The 23rd annual Barrie Jazz and Blues Festival celebrates the contribution and influence artists have made to music.

All of the festival favourites remain for the 12-day event from the “Out To Lunch” concert series to the piano student recitals, The Urban Village Concerts, The First Peoples Concert Series, Yamaha Piano Concerts, and The Centre Stage concerts as well as many of the venues, bars, restaurants and libraries across Simcoe County. More than 100 musicians will be traveling here from near and far to play at various spots throughout greater Simcoe County including, a new venue this year, the Leacock Museum in Orillia.

Some of the musicians bring different projects to the table – their own music as well as new programs and album retrospectives. The Yamaha Piano Concerts series at the City Hall Rotunda explores the relationship between great jazz composers and the early 20th-century western European composers. Pianist Matt Herskowitz sums it up with “Ravelation” on June 15.

“These are big projects for these artists – but to their marvellous credit they love to do it,” said festival organizer Robin Munro. “This jazz is potent enough and sophisticated enough that it became attracted to western European composers to dabble in – to (bring) jazz ideas into their orchestral works. It’s glossed over – very few people know this.”

Fern Lindzon, a multi-faceted pianist/vocalist/composer and Juno Award nominee, illustrates it in a “Giants of Jazz” Concert on June 8. Lindzon and her quartet are slated to perform two Ellington/Strayhorn suites which have been re-scaled for a small ensemble.

When Duke Ellington became intrigued with the possibilities of jazz within classical forms during the 1930s, he and collaborator Billy Strayhorn began composing and orchestrating large-scale works for his orchestra.  Their interpretations of The Nutcracker Suite and the Symphonic Ellington album are the two suites that will be featured in Barrie.  A post-post-performance talk-back with the artists follows.

Four albums produced in 1959 by four different artists changed jazz music in ways that can still be felt today. The Mark Eisenman Quartet will be presenting selections from each record on June 9.

The Bernie Senensky Trio presents a concert of Oscar Peterson music June 14. Additional festival highlights include Jason Raso Funktet’s retrospective of Herbie Hancock’s Head Hunters album, reputed to be one of the best-selling jazz albums of all time; singer Tia Brazda showcasing Billie Holiday’s music; and Wild “T” & The Spirit with special guest Pat Rush taking on the blues with the Best of Johnny Winter album. Rush toured and recorded with Winter in the ‘80s.

The Barrie Jazz and Blues Festival runs from June 7-18 throughout Barrie and beyond. Visit for a complete list of who plays where.

Photo: Multi-faceted pianist/vocalist Fern Lindzon performs at the Barrie Jazz and Blues Festival June 8.

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