23 April 2015

JAZZ ON THE MOUNTAIN (at Blue) thrives since Whistler

Remember Jazz on the Mountain at Whistler?  2011, Labor Day Weekend, founder, producer, and diehard jazz fan Arnold Schwisberg premiered his dream of a festival with guitarists Kevin Eubanks (artist-in-residence), Stanley Jordan, and The Rippingtons’ Russ Freeman, vibist Gary Burton, Spryo Gyra, and a host of local stars, including Juno-nominated Julie Crochetiere. Schwisberg planned out elaborate outdoor concerts capitalizing on the world-class ski mountain resort of Whistler, also host of the 2010 Winter Olympics. There were master classes and after-hours jams, too, which brought the jazz, funk, R&B, and pop stars together with their fans.

After nothing happened the following Labor Day Weekend, fans wondered if Jazz on the Mountain had quietly passed away. Well, Schwisberg moved the entire festival east, to Ontario and another major alpine ski resort at Blue Mountain Village and Resort, and debuted another inaugural incarnation of this festival, July 5-7, 2013, which proved so successful that he did it again in 2014.

Looks like Jazz on the Mountain at Blue’s found its niche, settling into a nice, long haul the first weekend of July. Get ready for an exciting third year of jazz and fusion with some of the most original and phenomenal artists this side of America and beyond, July 3-5.

Earlier today, Jazz on the Mountain at Blue announced this year’s three very different but very entertaining mainstage artists: a young, brilliant fusion vocalist named Nikki Yanofsky, the acapella group Naturally 7, and Ontario’s answer to Chicago, Brass Transit.

Yanofsky, 21, may be Canada’s own, but her voice is internationally revered. She can tuck in between the fine lines of jazz and pop, funk and that timeless quality to every song in existence. Live, she’s on fire, able to scat with the best of the vets, while bringing in a new melodic sensibility to familiar chart-toppers people think they know so well. This chick can sing anything you give her. When she was only 12, she played the Montreal International Jazz Festival like a seasoned diva, owning that stage — for the history books.

Photo courtesy of Nikki Yanofsky and Jazz on the Mountain at Blue

Her 2013 Montreal concert with a full, swinging band put a checkmark on her own glorious, mind-blowing songbook: Jimi Hendrix’s “The Wind Cries Mary,” that hippie anthem “Ooh Child,” a jazzy nursery rhyme “Old Macdonald Had A Farm,” Joni Mitchell’s “The Circle Game,” Gershwin’s “I Got Rhythm,” an unbelievable rendition of Stevie Wonder’s angular “Love’s In Need Of Love Today” and her own magnificent treasures — she is an exceptional pop queen — comparative to a Phoebe Snow retro-vibe (“New To Me”).

As a neat touch back to the first Jazz on the Mountain festival in Whistler, Yanofsky sang the Canadian Winter Olympic Anthem, “I Believe,” at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics. That was a song which went platinum five times over digitally by April 2010. Ever since, everything she’s touched has turned to gold, up to and including her second major record, Little Secret, released last year, produced by Quincy Jones.

She opens Jazz on the Mountain at Blue Friday, July 3, after her opening act, Countermeasure.

In the past, Jazz on the Mountain at Blue welcomed such artists as Jeff Lorber Fusion and the Yellowjackets, the Commodores, Swing Out Sister, and Holly Cole.
Carol Banks Weber