Five Years of Steel City Jazz

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Photo courtesy Joanna St-Jacques Photography.

Do you have a favourite Steel City Jazz Festival performance? Here’s a few of mine: in 2015, when Luanda Jones’ Brazilian-jazz grooves had people up and dancing by the end of her set in a very-crowded Artword Artbar. In 2014 when our (now) good friends Adrean Farrugia and Sophia Perlman performed together at the festival for the first time, and the music was so beautiful and intense you could hear everyone exhale together at the end of each song. Last year, when we had to put out all the extra seats we could find at the Pearl Company for Mike Malone-as-Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue Sextet. And waaay back in 2013, our unforgettable first-annual opening night show (and only outdoor concert!) at the Hamilton Waterfront, featuring the Jazz Connection Big Band and the best sunset we ever could have asked for (see above).

I’m confident that our fifth festival will add a few favourites to your list: Colleen Allen is going to blow you away with her four-show Artist-in-Residence series; vocalist Alex Pangman and violinist Drew Jurecka are both bringing classic swing to Artword Artbar; and I hope many of you will take advantage of our clinic/performance combo with Aubrey Dayle and his trio On Topic to connect with the musicians and learn more about their craft. Maybe the most memorable moment won’t even come at a concert, but at one of our talks, clinics or workshops happening throughout the festival. And don’t forget jazz brunch at Rust City Brewery; coffee always improves the enjoyment of jazz.

Five years is a big milestone for a small festival such as ours. I don’t want to sound too dramatic, but it’s not an over exaggeration to say that there is no guarantee each year that another Steel City Jazz Festival will happen, so making it to five years is a big deal. This festival is sustained by the enthusiasm of the Hamilton jazz community, listeners and musicians alike, who believe that live jazz is important and that a festival is a pretty fun way to make it happen! That definitely includes our sponsors, Smordin Law and NLP Canada Training, whose generosity and belief in the festival has pushed the Steel City Jazz Festival forward and given us a solid foundation for growth.

I hope that you will join us this year in not just celebrating where we’ve been but looking forward to where we’re going next. Miles Davis couldn’t sit still musically for more than five years at a time and neither should we. We are trying out some new things this year: we’re back to a one-weekend format with a packed line-up, we’re hosting our first show at Mills Hardware, and we’re featuring a much more robust Speaker Series including a panel discussion on jazz in Hamilton on October 29th. I hope you’ll let us know what you like, what we could do better, and what you’d like to see in the future. Because here’s another lesson from Miles: he couldn’t have done it alone, and neither should we. If you enjoy the Steel City Jazz Festival and want to see it succeed over the next five years and beyond, then get involved! The festival is here to serve the needs of the Hamilton jazz community, and if you’re reading this, that’s you. Help us plot the course for next year and beyond. Say hello at a show, send an email, reach out on social media. Get involved, and help make the next five years of Steel City Jazz a reality.

Chris Ferguson
Director, Steel City Jazz Festival

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