Local and international prominence, more than a dozen performances in multiple venues, and superb talent.
In its 18th year, the Prince Edward County Jazz Festival can boast all of these.
The festival kicks off this Tuesday, Aug. 14 with a talk and film presentation of “Just Call Me Miles” with festival creative director Brian Barlow at the Regent Theatre Loft at 7 p.m. The festival runs through Sunday, Aug. 19.
Speaking with the Gazette Thursday, Barlow said audiences can expect a great mix of top international jazz stars along with what he considers some of the brightest young lights in the jazz world.
“The festival has been really putting a lot of its focus on working with young people,” he said. “The average age of our performer now is under 40, which is pretty great … there’s a real future with this music and that makes me happy to see that and to see young musicians coming up who really deliver the goods.”
Throughout the week some of those performers will be in the spotlight with the festival’s Young Jazz Series, which takes place Thursday, Aug. 16 at 4:30 p.m. at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Picton, and the Rising Young Star Concert, which takes place Friday, Aug. 17 at 4:30 p.m. at St. Andrew’s.
Barlow said the festival is also fortunate to have an acclaimed performer and Order of Canada member in Guido Basso living in the county and performing here during the week’s festivities. He’ll be taking the stage at the Regent Theatre on Thursday, Aug. 16 along with the Mike Murley and Reg Schwager Duo and Allison Au Quartet. The show begins at 8 p.m.
“He’s very much in demand internationally, and yet he lives right here in Consecon,” Barlow said of Basso.
The next night, Friday, Aug. 17 at 8 p.m. Carol Welsman will perform, accompanied by Schwager on guitar, Marc Rogers on bass, and Ethan Ardelli on drums. The Los Angeles-based Welsman is a singer and pianist.
“We’re thrilled to have Carol back,” Barlow said.
There will be a host of performances across the county on Saturday, Aug. 18. At 10 a.m. Tara Davidson and Marika Galea will be performing for free at the Glenwood Cemetery chapel. The Jazz Van will be making several stops across the county, including The Mill PEC at 12:15 p.m., Bloomfield United Church at 1 p.m., RoseHall Run Vineyards at 1:30, and Huff Estates Winery at 2:30. Alex Dean and Mark Eisenman will perform at 2 p.m. at the Church of St. Mary Magdalene in Picton. The featured performer Saturday night will be Robi Botos, who takes the stage at the Regent at 8 p.m.
“Robi has been out at this festival, I think, since he first came to Canada from Hungary when he was just a young man,” Barlow said. “He’s been a really important part of the festival family.”
On Sunday, Aug. 19 the Church of St. Mary Magdalene will host Jazz Mass with the Brian Barlow Quartet at 10:30 a.m. The Mike Francis Duo will be at Huff Estates Winery from 1–4 p.m., while the Dan Bone Trio will play the County Cider Company, and Starpainters will entertain at Harwood Estate Vineyards in the same timeframe. Adler-Yarranton will be at Stanners Vineyard from 2–4 p.m., the Laura Anglade Trio at The Old Third Vineyard from 3–5 p.m., and Jazz Vespers with Tara Davidson and Dave Barton at St. John’s Anglican Church in Waupoos at 4 p.m.
“Every year we add new locations and that makes me happy to have new partners come on board,” said Barlow. “This year we’re doing something in Consecon for the first time and there’s a new winery or two added.”
The Festival closes Sunday night with the Brian Barlow Big Band in a show titled “Miles, Monk and More” featuring the work of Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk. Barlow said closing the show with a performance from the big band has become something of a tradition for the festival.
“It’s going to be a very eclectic evening,” he said. “We’ve got vocalist Alex Samaras with us and Alex will even do a couple of Sinatra tunes and Mel Tormé he’s going to do for us — he’s a really terrific singer.”
Barlow said much of the festival’s expansion through the years has come in the form of added venues like wineries where visitors can enjoy a glass of wine and listen for free. However, he said the real growth in the festival has come through awareness. Performers from across the globe apply to perform in the show, Barlow said, with more than 300 such applications received last year.
“People are getting in touch with me from Australia, from Germany, from Holland, who have heard about the festival,” he said. “The idea that we now have a jazz festival in Prince Edward County that people are aware of all over the world is pretty incredible.”
The Prince Edward County Jazz Festival is unique in many ways, Barlow said, much of that idiosyncrasy coming just by virtue of the county’s rural setting.
“There are very few — if any — rural jazz festivals,” he said. “This is a rural area, we’re not talking Toronto or Montreal, and yet we’re putting on a festival that is at least equal to those festivals.”
Tickets for the performances are available through the Regent Theatre box office at 613-476-8416 ext. 28 or 1-877-411-4761, and online at www.theregenttheatre.org. For ticket prices, more information and a full schedule of performances, visit www.pecjazz.org.