Category Archives: Uncategorized

Jam with us: Support the 2018 Steel City Jazz Festival

What do you love about Hamilton? We love the way Hamilton builds bridges between a rich history and a future worth living. Welcome to the 6th annual Steel City Jazz Festival. We are built on a long tradition of jazz in Hamilton and on the newest sounds from Hamilton musicians. We’re six years old; we’re here to grow; and we’re looking for people who can help us do it.

This year, we are looking forward to a festival that includes performances at Artword Artbar and The Music Hall between October 23 and October 28, 2018. We’re looking for a few sponsors who are willing to commit $1500- $2500 this year and next year to drive our growth and support our musicians. Our sponsorship package includes your name and logo in media releases, social media and on our website and on-site thank you boards. You’ll get access to the best seats at the festival. And you’ll be part of what makes Hamilton a great place for live music.

Whether you love the excitement of a big venue (you could sponsor the Music Hall series) or are committed to supporting emerging artists (we have a series for that, too), you can make a real difference to this year’s festival. We also have a family concert and workshop series for those of you who want to invest in the future of creative thinking in Hamilton.

If $1500-  $2500 doesn’t fit your budget this year, please consider another contribution. We need volunteers with expertise in management, marketing and fundraising. And we value every monetary donation that helps us put great musicians together with Hamilton audiences.

Would you like to jam with us? You might not be able to join the musicians on stage, but your sponsorship puts you right in the middle of the grooves of the past and the sound of the future. We hope you’ll make a contribution and become one of the people who make 2018 the best year yet for the Steel City Jazz Festival.

Chris Ferguson
Steel City Jazz Festival Founder & Director

Opening night is here!


2017 Smordin Law Artist-in-Residence Colleen Allen.

After nearly a year’s worth of planning, scheming, Facebook-ing, postering, emailing, worrying and listening to lots of great jazz music, it’s finally time for our fifth annual Steel City Jazz Festival! It’s so exciting to finally get to share all the great music we have in store for this week. Here’s a couple of things to keep in mind throughout the week:

  • Advance tickets are available online for all of our concerts. Online ticket sales will close at 12pm the day of each show. Tickets should also be available at the door for each show; if we sell out in advance, we will do all that we can to spread the word so that we don’t have to disappoint you when you show up!
  • If you are coming with a group and planning to buy tickets at the door, it’s recommended that you arrive early! Artword Artbar can get pretty packed (that’s part of the appeal) and it’s sometimes hard to seat groups together if you haven’t bought tickets in advance.
  • Our Speaker Series is free, and no reservations or registration is necessary. As with our ticketed events, it’s recommended you arrive early to ensure you get a spot.
  • Judith and Ron will be sure to remind everyone, but we’ll say it here too: if you park in the BMO parking lot across the street from Artword Artbar, you will very likely get a ticket. There is a public lot on Hughson behind the Cathedral, or on Mulberry just west of James N. There are also public lots on John St near Mills Hardware for our Friday night Kalabash performance.
  • People are encouraged to bring instruments to Colleen Allen’s workshop on improvisation, but you also should not feel the talk is only for musicians. If you are a non-musician looking to learn more about jazz improvisation there will be plenty to interest you at this event!

See you at the shows!

Chris Ferguson
Director, Steel City Jazz Festival

Five Years of Steel City Jazz

steel city jazz_ (19 of 63)

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

2017 Smordin Law Artist-in-Residence: Saxophonist Colleen Allen

This is a milestone year for the Steel City Jazz Festival. The festival has had many ups and the occasional down over the years but I’m glad to say the process has been filled with amazing people who share my love of jazz music. The people I’ve met through the festival over the last five years have made the many times I didn’t think we’d ever get to the five-year mark well worth it. From musicians to audience members to radio hosts, the music lovers of Hamilton are the best motivation and reward for the long hours put in promoting this little festival.

The Smordin Law Artist-in-Residence series was started with the goal of connecting those music lovers with the festival. I love the idea of the festival somehow being more than the sum of its parts, and I think the Artist-in-Residence series helps get it there. By seeing the same artist multiple times over the course of the festival, you get to know them better. The Artist-in-Residence gets to show a broader range of their work, forge relationships with other musicians and experiment with new projects.  I hope that by the end of the week the audience and the artist feel better connected to the Hamilton jazz community.

