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Ear to the ground

Jazz festival headliners include up-and-comers who could be next year's household names

Kamasi Washington has recorded with the likes of Kendrick Lamar, Lauryn Hill and Mos Def.</p>

Kamasi Washington has recorded with the likes of Kendrick Lamar, Lauryn Hill and Mos Def.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 15/4/2016 (1377 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

There’s only one gig in town where an up-and-comer in the R&B scene, a Swedish indie-pop trio and a saxophonist who’s worked with one of the biggest names in music could be found headlining the same bill — the Winnipeg International Jazz Festival.

Andra Day, Peter Bjorn and John, and Tia Fuller, among others, were announced this morning as top-billed artists for the 27th edition of the jazz fest, and though to some, their names may not carry the same weight as past performers such as Mavis Staples and Buddy Guy, the festival’s executive producer, Paul Nolin, is more than ready to go to bat for the lineup he’s bringing to Winnipeg in June.

Stockholm's Peter Bjorn and John will perform shortly after the release of their new album.</p>

Stockholm's Peter Bjorn and John will perform shortly after the release of their new album.

"I think there are some monster musicians in this year’s lineup, and I’m confident Winnipeggers will get in on that excitement," he says.

Singer Andra (rhymes with Sandra) Day is riding high on the success of her debut album, Cheers to the Fall, which was nominated for two Grammy Awards, including Best R&B Performance, for her anthemic single Rise Up. Discovered by soul, funk and jazz legend Stevie Wonder, Day’s voice embodies those genres, though she injects a modernity through her more pop-focused arrangements. She’s slated to perform June 23 at the Burton Cummings Theatre.

"Andra is a pretty exciting get," Nolin says. "It’s like she’s just on the launch pad, about to take off."

Stockholm trio Peter Bjorn and John hasn’t put out an album since 2011, but new release Breakin’ Point is scheduled to drop the week before the festival kicks off June 16, and the group’s name recognition is strong — its hugely popular single, 2006’s whistle-driven Young Folks, catapulted it to international fame.

Husband-and-wife-led Florida soul-blues group Tedeschi Trucks Band and saxophonist Kamasi Washington were announced several weeks ago. Washington, who has recorded with the likes of Mos Def and Lauryn Hill, played a key role in helping shape and arrange Kendrick Lamar’s landmark album To Pimp a Butterfly, which topped more than one best-of list in 2015. His own album, the three-disc debut The Epic (also released in 2015), won the inaugural American Music Prize for best debut album.

"Every year I have an artist I say this about, but he’s really kind of the future of jazz," Nolin says. "He’s the guy, as some of the older guys slow their careers down, he’s somebody who’s reimagining the music, he’s exciting other musicians and music fans about the music.

"What I love about guys like him is he’s bridging the gap between jazz and popular culture. He’s playing Coachella (music and arts festival in California), he’s playing the hipster festivals, but he’s also perfectly and appropriately at home at a jazz festival."

SUPPLIED</p><p>The festival's executive producer says Tedeschi Trucks band clearly 'resonates' with local music fans.</p>

SUPPLIED

The festival's executive producer says Tedeschi Trucks band clearly 'resonates' with local music fans.

Fuller is another saxophonist bridging that gap. She teaches at Boston’s prestigious Berklee College of Music and was part of Beyoncé’s all-female tour band in 2006, but has garnered equal attention in the jazz community for her own body of work.

"I want to be careful with her, because that is, frankly — especially to people who aren’t big jazzheads — that is the story, her relationship to Beyoncé, but she’s also got four rock-solid jazz records... she’s super-well-regarded in the jazz community," Nolin says.

As for Tedeschi Trucks Band, Nolin says tickets for its June 25 performance at the Burton Cummings Theatre have moved faster than for Buddy Guy’s did last year.

"Clearly, the group resonates with Winnipeg music fans," he says.

Canadian artists taking part include two festival repeats: singer-songwriter Royal Wood and blues artist Steve Hill. The latter opened for Buddy Guy in 2105 and was in Winnipeg a few months ago to promote the second album of his Solo Recordings series, which earned him four Maple Blues Music Awards, including Guitarist of the Year and Entertainer of the Year, and a Juno nomination for Blues Album of the Year.

Saxophonist Tia Fuller bridges the gap between genres.</p>

Saxophonist Tia Fuller bridges the gap between genres.

Wood, named Songwriter of the Year by iTunes in 2008, has made a good impression on the folks at jazz fest over the years, so Nolan says they’re happy to have him back.

"It’s obviously a jazz festival, but it’s also a music festival. I think most people in this day and age just want good music, and I think Royal fits into that category," he says.

The local contingent includes festival regulars Moses Mayes, Papa Mambo and the Dirty Catfish Brass Band, who will be playing during the free opening weekend, June 16 to 19, in Old Market Square. The festival continues till June 26.

The full schedule, as well as ticket information for individual shows and festival passes, is available at jazzwinnipeg.com.

erin.lebar@freepress.mb.caTwitter: @NireRabel

SUPPLIED</p><p>Singer Andra Day is among the top-billed artists performing at this year's Winnipeg International Jazz Festival. Her debut album was nominated for two Grammys.</p>

SUPPLIED

Singer Andra Day is among the top-billed artists performing at this year's Winnipeg International Jazz Festival. Her debut album was nominated for two Grammys.

Erin Lebar

Erin Lebar
Multimedia producer

Erin Lebar is a multimedia producer who spends most of her time writing music- and culture-related stories for the Arts & Life section. She also co-hosts the Winnipeg Free Press's weekly pop-culture podcast, Bury the Lede.

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