Grammy-nominated vocalist Sara Gazarek heads the list of performers at this month’s Brandon University (BU) Jazz Festival.
Gazarek, who is based on Los Angeles, was nominated for two Grammys for her 2019 album Thirsty Ghost, and earned a third nomination in 2021, as part of the vocal quartet säje, for their debut single. Her latest EP, Vanity, was released in October 2022.
The BU Jazz Festival will take place from March 16 to 18 at the School of Music and the Western Manitoba Centennial Auditorium. Along with workshops and adjudication for school-aged musicians, the festival will feature two concerts nightly on Thursday, March 16 and Friday, March 17, with shows starting at 6:30 and 9 p.m. Tickets to the concerts are available at WMCA.ca/Bjazz2023.
In daytime performances, school jazz bands from around Manitoba will perform. See Melita School Jazz Band on Thursday at the Evans Theatre at 5:30 p.m. On Saturday, Virden's School Jazz Band performs in the Kinsmen Rehearsal Hall. With vocal and instrumental jazz there will be about 90 performances in all. Workshops on everything from breathing to songwriting to rhythm take place Thursday and Friday.
Gazarek will be joined at the BU Jazz Festival by several Canadian jazz luminaries, including Luis Deniz and Rachel Therrien, who were nominees for this year’s Juno awards. Deniz (saxophone) is up for Jazz Album of the Year: Solo for his work, El Tinajòn, while Therrien (trumpet) is part of the Ostara Project, which has been nominated for Vocal Jazz Album of the Year.
Other guest performers will include another past Juno nominee in Erin Propp (voice), as well as Karly Epp (voice), Kelsley Grant (trombone), and Claire Devlin (saxophone). They will share the stage with the Brandon University Big Band, under the direction of Diogo Peixoto and Greg Gatien.
Longtime followers of the Brandon Jazz Festival know to expect energetic and engaging concerts filled with crowd-pleasing numbers, and this year’s event will be no exception. The performances will cover a wide variety of jazz and contemporary popular music, including works by celebrated musicians and composers such as Thad Jones, the Count Basie Orchestra, Maria Schneider, Christine Jensen, Joni Mitchell and Brian Wilson.
“This is the first jazz festival in Brandon since 2019 and we’re thrilled to have such a star-studded lineup of guest performers joining us,” said Gatien, BU’s Dean of Music. “The students who attend the jazz festival gain so much knowledge and inspiration from our guest performers. And since the performances are open to everyone, it gives music lovers throughout our community a chance to hear incredible world-class jazz musicians right here at home.”
The School of Music at BU has taken over operations of the event from the former Brandon Jazz Festival, which has been an annual tradition in the city from its founding in 1983 until it was suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic until 2020. Thousands of participants attend each year from schools in Manitoba, surrounding provinces and the United States.
“Our committee has been working tirelessly to put together a first-class festival,” Gatien said. “With the amazing musicians we have coming, along with the dedicated and enthusiastic music educators and students who are at the root of why we do this, it’s going to be a memorable weekend.”
Learn more about the BU Jazz Festival by visiting BUJazzFest.ca.