You are here: Home Music Beat Al Muirhead to be a highlight of Lethbridge Jazz and Blues Festival
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

L.A. Beat

Al Muirhead to be a highlight of Lethbridge Jazz and Blues Festival

E-mail Print PDF

If you are in the mood for the blues and jazz, Mark June 9-17 on your calendar, because the Lethbridge Jazz and Blues Festival returns with another great line up of musicians performing all over the city.
“It starts with the Young Lions concert at the Gate,” said Lethbridge Jazz and Blues Festival vice president Don Robb, noting it will include 250 young performers.
“There are 10 different schools participating. It’s a free event,” he said.Don Robb announces the line up for the Lethbridge Jazz and Blues Festival. Photo by Richard Amery
Blues has always been an essential aspect of the jazz festival, so the organization changed their name to reflect the blues presence.
“Blues music has always been an important part of the the jazz festival, so we wanted to reflect that. We’re trying to appeal to all tastes,” Robb said, adding utilizing several new venues also reflects that.
“We hope more people will come out because of it,” he said.
“Guitarist Nobuki Takamen is playing at the Nikka Yuko Japanese Gardens that night. It is part of their fiftieth anniversary celebrations,” Robb added, noting he will also be giving a guitar clinic at Casa on Saturday, June 10  from 9:30-11:30 a.m.
 There are no passes this year. all of the bigger shows are ticketed events.
“It’s easier to manage. And we wanted to keep all of the prices as low as possible. They’re quite reasonable,” he said adding several generous sponsors have helped keep ticket prices low.
 An important part of the evolution of jazz music is the jazz jam, which is  at the Owl Acoustic Lounge, June 13 at 9:30 p.m.
“Jam sessions have always been a place where jazz musicians go to learn their craft and hone their craft by playing with other players,“ Robb said.
 Another highlight of the festival is the gospel concert.

 the Sweet inspiration Gospel Jazz Concert is Wednesday, June 14 at Southminster United Church.
 This year Anna McBryan will be the featured performer with the Sweet inspiration Gospel Choir.
“There will also be a seven piece band playing,” Robb  said.
 The Lethbridge Big Band will be featured at the Canadian Western Bank Lounge in the Enmax Centre, where they will be presenting the Big Bands through the Decades concert beginning at 7:30 p.m.
“The Lethbridge Big Band will be in the lounge at the Enmax playing a retrospective of big band music from the past 100 years. Tickets are $30.
 Friday will be a busy day as the Lethbridge Jazz and Blues Festival provides the soundtrack to the Food Truck Frenzy at the Enmax Centre beginning at noon.
The Rocky Mountain Dixieland Band begins at noon with a free concert until 1 p.m.

Calling All Princesses and Superheroes performs superhero and princess themed music to target young listeners from 3-4 p.m. and at 5 p.m. Local jazz quartet Sandwich will give you a free taste of their evening show at the Owl Acoustic Lounge. Their evening show  at 9:30 p.m. will cost $20.

 The big Friday night show is Canada Sessions, a concert featuring Canadian jazz legend Al Muirhead plus Vern Dorge and Laila Biali who perform at the Sterndale Bennett Theatre at 7:30 p.m.
Regina born, Calgary based trumpet player Al Muirhead has played with array of famous musicians including Dizzie Gillespie, Diana Krall, Paul Anka, Rosemary Clooney and long time buddy and collaborator Tommy Banks, who played on his 2016  first solo album “It’s about Time.”

He is no stranger to the Lethbridge Jazz and Blues Festival. His second CD “Oop” featuring saxophonist P.J. Perry, earned him a Juno nomination in 2016 and he just released his latest Cd “Northern Adventures Volume 1.

“I played it ( the Lethbridge Jazz Festival) with Johnny Summers and the Calgary Jazz Orchestra (in 2015),” Muirhead said.

