All that local jazz

Kingston Jazz fest kicks off this weekend

Dave Coon of the Kingston Jazz Society hopes to raise the profile of the eighth annual Kingston Jazz Festival.
Dave Coon of the Kingston Jazz Society hopes to raise the profile of the eighth annual Kingston Jazz Festival.
Photo: 
Swinging double bass player Brandi Disterheft is coming to town this Saturday evening to play as part of the eighth annual Kingston Jazz Festival.
Swinging double bass player Brandi Disterheft is coming to town this Saturday evening to play as part of the eighth annual Kingston Jazz Festival.
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Supplied

It’s no secret that Kingston is an idiocyncratic hotbed for music; from the Wolfe Island Festival to the Limestone City Blues Fest and this month’s Jazz Festival, Kingston attracts interesting acts in a wide array of musical genres.

Perhaps the lesser-known of the city’s festivals, the Kingston Jazz Festival has been around for eight years, although Dave Coon, president of the Kingston Jazz Society, said there have been jazz festivals in Kingston in one form or another for a long time.

“This is our eighth annual festival, but there have been jazz festivals running in Kingston for, oh, 20 years now,” he said. “The original festivals offered [local musicians] a lot of opportunities to play. … We decided that we wanted to go in another direction. … We thought it would be better to bring in bands from out of town.”

This year, the festival features Juno Award-winning Kellylee Evans, Juno Award-winning Brandi Disterheft, who will be performing in a quintet, and Mariane Trudel, winner of the Prix Étoiles Galaxie de Radio-Canada for the best composition at the Montreal Jazz Festival in 2007. Jazz organist Vanessa Rodrigues will host the festival’s two late-night sessions.

Attracting exciting new talent and award-winning performers has never been a problem for the festival, Coon said.

“Talking to people who were doing the jazz thing here 50 years ago, all the great bands used to stop in Kingston,” he said. “We’ve been doing this for a while, we’ve been able to get the word out that Kingston’s the place where you can get a very interested audience.”

Coon, who has been society president for eight years, said the intimacy of Kingston’s festival is what differentiates it from the larger jazz festivals in cities such as Montreal.

“Just like you go to see any music, you want to get up close and really feel that energy coming off the stage,” he said. “The main thing for us is to provide Kingston audiences the opportunity to really see and meet these bands in a unique way that they can’t get in other places.”

Traditionally located in the Baby Grand Theatre on Princess Street, the festival was displaced during the Grand Theatre’s three-year renovation. This year, though, they’ll be back in the familiar space. Coon said the proximity of the stage to the audience in the Baby Grand is an important part of the festival experience.

“The other places we had were really lovely rooms and everything, but you really had to sit a distance away from the band and really what we’re trying to cultivate here is a real intimacy with the music,” he said, adding that it’s not unusual for audience members to strike up conversations with musicians during a performance.

“You’re sitting just metres away from the band,” he said. “There’s a lot of interaction that happens back and forth.” Not a musician himself, Coon said his love of jazz has grown over the years.

“I worked in jazz bars as a bartender in Montreal for a long time and I worked in rock bars and you knew you could bring in a [rock] band on a Thursday night and hear the same show on a Friday,” he said, adding that the spontaneous nature of jazz keeps it perpetually fresh.

“I love the improvisational stuff. … You hardly ever see [musicians] up there with a stern look on their face.”

The Kingston Jazz Festival begins tonight with Kellylee Evans performing at 8 p.m. Tomorrow night, the Brandi Diserheft Quintet will perform at 8 p.m. Mariane Trudel will perform Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m.

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