The Guelph Jazz Festival Celebrates its 30th Anniversary

The 2023 Guelph Jazz Festival, 14-17 September, marks the 30th Anniversary of the event, three decades animating the city with world-class live music by artists from the regional, national, and international fields of jazz and creative improvised music. This edition features a series of free and ticketed concerts in downtown venues that are sure to satisfy the tastes of those hungry for cutting-edge sounds and approaches to music-making. 

Photo credits: Guy Bolongaro

At the core of Guelph Jazz Festival programming is the ‘GJF in Market Square,’ free outdoor concerts next to City Hall. Headlining on Saturday 16 September is the Polaris Prize-nominated neo-soul/trip-hop sensation, Witch Prophet, with other performances by Moneka Arabic Jazz (Baghdad via Toronto), calypso powerhouse Kobo Town (Ottawa/Toronto), Brodie West’s Eucalyptus (Toronto), Rebecca Hennessy’s Makeshift Island: Songs on Poems by Thomas King (Toronto), Turkwaz (vocal music from Greece, Turkey, and the Balkans), and Montreal ‘bedroom-pop’ trio Afternoon Bike Montreal.

Back by popular demand, Friday 15 September features the Friday Night Street Music Party in Market Square. Throughout the evening, four groups will play all-acoustic, ‘human-powered’ dance music in and among the audience, including Brazilian percussion troupe, Samba Squad; Big Smoke Brass, playing joyful originals and RnB covers; Lemon Trubaci, a brass band in the Serbian wedding band tradition; and the West African percussion trio, Alpha Rhythm Roots.

Highlights of the ticketed concerts series include the redoubtable 19-piece Ratchet Orchestra (Montreal); [Ahmed] (UK/Sweden/France), a radical excavation of the work of Ahmed Abdul-Malik; Vancouver clarinettist François Houle’s GENERA Sextet, and international group assembled to play his In Memoriam suite, dedicated to the pioneer of Canadian jazz curating, Ken Pickering; the extraordinary pianist, Cory Smythe (USA), performing a set-length experimental meditation on the jazz standard, “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes”; and Josh Zubot Strings, the world’s most rollicking chamber ensemble.

Elsewhere on the program of ticketed concerts are the Lina Allemano Four, a seasoned Toronto ensemble in a highly personal post-Ornette Coleman style; a double-bill of the Susanna Hood Trio (Montreal/Toronto) and Coastlines Duo (Vancouver/Amsterdam) playing music by the late American composer Steve Lacy, the former featuring Hood’s peerless improvising that combines dance and singing; New Hermitage, the Halifax collective playing cohesive post-folk free improvisation; Certain Crafts, a tête-à-tête of master Montreal improvisers, Alanna Kraaijeveld (dance) and Yves Charuest (saxophone); and the remarkable vocalist Kim Zombik, to be showcased in Silvervest (Montreal).

The International Institute for Critical Studies in Improvisation (IICSI) hosts the 2023 GJF Colloquium at ImprovLab, University of Guelph, featuring four themed panels discussing the thirty-year legacy of the festival, the mornings of 14 and 15 September.

Tickets and festival passes are available through the box office at the River Run Centre, and (toll free) 877-520-2408. Volunteers are still sought to help out around the event, with roles and tasks that suit volunteers of a wide range of skills, ages, and interests. Visit the GJF website for more information about the program and schedule, plus access to the volunteer sign-up form.

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