Colleen Allen, our 2017 Smordin Law Artist-in-Residence, understood immediately what we want to accomplish at the Steel City Jazz Festival, and I think she’s put together our best series yet. Colleen is a very accomplished musician: she’s a Mohawk grad (!); a multi-instrumentalist who performs on saxophone, flute, clarinet and accordion; and has played with Molly Johnson, David Clayton Thomas, Holly Cole, Emilie-Claire Barlow, Rik Emmett, Marc Jordan, Hilario Duran, The Toronto Blues Review, Andrew Craig, Jackie Richardson, Women With Horns, Cirque Du Soleil, and SoulPepper Theatre (among many others) .

Colleen will be performing four times over the course of the festival with four very different bands: Colleen opens the festival at Artbar October 24th with her quartet and vocalist Genevieve Marentette; she joins Caribbean jazz sextet Kalabash on October 27th at Mills Hardware; on the 28th she’s back at Artbar playing with the ECM-influenced Barry Livingston Group and on the 29th Colleen closes the festival with Darcy Hepner for some ‘Alto and Tenor’ Madness.

I’m so excited for this lineup. Each group is fantastic and unique. Colleen will be playing with a mix of musicians from inside and outside of Hamilton, and has been eager to get involved in the festival in every way she can. Colleen will also be kicking off our  lineup of free talks on the 28th with an Introduction to Improvisation workshop at Artword Artbar at 12pm. And I wouldn’t be surprised if she showed up at a late night jam somewhere too, so keep your ears open!

The Artist-in-Residence series has become one of my favourite parts of the festival, and it wasn’t possible until Smordin Law offered us their support three years ago. It’s not too often that someone comes along and tells you that not only do they like what you’re doing, but that they want to help you take it to the next level. Smordin Law has done exactly that and I’m so grateful to have gotten to work with them these past few years to get the festival to where it is today. They have been amazing friends, supporters and promoters of the festival and I am so happy to have them as a part of our community.

Chris Ferguson
Director, Steel City Jazz Festival

Kalabash: Caribbean Jazz October 27 at Mills Hardware

Kalabash-cropped promo photo

When I first met with our 2017 Smordin Law Artist-in-Residence, Colleen Allen, she had so many fantastic suggestions of possible groups she could put together that we could have done three festivals. I wish we could have done them all, trust me when I say you would not have gotten bored.  But the suggestion that I was most excited for was Kalabash.

Kalabash is a jazz sextet from Toronto, formed in 1993, focused on using the steel pan as a lead voice in the ensemble and dedicated to experimenting with the layering of rich jazz harmonies over the folk and popular rhythms of the Caribbean. The band is made up of Gareth Burgess on steel pans, Joaquin Nunez Hidalgo on drums, Anthony Pierre on percussion, Michael Shand on keyboards, Andrew Stewart on electric bass and Colleen on saxophone, flute and clarinet.  This is a fantastic group of musicians, and they play a style of jazz that we haven’t ever featured at the festival before. Just listen and you’ll be as convinced as I am that this is sure to be a highlight of the 2017 festival!

Another piece of exciting news for this show: it’s our first ever time hosting a show at Mills Hardware on King Street! Tickets are available now on Ticketfly for $15, or you can get tickets at the door for $20/$15 for students.


2017 Poster Design by Kareem Ferreira

One of the most exciting parts of the festival-planning process is asking an artist to create our poster design. I’m so proud of the beautiful artwork that his been created for our posters in the past, and this year is no different. I’m thrilled to reveal the poster for the 2017 Steel City Jazz Festival, created by Hamilton-based (and recently, Arizona-based) artist Kareem Ferreira:

You can see more of Kareem’s work on his Instagram. I asked Kareem to describe his work, and he had this to say:

“My painting is intended to capture mood, while evoking the similar expressions being depicted. This intention of capturing feelings and ideas has materialized into an interesting body of figurative art. I find myself breaking down expression into individual modules of the human form. Focusing on individual parts of the face and body and experimenting with the tactile nature of paint application I am capable of dissecting the translations of this message”

I had long admired Kareem’s art when I approached him about working on the poster for the festival. His portraits beautifully capture the emotion of their subjects, and the joyful expression depicted on our poster is a wonderful symbol for the fifth year of the festival.

Fifth Annual Steel City Jazz Festival Dates Announced: Oct 24-29

The Steel City Jazz Festival celebrates its fifth year this October! We’re switching back to a one-weekend format and bringing you some of our most exciting programming yet, including four shows featuring our 2017 Smordin Law Artist-in-Residence Colleen Allen. Check back soon for festival details, artist profiles and more!