With all of the Halloween Festivities Hamilton has showcased over the last few weeks, a major attraction for the creative in the family may have been overlooked: the 4th Annual Steel City Jazz Festival. The festival kicked off on October 26th, so we’re a little late to the party. With that said, there’s no need to panic; the festival runs for 11 straight days and can still be caught leading up to the closing date this Saturday, November 5th, 2016.
The event itself celebrates the very best jazz music and musicians from Hamilton and beyond. This year’s festival will be featuring some incredible award-winning talents from across Canada, including but not limited to, Alex Pangam, Canada’s very own Sweetheart of Swing, 2016 Montreal Jazz Festival Grand Prix de Jazz Winner Brad Cheeseman and Juno Award-winning cellist Andrew Downing. In addition, the 2016 Smordin Law Artist-in-Residence, Trumpeter Mike Malone, will also be honored for his work as a composer, educator and player. Mike is easily one of the most well respected figures in the entire Canadian jazz scene. But it doesn’t stop there; there are plenty of other featured artists lined up, including Larnell Lewis, the drummer from the Grammy-winning band Snarky Puppy.
The event is now entering its 4th year, and has seen very steady growth over that time frame. Initially founded by Chris Ferguson and Emily Milko in 2012 after returning from a trip to the 2012 Detroit Jazz Festival, the duo was so impressed by their experience that they jumped into full swing and launched the first annual Steel City Jazz Festival on August 22nd 2013. This year will be the first year to feature Grammy award-winning acts, so needless to say, things are going well for Chris and Emily. The intent from the very start was to showcase Hamilton’s jazz music scene, and to offer newcomers a glimpse into what the city has to offer jazz lovers. Hamilton itself is very well known for its thriving art scene, and jazz music is a big part of that scene. With that said, don’t expect any street closures, huge stages or mainstream radio acts. In a recent Interview with CBC News, Chris stated “We still play it pretty niche, we’ve never tried to go down the big outdoor festival route”. So what you can expect is an event that focuses on the art; this is not a commercial project with dollar signs in mind. For anyone who truly appreciates the arts, this is a major plus.
Despite the low key nature of this event, it has grown tremendously over the four years since its inception. Initially starting as a one weekend affair showcasing ten shows, this year we are seeing ten full days of shows spanning three venues. This is quite the feet, especially considering jazz music is such a niche market this day in age. There in itself lies the importance of the event, as it clearly illustrates a strong level of support for an art form that mainstream media has chosen to neglect. For those of us looking for an art scene that has been untainted by the mainstream media, the Steel City Jazz Fest offers you solace. At the same time, this event is not geared solely towards the jazz elitist; this is something anyone with an appreciation for music can enjoy, as it offers an easy introduction for those of us who may not be fully familiar with what the jazz scene has to offer.
Mike Malone will be offering the crowd a very rare opportunity to gain insight into two of the most important musical concepts that jazz music embodies: improvisation and composition. He officially labels his speech as “What Do You Hear? Improvisation, Composition and the Importance of Listening”. The speech will explore these two concepts in depth, highlight differences, similarities, and how they connect.
Of course, you’ll be offered some incredible performances to match the speeches and workshops. Brad Cheeseman, for example, is a local talent whose band, the Brad Cheesemen Group, will be performing during the event. The group recently played at the Montreal International Jazz Festival and walked away with the TD Grand Prix De Jazz Award. So you can expect an incredible performance!
The event is hosted at Artword Artbar and the Pearl Company. For tickets, click here, and for a complete list of details, please visit the events website.
As always, thanks for reading!
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