The jazz festival returns with a solid line-up featuring renowned Ukrainian artists

Two global events have made the Winnipeg International Jazz Festival more than a musical celebration.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused the jazz festival’s volume to drop to zero for nearly three years, and its effects on the event – not to mention Winnipeg’s summer festival season – will continue to be felt when musicians from around the world will kick off the event Tuesday night at the Canadian Museum of Human Rights.

The festival addresses the second world crisis – Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – by inviting two Ukrainian performers who will prove that Ukrainian culture survives and progresses despite Russian artillery shells and missiles razing cities and killing civilians.

“It was very timely to link this to human rights issues and our opening nights (at the museum), which are also very deliberate,” said Angela Heck, Jazz Winnipeg’s general manager. “The Ukrainian connection is strong for obvious reasons and that’s what we’re going to present.”

One of the performers on opening night is Ukrainian saxophonist Bogdan Gumenyuk, who takes the stage at the museum’s seventh-floor theater on Tuesday at 8:45 p.m.

While he comes from the small town of Berdichev, about 180 kilometers west of Kyiv, and spent many years living and studying music in the Ukrainian capital, his studies at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, where he won a Fulbright scholarship, and at McGill University in Montreal, as well as years of performances in North America and Europe prove that his jazz knows no boundaries.

He switched from classical saxophone to jazz saxophone after hearing Kenny Garrett’s 1999 album, Simply said.

“I was drawn to his music and through Kenny Garrett I discovered Coltrane and Charlie Parker and Coleman Hawkins and went back to where jazz started and started to discover all saxophonists and musicians in general” , he said. “I went to see a few teachers and that was it for me. I was fired up by that music and still am.”

Ukrainian saxophonist Bogdan Gumenyuk will take the stage at the CMHR on Tuesday. (Provided)

He has lived in Montreal for the past few years and recently performed a few concerts in Quebec to raise funds for the Ukrainian World Congress relief efforts. He says people have been amazing with their support and donations, but he fears it’s not enough.

“I feel like everyone is praying for us, people who believe in God, people who don’t believe in God, everyone is thinking of us, and I wish western governments that talk about freedom would do more “, he says.

“It’s important to help refugees, but if we don’t stop this evil, there will be more and more refugees, not just from Ukraine but from all over Eastern Europe.”

Playing music helps divert his attention and worries for his family and friends in Ukraine for a while, but he is also concerned about the music scene in his native country. Jazz and other genres were growing so rapidly in Kyiv, Lviv and other Ukrainian cities before the invasion, it led him to start a record company, Label Who Able, which produced about five records per year. year of Ukrainian artists since 2017.

“To be honest, it is very difficult to explain and describe what it feels like when your country is invaded and there is a full-scale war that you have only heard about (before) from your grandparents,” he said. “I hope one day I will continue what I was doing in Kyiv.”

Also on Tuesday, local jazz singer Rosemarie Todaschuk, who during the winter holidays sings Ukrainian Christmas carols, is among seven artists who will perform at a terrace next to the MCDP, which will also host jazz performances on Wednesdays. and Friday nights as well as lunchtime shows. .

Three days later, Friday night at the Burton Cummings Theatre, the jazz festival doubles as Ukrainian and Ukrainian-Canadian artists with a quickly organized flagship concert.

Go_A, a band whose mix of folklore and electronic beats landed them fifth place in the Eurovision Song Contest 2021, headline Balaklava Blues, the Toronto-based EDM duo of Ukrainian-Canadians Mark and Marichka Marczyk.

“With Go_A, it really was an opportunity we couldn’t pass up. Who doesn’t love the Eurovision Song Contest,” Heck said. “They are extremely appealing to a younger demographic. Anyone on TikTok has heard their song SHUM and they are a truly spectacular visual performance group.”

Lisa Fischer plays the CMHR on Wednesday.  (Provided)

Lisa Fischer plays the CMHR on Wednesday. (Provided)

Main Stage Artists Tuesday and Wednesday nights at the CMHR — René Marie and the Melissa Aldana Quartet on Tuesdays; Renee Rosnes and Lisa Fischer Wednesday — part of Jazz Winnipeg’s commitment to gender parity among its performers.

Jazz has long been a male preserve, but things have changed at Jazz Festival 2022. Whether it’s the two opening nights at the Human Rights Museum, club performances at the Royal Albert Arms or the King’s Head Pub or its free evening concert series in the Old Market Square which runs from Thursday to Sunday, there will be more women performing during the event than men, Heck says.

Jocelyn Gould, the Juno-winning guitarist who grew up in Winnipeg and is releasing her new album, golden hourSunday at 7:30 p.m. at the Royal Albert Arms, welcomes the greater space given to female artists.

“I think it’s great, it’s time to be honest,” she said. “I think it’s going to be an amazing festival with amazing music and music is always better when it properly represents the people. The more inclusive festivals can be, the more gender inclusive they are, the more gender inclusive they are. race, you can only win.”

The six-day event will also be a starting point for artists returning to the festival circuit in Canada. Gould, for example, has 12 festival dates on its summer itinerary.

For Toronto percussionist Ernesto Cervini, who leads his Tetrahedron concept Tuesday at 10:30 p.m. on a stage in the museum’s Stuart Clark Garden of Contemplation, seeing live audiences dig into the music again will be a welcome change from solitary songwriting sessions, Zoom meetings with bandmates and students and hours of uncertainty.

“The last gig I played before it all stopped was the CD release of this album,” Cervini said of Tetrahedron. “I’m so thrilled that all of these festivals are still here and nothing catastrophic has happened.

“I know everyone can’t wait to get back to it. Around Toronto, around Ontario and in Europe this year, I’ve noticed there’s a strong appetite for live music.”

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Twitter: @AlanDSmall

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Alain Petit

Alain Petit

Alan Small has been a Free Press reporter for over 22 years in a variety of roles, most recently as a reporter in the Arts and Life section.

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