From July 12th to 16th, the city of Halifax was buzzing with the sounds of jazz – and much, much more. TD’s 31st annual Halifax Jazz Festival attracted music lovers of all genres to a week of concerts and workshops across the city. Local musical favourites such as The Brood and Gypsophilia were joined by internationally acclaimed names like Blue Rodeo, Ron Sexsmith, and Anderson. Paak. With 17 venues and more than 50 artists performing over 6 days, the festival was a massive hit.
The week of main-stage acts started off on Wednesday with reggae superstars Jo Mersa Marley and Jesse Royal. Together, their lyrical genius and infectious beats set the tone for a week of incredible music. Wednesday also marked the start of the week’s free daytime concerts. Son Latino, whose band-members hail from all over the globe, started the concerts off and had the crowd dancing blissfully to the beat of its unique, Latin American-inspired sounds.
This year’s festival found the sweet spot along an incredible spectrum of artists from near and far. Blending local talent with world-renowned names made for a unique experience of not only community celebration, but also of big concert wonders. Gracing stages across the city were Halifax heroes such as the Willem Paynter Trio, Roxy and The Underground Soul Sound, Blue Spirits, and so many more.
Local artists also made our province proud by joining some big names on stage. On Saturday night, opening for Anderson Paak, North Preston native Reeny Smith wowed the crowd with her talent and charisma. Blossoming from her gospel roots, Reeny’s soulful R&B songs set the stage for an incredible performance by Paak, whose contagious electricity ignited an already energized crowd. On Thursday, Halifax’s own Alana Yorke received the warmest of welcomes as a surprise guest during Bria Skonberg’s incredible performance.
Further entrenching a rich sense of community, the festival also provided various workshops for kids and adults alike. Splash! Bang! Boom!, a music workshop for kids, took place on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday on Halifax’s very own Theodore Tugboat. Prolific jazz drummer Jerry Granelli spearheaded an 8-day workshop for creative minds of all skill levels. Musicians, dancers, and artists came together to learn new techniques and broaden their skills, sharing their hard work with various performances throughout the week .
One of the city’s most well-known local bands, Gypsophilia, ended their final tour as a group by closing out the festival on Sunday night. Having played their first ever live performance at the Halifax Jazz Festival in 2004, it only seemed fitting to tie up their 13 years as a band at the festival this year. Joining them on stage was another Halifax favourite, the Mellotones in an energetic celebration of their 20th anniversary.
In addition to showcasing the city’s incredible local talent, the Jazz Festival also attracted a breadth of big names from far and wide. On Friday, Andy Shauf took listeners on a perfectly crafted journey of sounds and sights in a performance of his debut album The Party at St. Matthew’s Church. Continuing the night of incredible music, singer-songwriter Ron Sexsmith started the night off right as the opener for Blue Rodeo at the main stage. Sexmith’s swooning sounds pleased an energetic crowd in a perfect lead-up to Blue Rodeo’s classic country rock tunes.
On Saturday night, Anderson Paak’s performance was one for the books. Paak himself seemed blown away by the crowd, taking a moment to step back and smile at his first ever Halifax welcome. Listeners danced and jumped and sang along with the talented musician every step of the way. For many, it was a night to remember.
With concerts across the city, the festival had a little something for everyone. Free daytime concerts, jazz labs, and late night shows afforded wide listening options, along with an entire day of free events on Sunday. By spanning outside of the downtown core, venues in Lower Sackville, the North End, Cherrybrook, and Bedford provided an even broader reach for listeners. A welcome addition to this year’s venues was the Carleton Groove Stage, which showcased funk, soul, and groove nightly. And if that wasn’t enough for eager fans, the night continued on with The Carleton’s late night stage.
In the end, the TD Halifax Jazz Festival took attendees on an spectacular musical journey of jazz, R&B, soul, funk, hip hop, and so much more. Within the city and beyond, music lovers of all ages had plenty to keep them busy day and night from July 11th to 16th, and left the streets abuzz with the beautiful tones of talented musicians from across the globe. After 31 years, the Halifax Jazz Festival still never fails to impress.
Supporters of The East’s Patreon can see even more photos. Sign up for more!