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Saluting free jazz

Price can't be beat for expanded festival schedule at the Cube

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 13/6/2018 (762 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Music fans who are minding their budget this summer will be pleased as punch with the Winnipeg International Jazz Festival schedule, which, for the first time, has free shows planned at Old Market Square the length of the 10-day event.

Starting Thursday, June 14, dozens of musicians — both Manitoba-based and touring artists — will take the Cube stage as part of one of the themed nights, which range from Thursday’s "Dance Party 1.0" to hip hop and soul, swing and Latin nights later in the week.

"All of that is free, and within that we’ve scheduled more touring artists than ever before. There’s some pretty incredible acts from around that world that are coming to play Old Market Square," says jazz fest artistic director Mike Falk.

The Flaming Lips (George Salisbury photo)

The Flaming Lips (George Salisbury photo)

"We wanted to try it out because Old Market Square is kind of ground zero for this festival already and especially given the time of year and everyone’s response to the weather, it gives us the most obvious and extendable way to celebrate with a lot of people. We’re not using the King's Head (Pub) or Rachel Browne Theatre as venues, so what we’ve done is taken some of that programming that would normally happen there and be ticketed and are bringing it outdoors and making it free.

"Part of that is a response to those shows just never being able to break even in those rooms, so if we’re already taking a loss on it, why not change up the model and see if we can introduce people to some more artists and kick-start that discovery process a little more intensely," he says.

The festival held a three-phase lineup rollout this year, with the first round revealing one of the most diverse collections of headlining acts the festival has ever seen. At the top of most must-see lists is experimental rockers the Flaming Lips, who are known for their extremely theatric and creative live shows.

Jill Barber (Supplied photo)

Jill Barber (Supplied photo)

But the bill also includes more traditional jazz artists, including Canadian singer-songwriter Jill Barber and American trumpeter Chris Botti.

"I got a lot of texts and emails with flames and thumbs-ups so I think most people in town are pretty excited about it; some people have said it's the best jazz fest lineup in years, so that’s really great," says Falk.

"It’s a very diverse group of headliners, and that speaks to what we try to be as a festival and I think, if we’re going to go down the cliché road, there’s something for everyone."

Daniel Caesar (Supplied photo)

Daniel Caesar (Supplied photo)

Another exciting get for this year’s jazz fest is R&B singer-songwriter Daniel Caesar, who has become one of the most buzzed about artists in Canadian music. His debut album, Freudian, is an exceptional release that earned him Grammy Award nominations for Best R&B Performance as well as Best R&B Album. The 22-year-old Oshawa, Ont. native — whose given name is Ashton Simmonds — has two shows as part of jazz fest, both of which sold out immediately.

But a conflict in Caesar’s schedule meant those shows — originally scheduled for June 20 and 21 — had to be moved and jazz fest had to take quick action to lock in two new dates. Caesar’s shows will now take place June 15 and 16, both at the Burton Cummings Theatre, as the festival announced a few weeks ago.

Falk says what could have turned into a complete logistical nightmare actually resolved itself as smoothly as he could have hoped, and he credits Caesar’s Winnipeg fans for making the rescheduling process relatively painless.

Chris Botti (Supplied photo)

Chris Botti (Supplied photo)

"Huge props to all of his fans for kind of just rolling with it, and to Ticketmaster for making that a breeze for us on a logistical level. We were kind of staring at that going, ‘Oh my goodness, this could be a major headache and there could be a lot of really angry people.’ And between Ticketmaster and Daniel’s fans it went really smoothly. We were prepared for the worst but ended up not having to worry too much at all," says Falk.

One other new piece to the jazz fest puzzle is the addition of several more dinner shows at Kitchen Sync. This year, there are five options, with five different musicians who are all touring acts and whom Falk considers to be "pretty heavy hitters."

The musicians will perform two shows each night; one dinner show at 6 p.m. and then another cocktail hour show at 9 p.m. that carries just a $20 price tag (as opposed to the $100 dinner).

Retro Rhythm Review (Supplied photo)

Retro Rhythm Review (Supplied photo)

Jazz fest begins tonight with a dance party at the Cube featuring locals Super Duty Tough Work, Retro Rhythm Review and the Winnipeg Jazz Collective, as well as the Gabriel Palatchi Trio from Argentina. The festival wraps up Sunday, June 24.

For more information about tickets and scheduling, visit jazzwinnipeg.com

erin.lebar@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @NireRabel

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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Updated on Thursday, June 14, 2018 at 12:24 PM CDT: tweaks headline, fixes typo

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