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Lethbridge Jazz and Blues festival features familiar faces and local talent

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The eighth annual Lethbridge Jazz and blues festival, June 8-16 , features familiar faces, new faces , new venues and a little something for everyone.  Don Robb is excited about the Lethbridge Jazz and Blues Festival, June 8-16. Photo by Richard Amery
The event is not only longer this year, but also features more events and some old friends.

“The schedule has changed a little bit. We’re starting on Friday, June 8 to accommodate the school bands (performing  at the Gate for the Young Lions Concert),” said Lethbridge Blues and Jazz Festival vice president Don Robb.

 The  annual Jazz at the Park event features an all local lineup performing  Galt Gardens, June 9  beginning at noon with Papa King and the Boogiemen followed by Paul Kype and Texas Flood, Hippodrome, new band the Metrik Jazz Tentet and the Lethbridge Big Band at 4 p.m.
“ There will be an open market as well. And it will be a great opportunity for people to find out what is happening for the rest of the festival,” he continued.

The major events are centred around the the Enmax Centre with the bigger shows in the Enmax Centre or in the upstairs lounge. One of the big returning events is the Food Truck Frenzy, June 15 featuring numerous artists plus the Superhero and princess jazz show, for which kids are encouraged to come dressed as their favourite superhero or princess.  Local musicians HBO3 and the Steve Keenan band will provide the soundtrack for the afternoon. Calling all Superheroes and Princesses is art 3 p.m. during the Frenzy.

 The festival begins at the Gate, June 8 with the always popular Young Lions  concert, featuring plenty of talented young musicians performing beginning at 12:45 p.m.
The festival welcomes several new venues including the Stoketown Cafe which hosts a blues brunch on June 10 at noon, with local bluesman Papa King and his trio.

The Nikka Yuko Japanese Gardens brings back New York based, Hiroshima born guitarist Nobuki Takamen, who was a highlight of last year’s festival.
“The Nikka Yuko Japanese Gardens thought it was a great show and wanted to do it again, so they thought about how to make it different. So this time he brings his trio,” Robb continued. Tickets are available through for $35.
“I played Lethbridge back in 2010, and always wanted to go back, but never did until last year,” said the Hiroshima born, New York based guitarist, who is excited to  return to the Nikka Yuko Japanese Gardens, for this year’s festival, but this time with his trio of  drummer Naoki  Aikawa and bassist Toshiyuki Tanahashi.
He has known them and played with them for several years, but officially formed the trio  with them in march.
“We’ll be playing a lot of new music that we‘re releasing  on Nov. 25,” he said, noting two of the songs were inspired by and written during his previous visits to Lethbridge.
 Tickets  for the concert are $35 or $50 for a meet and greet. The concert begins at 7 p.m.

Jazz jams have always been a staple of the festival and jazz music in general. The Owl Acoustic Lounge hosts the jazz jam again this year, June 12 at 7:30 p.m. with Josh Davies and HBO3.
 The Owl features a few festival shows, including an afternoon show, Saturday, June 16 when the Allison Au Quartet will be playing at 3 p.m., featuring Juno award winning saxophonist, composer and band leader Allison Au. Tickets for that show are $20.

“We played the afternoon at the Owl with the Metrik Octet and it went well. So we thought we’d try an afternoon show,” Robb said.
 The Slice features Saskatoon bluesman B.C. Read , June 15 at 9:30 p.m. Tickets for that show are also $20
The Sweet Inspiration Gospel Concert is another popular draw.

 Marcus Mosely returns to hosts this year’s concert at Southminster United Church, Wednesday, June 13. Admission is $10. Mosely, who also sings with Vancouver based gospel blues band the Sojourners, last hosted the Sweet inspiration Gospel concert in 2015 and played the Geomatic Attic with the Sojourners in 2011.
The Suppertime Blues  series  returns for the festival with music at a variety of new venues as well as old favourites.
The Telegraph  Taphouse features Randy Epp and Don Robb on June 14.
Streatside features Randy Epp on June 15 and James Oldenburg on June 15.
Firestone is a new addition to the festival featuring James Oldenburg on June 14, Anna McBryan and Cal Toth on June 15 and Randy Epp, June 16.  Another new venue is Coulee Brew, which features the Papa King Trio on June 15..Plum is a new addition featuring a lunch time presentation with Randy Epp and Andrea Walker, , June 14.
 The Mocha Cabana returns with Dale Ketcheson, June 15.

 Organizers are bringing back the guitar show and shine to the SAAG, June 16.
“For various reasons we haven’t been able to do it for the past couple years,” Robb said.

Halifax born, Toronto based crooner Holly Cole makes her first visit to Lethbridge to headline the Lethbridge Jazz and Blues Festival, Saturday, June 16 at the Enmax Centre.
 She just released her first CD in six years called “Holly ” with  her “unbelievable” band including long time pianist Aaron Davis, bassist George Koller, drummer Davide DiRenzo and horn player Johnny Johnson.

The Steve Keenan band is one of many local acts performing  during the  Lethbridge Blues and jazz Festival, June 8-16. Photo by Richard Amery
 She has taken a few years away from the music scene to work on other projects and spend time with her mother who passed away.
So what has Cole, who scored a hit cover of “I Can See Clearly Now,” with her beloved trio of David Piltch and Aaron Davis, back in 1993, been doing since her last album.
“Nobody’s asked me that quite so bluntly. But mostly  I was spending  some time with my mom. “We knew she  was dying and I wanted to spend as much time with her as possible. But she understood, if I wasn’t out on tour, she suggested I study something. So I became a registered hypnotist. Mom always said I have a very hypnotic voice, ” Cole said.

