by Ryan Haughey
2019 marks the 30th birthday of the Winnipeg Jazz Festival and this year has some exciting new events. Mike Falk, Jazz Winnipeg’s artistic director has been hard at work overseeing the production of the festival from the PA systems to the port-o-pottys and all points in-between.
Falk says the biggest new thing this year is the kickoff event at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. “It’s a floor-to-ceiling immersive concert experience where we’re programming five performance spaces inside the museum, plus some pop-up spaces outside the museum,” Falk says. “All in all there are going to be over fifteen performances plus some artist talks.”
Three of the Jazz Festival’s headliners are performing at the CMHR venue: Bryan Blade, Joshua Redman, and Cécile McLorin Salvant.
Another new venue debuting this year is called Raw Jazz Fest, a pop-up venue located in St. Boniface that is being built by the folks who designed and built the Raw Almond River Restaurant. “A lot of thought has gone into the acoustic design of the space,” Falk says. “(They’re) trying to incorporate acoustic design principles from recording studios and put them into – not just a music venue – but a pop-up music venue that’ll only exist for a week.”
Falk says that artists who played at the first Winnipeg Jazz Festival 30 years ago will be playing this year. Over the past 30 years Jazz Winnipeg has remained a consistent force in Winnipeg music, putting on plenty of shows throughout the off-season and keeping Winnipegers’ appetites for jazz satiated.
Falk gives a lot of credit to the current and past boards and staff of Jazz Winnipeg for its success. “While I’m still fairly new in this role in the organization, there’s been a strong team for so many years, people who’ve worked really hard and have been willing to do the hustle that’s needed to make sure that the festival happens to the calibre and extent that everyone has wanted,” he says.
“The staff and board have also historically done a great job of programming a festival that appeals to a broad section of Winnipegers. Our tent is pretty broad, and I want as many people to see themselves in the festival,” Falk says. “That’s something that’s been important to me, making sure that we’re reaching as many people as possible while still remaining true to the artistic vision and the vibe of the festival.”
Falk says that Jazz Winnipeg’s goal is to make sure that those who attend the festival have an amazing experience and keep coming back for more.