Tue, Apr 23, 2013.
The Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival made a big move today to remind people there's jazz in it's name. Often overshadowed by the blues and rock elements, this year's line-up is one of the strongest in years for jazz fans, featuring three of the top names in Canada. That includes one who's no stranger to the festival, and the city.
Holly Cole spent a good part of her teenage years in Fredericton, before heading off to Toronto and forming the Holly Cole Trio. Her connection to Harvest goes right back to the very start, and I have some fuzzy memory of being at an after-show bar party, and seeing her jump up to sing I Heard It Through The Grapevine and other classics. Cole's been packing venues ever since, and with a new album out called Night, it's only fitting she returns to a place that loves her right back.
Victoria's Michael Kaeshammer is a double-threat, a great vocalist and an amazing piano player. Influenced by early jazz players, New Orleans and stride, Kaeshammer has an excellent live set that keeps going from one high to the next. It's high energy, and perfect to get you in the festival spirit. Elizabeth Shepherd is that rare thing, a singer-songwriter writing new jazz vocal numbers instead of reinterpreting the classics. Her soulful sounds have been crossing over to folks who are not usually jazz fans, although she has critics and connoisseurs from that world impressed too.
He may not be jazz, but Royal Wood's a grand addition to the festival as well, opening the Holly Cole show. Wood's enjoyed the most success of his career the past year, thanks to the skillful pop of his latest disc, We Were Born To Glory. I Want Your Love was a big hit on CBC Radio 2, and he's putting the smart production of classic 45's back on the charts.
If that ain't enough for music fans, Sackville's beloved Sappyfest announced its first performers for this year's event, coming up August 2 - 4. Considered one of the taste-maker festivals in the country for new music, Sappyfest VIII will again feature artists that by this time next year, you won't believe you saw them in such a small place, in such a fan-friendly environment. While there are many more names to come for this year's line-up, the first five are now out. Daptone recording artists (the home of Charles Bradley and Sharon Jones) Naomi Shelton & The Gospel Queens are coming in from Brooklyn with their sanctified soul. Saxophone whiz and Arcade Fire side man Colin Stetson of Montreal is one the way, along with punk-soul Washington group Chain & The Gang. Also in from La belle province is space rockers The Luyas, and yet another Brooklyn group, rappers The Underachievers.
Sappyfest passes are already available on the website, with early bird passes already almost sold out. Harvest tickets go on sale May 11.
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Bob Mersereau has been covering music, and the East Coast Music Scene since 1985 for CBC. He's a veteran scene-maker at the ECMA's, knows where the best shows and right parties are happening, and more importantly, has survived to tell the tales. His weekly East Coast music column is heard on Shift on Radio 1 in New Brunswick each Wednesday at 4'45. He's also the author of two national best-selling books, The Top 100 Canadian Albums (2007) and The Top 100 Canadian Singles (2010).