All Canadian Jazz Festival  ~ Port Hope

m.e. weigel

Ontario Festival Nomad Correspondent ~ m.e. weigel

Immediately I knew that this was going to be a special day at the twelfth annual All-Canadian Port Hope Jazz Festival. I made my way into the covered tent with my posse of jazz enthusiast and picked a seat -- centre tent.  As Club Django started to perform the projected logo on the tent ceiling started to shake as if it was dancing. Okay, maybe someone bumped the projector, but I like to think that the logo just couldn’t help but dance to the sounds of the gypsy jazz.

Port Hope’s all-Canadian jazz festival is a showcase of established and upcoming jazz artists set in Port Hope’s Memorial Park from September 20 – 22.  Friday night delivered a free performance followed by a full schedule on Saturday and on Sunday.  This year’s host Heather Bambrick, jazz vocalist and host of JazzFM91 radio, provided the audience with performer introductions and had us chuckling with her witty anecdotes.

On Saturday afternoon, Club Django Sextet started the day off with their magical gypsy jazz sounds and performed some well-known foot-tapping songs such as, Ammunition, Swing 31 and Honey Suckle Rose. Next, Alex Pangman, delivered a swinging performance with her renditions of some jazz classics. Mike Murley’s Septet performance was well executed as heard in his rendition of Johnny Has Gone for a Soldier. In addition, Tara Davidson’s clarinet solos were fantastic.

I enjoyed the TD Canada Trust Young Jazz Showcase that introduced us to some of the new kids on the block. These high-school musicians, led by Denny Christianson of Humber College, performed a tight and entertaining set. As a special treat, twelve-year-old Olivia Rapos from Warkworth sang Birdland with the maturity of a seasoned songstress. The crowd adored her!

The afternoon set finished with a very special performance featuring distinctive arrangements of some of John Lennon’s songs, by Michael Occhipinti. He was joined by Elizabeth Shepherd, Yvette Tollar, Dominic Mancuso, Mark Kelso (drums) on vocals.

The merchandise tent was quite busy with browsers and hard shoppers. The festival offers an element of intimacy as each performer signed purchased copies of their CDs in the merchandise tent.  I was surprised to find another tent full of used CDs and vinyl records. There were some treasures there for only a $1! You could also find an assortment of festival souvenirs including t-shirts, hats and festival posters for sale.

In addition to all of the music, the Port Hope All Canadian Jazz Festival offers a number of food vendors. Local Port Hope Atomic coffee provided the rocket fuel that helped sustain all of the foot-tapping generated throughout all of the sets. If you were looking for something a little stronger, the wine and beer tent had you covered. The suds were flowing courtesy of local brewery The Publican House Brewery. There were also some tasty foods being served everything from sausage on a bun to an assortment of items from the food truck.

I’m looking forward to attending the 2014 series because my day was "jazztastic".