I also learned  a lot about self-hypnosis. You can hypnotize yourself to do anything. But you have to really want to. I hypnotized myself to stop smoking and  haven’t for quite a few years now. I can also hypnotize myself to go to sleep in about 45 seconds. So now I can  fall asleep anywhere, on, buses or on planes. I never used to be able to do that,” she said.
 She also took the past six years to work on her new album.
“I took some time to really research this album,” she said adding she worked with Grammy Award Winning producer Russ Titelman in New York to make most of  “Holly.” She recorded the rest of it with her trio in Toronto.
“This is the first album I haven’t  produced myself, so I really had to let go. I really love to arrange music. I loved working with Russ. He came up with all of these great Russ ideas and we used all of these great musicians he knows,” she said.

Veteran Juno award winning  jazz musician Holly Cole plays the Enmax Centre, June 16 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $51.50 for that concert.

Edmonton vocalist/ band leader and arranger Mallory Chipman is excited to make her Lethbridge Jazz Festival debut, if only, because she is not only performing with her band on June 15, but sitting in with the Calgary Jazz Orchestra for a tribute to her grandfather Tommy Banks, who inspired her and even produced her most recent CD “Rags and Feathers: A tribute to Leonard Cohen.”.
“ The last time I was in Lethbridge was about 12 years ago. I was there with the Edmonton Children’s Choir. We did a little Southern Alberta tour including Lethbridge and Medicine Hat, where I have family. So I’m really looking forward to coming back,” said the 24-year-old, who has been performing professionally for about seven years.
“Though I started playing music  when I was two with Kindermusic,” she chuckled, adding her parents and grandfather let her come by jazz music on her own.
 “Growing up, my mom and dad listened to everything from Joni Mitchell  to , the Rolling Stones and the Pat Metheny Group. I was probably the only five-years-old listening to Pat Metheny. A friend of mine gave me a Spice Girls Barbie doll and I didn’t know who they were. My friend said they’re only the biggest band in the world. But then not many five year olds were listening to Pat Metheny,” she laughed.

“Grandpa was a great mentor. He loved all kinds of music— show tunes,  pop music, jazz music. But he let me come into jazz music on my own, though I probably listened to more jazz music than most kids my age,” she said.
 Her Leonard Cohen tribute, which Tommy Banks produced, ended up being perfectly timed, as Cohen passed away shortly before the release. But it’s roots go back to 2014.
“I’m a vocalist. My voice is a my first instrument. I always like the improvisational part of jazz music. It’s unpredictable,” said Chipman, a voice instructor at Grant MacEwan College in Edmonton. She was inspired by jazz singers like Etta James and Sarah Vaughan who always incorporated scatting into their music.


 She will be joined by long time pianist Chris Andrew, guitarist Brett Hansen, bassist Murray Wood and  drummer Jamie Cooper for her June 15 show. She will also be coming a day early  to sit in with Johnny Summers and the Calgary Jazz Orchestra, who will be playing  the Enmax Lounge at 7:30 p.m., which is also where she will be playing her solo show. Tickets for each show are $35.
“I’ve never played wth them before, though Johnny and I have worked together. But that’s what I like— playing with new people,” she said, adding she is honoured to honour her grandfather in song.
 Johnny Summers and the Calgary Jazz Orchestra return to the festival this year to play the Canadian Western Bank lounge, upstairs  at the Enmax Centre, where several big shows will be happening due to losing the use of the Yates/ Sterndale Theatre due to renovations. They play everything from Harry Connick Jr.  and Michael Bublé to Frank Sinatra. They will also be performing a tribute to Tommy Banks, who passed away last year, with  Mallory Chipman, Banks’s grand-daughter and popular jazz musician in her own right.

“That was a coincidence. We’ve been wanting to bring her here for years. She‘s very talented and a very nice person,” said board member Adam Eccles, who also plays in the Metrix Jazz Tentet.
“The Calgary Jazz Orchestra asked her to perform the Tommy Banks tribute with them,” he said, adding she performs her own show with her quartet, June 15  in the same place
Tickets for each show are $35.

Eccles is excited to present the Metrik Tentet.Papa King plays several times during the Lethbridge Jazz and blues Festival, June 8-16. photo by Richard Amery
“ We’re a new band. We wanted to bring together some of Lethbridge’s best  jazz musicians. And we wanted to do something a little different than the Lethbridge Big band is doing. We play things like Miles Davis Birth of  the Cool — Something that challenges us,” he said.
 Due to the challenge of  coordinating the 10 band members’ schedules, they don’t perform live very often. They play a Saturday afternoon at the Owl Acoustic Lounge about once a month including this week, April 21 at 3 p.m.

 Food Truck Frenzy returns to the Enmax Centre parking lot, at 11:30 a.m., June 15. Children of all ages are encouraged to come dressed as their favourite superhero or princess.

 The Slice hosts a big blues night for the festival as  award winning bluesman AC Reed perform at 9:30 p.m. , June 15. Tickets are $20. On Saturday the Owl Acoustic lounge hosts the Allison Au Quartet at 3 p.m.. Tickets for that show are $20.

 The big event is at the Enmax Centre, Saturday, June 16 as Holly Cole plays the Enmax Centre, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $51.50 for that concert.
“We were looking for someone big and someone who hasn’t played here before. Holly was at the top of the list. She’s be performing for 25 or 30 years. She’s terrific,” said Festival president Don Robb.
 Tickets for that show are at available at the Enmax Centre. All other tickets are available online.
“We wanted to offer the best entertainment we could while keeping the ticket prices down,” he said.
“We have a great board of directors. It has definitely been a team effort,” he continued.

 A version of this story appears in the May 30, 2018 edition of the Lethbridge Sun Times/Shopper
— by Richard Amery, L.A. Beat Editor
Last Updated ( Wednesday, 30 May 2018 10:05 )  
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