'Unreal week' of music wraps up as Winnipeg Jazz Festival toots final horn

The 27th annual Winnipeg International Jazz Festival wrapped up Sunday amid gloomy skies and intermittent showers.

Opening weekend drew 'record' crowds, festival executive producer Paul Nolin says

The president of the Winnipeg festival says he thinks opening weekend at The Cube in Old Market Square drew a 'record' crowd this year. (CBC)

The 27th annual Winnipeg International Jazz Festival wrapped up Sunday amid gloomy skies and intermittent showers.

Despite the crummy Sunday weather, Paul Nolin, executive producer of the festival, said it's been "an unreal week" for music in Winnipeg.

"I've been lucky on so many different levels. Unlike today, where it's a little windy and gray and cool, mother nature has been incredibly kind to Jazz Winnipeg," Nolin said. "My shows were very, very well attended."

Nolin said while it's difficult to quantify off hand how many people took in shows at Old Market Square, the opening weekend stood out to him as a "record weekend."

"Certainly for three of the four nights was unlike anything I've ever seen in this park," he said. "There were times when you could barely move out here, and that's not a bad problem to have as long as everyone is safe."
Thousands of Winnipeggers took advantage of good weather and watched outdoor performances in the Exchange District as part of the 2016 Winnipeg Jazz Festival. (CBC)

Those crowds, and the connections between musicians and audiences, were highlights of this year's festivities, Nolin said. One impromptu late night jam session at the Fairmont Hotel also ranks high on the list.

'Where the magic happens'

After playing to a packed house at the Burton Cummings Theatre Tuesday night, American Music Prize winner, and Kendrick Lamar collaborator, Kamasi Washington brought his saxophone down to the Fairmont's lounge and played with a few local musicians.

"He just had played an astonishing concert … and then he's hanging out in the Fairmont lounge," Nolin said.
Paul Nolin is the president of the Winnipeg International Jazz Festival. (CBC)

"Within minutes he's playing with local musicians, and not just guys like Steve Kirby and Quincy Davis; we're talking about some of the young guys [like] Niall Bakkestad-Legare, Carter Graham … who are just coming up out of the U of M's jazz program. And to me, that's where the magic happens."

After some much-needed rest and relaxation this July, Nolin said he'll begin to turn his creative attention again toward planning next year's festival.

"I don't think I could've asked anything more of anyone involved with the festival this year. I think we're wrapping up tonight on a high."