Jazz fest ‘back swinging’ in downtown Winnipeg after pandemic hiatus

After two-and-a-half years of forced hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a summer staple of downtown Winnipeg is back next week.

The Winnipeg International Jazz Festival returns June 14-19, and programs manager Zachary Rushing told Global News a comeback for the long-running event is something musicians, fans and the Jazz Winnipeg organization have all been eagerly awaiting.

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“We are so excited to be back after two-and-a-half years away from putting on the festival, and to be kicking off the summer in the Exchange here in Winnipeg,” Rushing said.

“We have a full roster, and we’re back swinging after two years.”

Read more: Juno-winning guitarist ‘always a Winnipegger at heart’

In addition to hosting international headliners like Ukrainian electro-folk band Go_A and renowned backing vocalist (The Rolling Stones, Tina Turner, Luther Vandross) Ms. Lisa Fischer, the festival is bringing back the nightly free concerts at Old Market Square in the heart of the Exchange — this year featuring an outstanding lineup of purely local talent.

The ‘best of the ‘Peg’ nights feature local stars ranging from hip hop, R&B, folk, jazz-fusion to Latin sounds, and include the likes of Super Duty Tough Work, Apollo Suns, Papa Mambo, Chuck Copenace and more.

“Old Market Square is certainly the home of our festival and has been for some time,” Rushing said. “You can catch the best of Winnipeg’s local performers on that stage this season.

“If you’re into hearing music outdoors, we are putting some music onto the group entrance patio at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights and turning it into a bit of a beer garden as well, so you’ll have an opportunity to enjoy your outdoor festivities in more than one place.”

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This year’s festival kicks off with two days of programming at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights — an unlikely venue that was a big hit with jazz fans when Jazz Winnipeg first held shows there in 2019.

Among the artists performing at the CMHR are generational piano talent Renee Rosnes, pop-jazz guitarist and vocalist Naia Izumi, and Montreal-based singer Malika Tirolien.

The Winnipeg festival also features performances at the Burton Cummings Theatre, King’s Head Pub, West End Cultural Centre, Cinematheque, and punk rock mecca the Royal Albert Arms, which will play host to smoother sounds than usual, including a CD release gig by Juno-winning Winnipeg guitarist Jocelyn Gould.

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Jazz fest ‘back swinging’ in downtown Winnipeg after pandemic hiatus

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