 He has had an impressive career, recording as a sideman on 26 different albums as well as getting to play with idols like Dizzy Gillespie.
“That was 30 or 35 years ago. I was on the call list and got to play with Dizzy Gillespie. It was amazing. it was a real treat to get to share a stage with a man I’ve idolized all my life. It was a pretty humbling experience,” he enthused, adding he used to be on the list of musicians to call when a big name blew through town.
“They’d tour with a few people and call local musicians when they came to play in a city. It’s different now. Most people have their own combos or just play with a synth player, and I’I don’t get a lot of those calls anymore,” Muirhead said, adding it is tough to choose a favourite musician he has played with.

“A really fun one was to play with Diana Krall with an orchestra on her Grammy award winning album,” he said adding a lot of things have changed in the jazz world.
 “Not as many people listen to jazz music anymore. And the musicians who are coming up are more schooled musicians. They play a lot better than I do, but there’s not a lot that moves me musically, though I am impressed by how well they play,” he said, noting there are exceptions. He observed that when he was starting out, musicians learned by getting up on stage and just playing with people.
 He also plays French horn and cornet.

“I’m also paying a lot more bass trumpet, because that’s more my range these days,” he said.
Muirhead is good friends with pianist Tommy Banks, who is on his solo albums.

“I’ve known Tommy for a long time. I met him when I was living in Regina, but didn’t get to be really good friends with him until I moved to Alberta,” he said.
“He’s a dear friend and a fantastic piano player,” he said.
He is pleased to have Banks playing on his CD along with luminaries like bassist Kodi Hutchinson, Vancouver saxophonist Campbell Ryga, pianist, bassist Don Thompson, guitarists and Mike Rud and Reg Schwager.

He just released a new CD “Northern Adventures,” which features Laila Biali singing “Night and Day.”
“I feel really lucky to have them on the CD,” he said.


 Randy Epp will be part of the Suppertime jazz club for the Lethbridge Jazz and Blues Festival. photo by Richard Amery
He is looking forward to returning to Lethbridge to  play with old friends like Vern Dorge and to see old friends like Josh Davies. He doesn’t know what will be on the set list for the Lethbridge show.

“I haven’t thought that far ahead. We’ll probably play a lot from the album. It’s going to be fun. That’s the main thing,” he enthused.
 Supper time Jazz Club begins on Thursday night with several new venues featuring live music during the supper hours.

Papa King and Darryl Düus will be performing at Coulee Brew. Randy Epp will be at the Telegraph Taphouse from 5:30-8:30 p.m.. and an artist to be announced will be performing at Moxies from 7;30 -8:30 p.m.
As always, Saturday night will be a big night beginning at Galt Gardens at noon for the free Jazz In the park. There will be a beer garden and performances from local talent including Mwansa Mwansa Sandwich, Papa King, R and B/disco/ funk collective Hippodrome and Edmonton based New Orleans style piano powered jazz from the Rooster Davis Group.

 Rooster Davis will be  at the Owl Acoustic Lounge at 9:30 p.m. as well. There will be a $20 cover for that show.
 Papa King will be playing a show at Coyote Joes at 9:30 p.m. as well. Tickets for it are $20.
 And this year’s Lethbridge Jazz and Blues Festival ends with Colin James rocking the Enmax Centre at 7:30 p.m.. Tickets for it are $39.50 and up.
Robb  will have a busy week. In addition to helping organize the event, he is playing trumpet with several  bands including The Lethbridge Big Band and Hippodrome.
 Robb said the line up is solid.

“Even if you don’t know who the artists are, pick a show and go to it, I promise you it will be worth your time,” Robb said.
 More information about the Lethbridge Jazz and Blues Festival is online at

 A version of this story appears in the May 31, 2017 edition of the Lethbridge Sun Times/Shopper
— By Richard Amery, L.a. Beat Editor
Last Updated ( Wednesday, 31 May 2017 08:52 )  
The ONLY Gig Guide that matters


Music Beat

Lights. Camera. Action.
Inside L.A. Inside

CD Reviews


Music Beat News

Art Beat News

Drama Beat News

Museum Beat News