Twilight Jazz Series Lands at Corks NOTL
By David DeRocco
Jazz in the City. Jazz in the Park. Jazz on the Lake. Jazz in the Vineyards. In case you haven’t noticed, jazz music has been turning up at a lot of places and events in Niagara lately. Thanks in part to two of its biggest local proponents, jazz will now be a regular fixture in Niagara-on-the-Lake as well.
The talented husband and wife team of musicians Juliet Dunn and Peter Shea have announced the launch of a second location for their popular Twilight Jazz Series. The two founders and primary drivers of the long-running TD Niagara Jazz Festival have teamed up with NOTL’s Corks Wine Bar and Eatery, where they will be transforming the upstairs Playhouse Theatre into an intimate jazz club for bi-monthly performances.
“We perform quite a bit in Niagara-on-the-Lake ourselves but have always held the festival in St. Catharines where we live,” explains Dunn, who has curbed her busy performance and acting schedule to help direct the TD Niagara Jazz Festival as it enters its sixth year of operation. “We’ve always wanted to do a program similar to what we do at Mahtay (Café ST. Catharines) because a lot of people won’t always make the drive into St. Catharines. This is an opportunity to have a series with different artists geared more to Niagara-on-the-Lake residents.”
Now in its eighth year, the Twilight Jazz Series has provided a fabulous platform for hundreds of touring jazz musicians, including players such as Kevin Turcotte, Mike Murley, Reg Scwhager, Barbra Lica, Graham Lear, Liberty Silver and John Neudorf. However, Dunn says the biggest revelation for jazz fans is discovering the wealth of local talent to be found playing jazz right here in Niagara.
“We’re really thrilled, and a lot of people are really pleasantly surprised by it,” said Dunn in her praise of Niagara’s local jazz performers. “I’ve come across this for years, venues saying they’re going to hire a band from Toronto because it’s better. People are really starting to realize the talent here, especially through the Twilight series because we don’t have a large budget to hire big name talent. That was another reason for the expansion. Last year at Mahtay we sold out almost every show.”
Even as the festival expands into Niagara-on-the-Lake, Dunn says securing a venue like the Playhouse Theatre upstairs at Corks was critical to maintaining the intimate feel of the Twilight Jazz Series.
“We don’t really want (the series) to get to the point where we needed a bigger venue,” said Dunn, who along with her husband has been performing and curating live jazz in the region for over a decade. “There’s something really great about having 80 people at an intimate venue. Instead of getting bigger, we thought, why not have two venues. It’s really magical, and people really like hearing the stories from the artists. They’re really close to these incredibly talented people. I think people really like that.”
Inspiring more people to really like jazz – which still suffers from often misdirected stereotypes of the art form perpetuated by films like La La Land – has always been the goal of Dunn and Shea’s ongoing promotional efforts. As a result, the Twilight Jazz Series is trying to connect the dots between jazz and its musical offshoots by showcasing blues artists like Jack DeKeyser as part of the St. Catharines schedule.
“That’s what we’re trying to do, demystify the word jazz, because a lot of people do associate it with the freeform style. Really for us, jazz and blues are the roots of all music, and everything kind of branches out from there. That’s why we market it the way we do. We’re still a jazz series, but we realized people were afraid of the word jazz. So we use names like Voices In The Vines or Sax and the City because some people run away when they think it’s a jazz concert.”
Below is the full 2018 / 2019 Twilight Jazz Series line up:
Niagara-on-the-Lake Edition: CORKS Wine Bar & Eatery
November 18th: Season Launch featuring Cinnamon Jones and Band
December 16th: Hammond for the Holidays featuring Graham Lear, Randy Stirtzinger & Roy Patterson January 20th: January Blues featuring Avery Cantello Blues Band
February 17th: My Funny Valentine featuring Stu Mac Quartet
March 17th: Jazz Queens on Queen featuring Lesley-Mitchell Clarke and Ashley St. Pierre
April 21st: Dixieland Jazz featuring Dr. Jazz and the Jazzbugs
May 19th: Springtime in Paris featuring Le Trio Parisien with Juliet Dunn
June 16th: Tuba in Old Town featuring Tuba4
St. Catharines Edition: Mahtay Café
November 4th: 7 year anniversary Celebration featuring Caribbean Club Trio – SOLD OUT!
December 2nd: Winter Wonderland featuring the Sydney Bergevin Quartet
December 16th: Hammond for the Holidays featuring Graham Lear, Randy Stirtzinger & Roy Patterson
January 6th: January Blues featuring Jack de Keyzer (solo)
February 10th: Fools in Love featuring the Ilana Waldston Trio
March 3rd: Sax in the City featuring the Glendon Smith Quartet
April 7th: Shea D does Sade featuring the Shea D Duo (Peter Shea and Juliet Dunn)
May 5th: Pat Metheny Tribute featuring the Nathan Hiltz Quartet
June 2nd: Acoustic Bob Marley Tribute featuring the James Bryan Duo