The next generation of jazz is in great hands. The inaugural Jazz for the Ages event hosted by the TD Niagara Jazz Festival turned out a significant number of young soloists, singers and bands with an interest in, and talent for, jazz. And the results have left Festival organizers excited at what the Next Big Thing may bring.
“Part of our mandate is to keep this great art form alive and it is a pleasure to see that we're not alone in sharing that vision,” says Peter Shea, Artistic Director and Co-Creator of the Jazz Festival. “It heartwarming to see the next generation is picking up the torch and is really into jazz.”
Finalists for the Jazz for the Ages youth competition were selected from YouTube submissions for a live audition in late May at Laura Secord Secondary School in St. Catharines.
From those performances, four winners have been chosen:
• Age 12 and Under Soloist – James Dunbar
A Toronto native, James began gigging regularly at the age of 8. For three years he performed at his local Loblaws, where he played boogie, blues and original Jazz compositions to the delight (and chagrin!) of many a shopper.
It was while playing there that jazz singer Ori Dagan discovered James and booked him to play at the 120 Diner in downtown Toronto. That show led directly to James’ “Hump Day Blues” residency at Toronto’s Jazz Bistro, where he has played 15 shows and counting.
In a fitting concurrence with groceries, James recently won $20,000 from 2015 Kellogg’s Nominate Talent Contest.
• Age 13-17 Soloist — Avery Raquel
Performing since the age of 4, Avery Raquel is an aspiring “triple threat” performer. Although she has several film, TV, commercial and stage acting credits to her name, Avery’s real passion is singing, and now at the age of 14 her captivating jazz performances are winning awards.
The Brantford native has performed in jazz clubs from New York City to Toronto and in jazz festivals across Ontario, sharing the stage with excellent jazz acts such as June Garber, Lou Pomanti and the Dave Restivo Trio. Her debut album, Life Lessons, was released earlier this year amid critical acclaim and has been nominated for Jazz Recording of the Year at the 2016 Hamilton Music Awards.
• Age 13-17 Band — Holy Cross Jazz Ensemble
The Holy Cross Catholic Secondary School Jazz ensemble can be found all across Niagara performing for a variety of community functions — and they are most certainly ever-present at their St. Catharines school.
This dynamic group of students ranging from 15 to 17 years old was selected for the band based on their work ethic, talent and commitment to music.
• Age 18-23 Band — Razzmatazz
A Niagara Falls-based musical collective consisting of a strong sense of groove, captivating arrangements — and a bearded bassist. Razzmatazz the band is made up of Roland on keys, Marc on drums and the aforementioned bearded Nick on bass.
“We are so thrilled to integrate the youth into our Jazz Festival this year and are absolutely amazed at the young talent that is out there,” says Juliet Dunn, Executive Director and Co-Creator of the Jazz Festival.
The winners of Jazz for the Ages, along with some of the runners up, will be performing a free show at the outset of this year’s TD Niagara Jazz Festival at the Market Square in downtown St. Catharines on Friday, July 29th. The show is slated to start at 7 pm.