twilight Jazz and Blues Series, all of which will take place on Mondays at the Hare Wine Company in Niagara-on-the-Lake.
Executive artistic producer and co-founder Juliet Dunn addressed a crowd of supporters and the media Monday afternoon, using the occasion to announce an Ontario Trillium Foundation grant of more than $65,000 from their Resilient Communities Fund, the largest grant ever received by the Jazz Festival.
“Our mission is to build healthy, more vibrant communities,” said Henry Dortmans of Trillium’s Niagara grant review team Monday. “This grant will allow the festival to buy new equipment and hire new people which will allow the festival to bring the joy of music to a lot of people for a long time.”
“This funding has allowed us to take the festival to the next level,” Dunn wrote in a press release announcing the grant. “We were able to hire a general manager for a period of six months and it is making a world of a difference. This came at a perfect time as we enter our 10th season. We are truly grateful for the continued support from the Ontario Trillium Foundation.”
Last season’s Twilight Jazz and Blues Series was held at Spirit in Niagara Distillery on Lakeshore Road. For Dunn, the first order of business for the move to Hare on Niagara Stone Road was to ensure the piano could be moved to the new venue.
“It actually is owned by my late husband Peter’s father,” she explained. “I contacted him and asked if we could continue to use it. He said ‘absolutely.’ And as a special treat, he’s agreed to play an opening set for our first show. He’s a lawyer, but he’s a pretty wicked piano player.”
Peter Shea lost his battle with cancer this past August. As co-founder of the Jazz Festival with Juliet, they have presented many jazz shows and unique experiences for the past 10 years. Along the way the husband-and-wife duo released their own CDs and mentored many young musicians and singers in Niagara and beyond.
The Twilight Jazz and Blues Series kicks off Monday, Nov. 21 with Michael Shea opening for the Mark Eisenman Trio. The New York City-born Eisenman has lived in Toronto since 1972. The in-demand jazz pianist is on the faculty of music at the University of Toronto and has also taught at York University and Humber College. He’ll be accompanied by Neil Swanson on bass, and Terry Clarke on drums.
The Genevieve Marentette Quartet takes the spotlight on Monday, Dec. 5. Marentette, known as Gigi, promises a mix of songs from many eras and styles, from the 1930s to the 1980s, The vocalist is known for moving smoothly from the blues to Brazilian sounds, and will also throw a few appropriate seasonal tunes into her set. Marentette’s quartet will include George Koller on bass, drummer Ben Wittman and Michael Shand on piano.
The three-show series wraps up on Monday, Dec. 19 with the return of the Music of Charlie Brown’s Christmas.
The annual performance was always a favourite of Shea’s. The pianist and drummer was a huge fan of Vince Guaraldi’s music. In past years the show was performed at the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre in St. Catharines.
The smaller winery venue will only make the seasonal favourite more intimate. Musicians will include Duncan Wilson on piano, Tyler Wagler on upright bass and Adam Bowman on drums. As in the past, Dunn promises that some special surprise guests will pop in as well.
Tickets can be purchased for single shows or in a three-pack for $99. Food and wine are available at each event.
In a related event, on Sunday, Dec. 18 the TD Niagara Jazz Festival presents St. Catharines native James Bryan with Emma Rush for a special Christmas Guitar duo performance. Bryan, known for his work with the Philosopher Kings and Prozzak, as well as his songwriting and production for the likes of Nelly Furtado, James Blunt and the Backstreet Boys, will be appearing as part of the Twilight Jazz Series, the rest of which will be announced in the new year.
Bryan and Rush will be teaming up for a Candlelit Christmas edition of their popular Guitar Magic show, featuring a mix of holiday favourites and other classics in a jazz/fingerstyle/classical guitar mashup.
Tickets and information for all four shows can be found at niagarajazzfestival.com.