Prince Edward County’s Newspaper of Record
July 23, 2024
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They Came to Swing

PEC Jazz Festival announces a stellar summer lineup
<p>Brian Legere and Lenni Stewart onstage at the Waring House (Photo: Chris Fanning)</p>
Brian Legere and Lenni Stewart onstage at the Waring House (Photo: Chris Fanning)

The Prince Edward County Jazz Festival held a fundraising Jazz Jam at the Waring House last week. Hosted by its new Artistic Director, Sarah Kim Turnbull, the local jazz community — players, listeners and sponsors large and small — gathered for an evening of swinging tunes and the announcement of the August Festival lineup.

PEC Jazz Festival Artistic Directors Brian Legere and Sarah Kim Turnbull (Photo: Chris Fanning)

Sharing the hosting duties was guitarist Brian Legere, whose quartet accompanied a dozen singers and instrumentalists. The easy camaraderie among the musicians was apparent as they adapted to each other’s styles and songs. A lot of melodic material from the swing era featured in vocal interpretations by Lenni Stewart, who elicited great support from the band, and Mr. Legere himself. 

A. J. Stewart (no relation to Lenni) stepped up to push the music into the 60s and 70s, including a noteworthy rendition of Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now,” now a standard in the jazz repertoire.

Other key contributors were saxophonist Brian Coughlan, Dan Douglas, doubling on flugabone and trombone, as well as pianist Gord Sheard, who played an original composition dedicated to his father, Terry, a great supporter of the PEC Jazz Festival.

The mood was playful and full of friendship, all in support of the cause: the musicians donated their time, Waring House the space, and the audience represented not just ticket buyers, but marquee supporters too.

Ms. Turnbull was clearly excited and feeling a warm welcome. Her description of the Mainstage program was enthusiastically received.

The festival will open with The Big Smoke Brass, a raucously funky brass band, returning for its fifth consecutive year, and guaranteed to sell out at the Huff Estates Winery.

Young singer Denielle Bassels will play Sandbanks winery. She describes her style as “merging the swingin’ carefree sounds of 1930’s Parisian jazz, with the dreamy modern folk landscapes of today.”

The church of St Mary Magdalene will host some performers new to the festival.

Joy Lapps brings her skills on an instrument unusual in a jazz contest, the steelpan, offering Afro-Caribbean-Brazilian-inspired rhythmic and harmonic patterns, and electric guitarist Eric St-Laurent’s Trio will bring a modern high energy.

Two major figures in Canadian jazz close out the festival. Iconic singer Molly Johnson will play the PEC Jazz Festival for the first time in her long career. She brings decades of experience and a deep knowledge of the tradition, invoking especially, no matter whether accompanied by a funk band or a pianist, the torch-song sounds of Billie Holiday. She is not only a consummate international performer, but also a longstanding contributor to Toronto’s urban communities.

The final night of the festival is given over to veteran tenor saxophonist Mike Murley. He returns to the festival after some years away, this time in the intimate context of the Waring House. Mr. Murley’s sound, coming out of the John Coltrane-Wayne Shorter tradition (with a good dose of Sonny Rollins), is immediately recognizable as his own.

Mr. Murley will lead a quartet with pianist Mark Eisenman. He notes, “what a pleasure it is for us to work with the powerhouse rhythm section of Terry Clarke and Neil Swainson, two of the best you will find anywhere. Terry is a living legend who will be celebrating his 80th birthday that week. What an inspiration he is for the ‘60-somethings’ in the band!”

After decades in Toronto, where as both a player and educator he has inspired generations of younger musicians, Mr. Murley recently returned to his home province of Nova Scotia. We’re very lucky to have him visit — part of another strong year for the PEC Jazz Festival. 

Visit pecjazz.org for information and tickets.

This text is from the Volume 194 No. 21 edition of The Picton Gazette
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