Edmonton Journal


Thursday, June 22, 2006


Open your ears to language of jazz


Roger Levesque


EDMONTON - To paraphrase the pop-marketing vernacular, think local, hear global.

Just a few words of advice if you're sitting there considering what you might take in at this year's Yardbird Jazz Festival.

Go out and grab a program to peruse all the options, some 65 shows featuring nearly 200 musicians from Canada, Europe, Cuba, Australia and the U.S., at 11 venues from Friday through July 2.

Think local. While Edmonton's jazz festivals have been in a state of flux for the past couple of years, there has never been a better reason to go out and support -- and enjoy -- what's going on.

Now in its second year, this little festival is more of a grassroots development than you're likely to find elsewhere, organized and produced largely by volunteers, with a fresh focus on the gifted jazz talents we have right here at home.

Hear global. The hometown focus by no means limits the great acts from elsewhere. Yardbird2 is about as eclectic as any jazz fest in memory, from Dixieland to big band, straight ahead and fusion, from the avant-garde to ambient noodling to musique actuel, jazz crooners and jazz scatters, with Latin grooves and electronica for good measure.

All this is to say that jazz has grown far beyond its New Orleans roots to become a contemporary, international language. The fun part comes in opening your ears to interpret it.

For the four co-producers -- Adrian Albert, Don Berner, Jasiek Poznanski and Kent Sangster -- it's about love for music, but it's also about getting butts in seats. Edmonton Jazz Society president Poznanski feels the artistic scope of this year's festival should attract fans easily enough.

"In picking from the pool of artists that were available I think we found a variety of acts with wide appeal, starting with two of our biggest shows, Paquito D'Rivera, a stellar Latin musician, and Mike Stern, a fusion guitarist who has real popularity up here."

He explains that touring grants for Canadian artists and some European acts enabled them to book more of those acts, but acknowledges that "you still have to appeal to a large range of tastes."

If the Yardbird fest runs on a smaller scale than some jazz festivals, then it might also be a scale the average person can relate too.

"Starting with a budget of around $250,000 we were able to present roughly 60 events and schedule them in such a way that if you want to see more than one show a night you can and you'll be able to see the whole show with only a little overlap."

Ticket sales are critical, but only to a point, he adds.

"That's our only source of revenue, but like last year we've budgeted to break even with very few sales. Of course, we want to make a profit to build up seed money for the next festival too."

Look for programs around town or check www.yardbirdsuite.com for details. Tickets for most events are available from Ticketmaster (451-8000), except for four shows in The Citadel Maclab Theatre (try their box office at 425-1820).

 The Edmonton Journal 2006

From left, Adrian Albert, Don Berner and Jasiek Poznanski are three of the four co-producers of the Yardbird Jazz Festival, which starts Friday.

Photograph by : Greg Southam, The Journal