The Juno Award-winning Oliver Jones Trio will headline this year’s Jazz at the Lake Festival, which runs Aug. 13 to 16 in Sylvan Lake.
Organizers are thrilled to reel in such a big fish. “It’s a real coup for us,” said festival spokesman Eric Allison, who believes applying the term legendary to Jones would not be an exaggeration.
The jazz pianist from Montreal, who will perform on Friday and Saturday, is considered one of the country’s most distinguished musicians. Among his many awards are the Martin Luther King Jr. Award for Excellence in Music. He was appointed an officer of the Order of Canada and a Chevalier de l’Ordre national du Québec.
Jones studied piano with Daisy Peterson and her celebrated brother, world-renowned pianist Oscar Peterson, became a mentor to him, said Allison.
By age 17, Jones was playing in clubs and hotels around the city — then he took a two-decade detour.
Jones became music director and pianist for Jamaican calypso singer Kenny Hamilton for 20 years, before determining in 1980 to start playing jazz professionally. He promptly landed a job at the famed club Biddle’s and soon recorded an album called Live at Biddle’s. It was the first of a dozen he released over 15 years. Jones’s latest recording, One More Time, was released in June 2006.
Allison said he was introduced to the pianist, who won critical praise for his own compositions as well as jazz standards, last winter in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
“One of our friends from Montreal said, ‘You’ll never guess who’s living down here,’” recalled Allison.
Through this friend, he arranged to have lunch with Jones and found him to be “not only a superb musician, but also one of the finest gentlemen I’ve ever met.”
The semi-retired pianist only performs about 20 concerts a year, so Allison is thrilled Jones is making Jazz At The Lake Festival one of them.
Tickets to his 8 p.m. concert Friday at the Stevenson Performing Arts Centre at H.J. Cody School are $25. But Jones will also be conducting a free jazz workshop on Saturday from 4 to 5:30 p.m. at the same location.
He will also play with woodwind player Allison on Saturday. The two musicians will be part of a quartet backing Sylvan Lake singer Cheryl Fisher at her CD release party at 8 p.m., again at the Stevenson Performing Arts Centre. Tickets are $30.
Other ticketed events at the festival are a Swing Dance at 8 p.m. on Thursday, with the Johnny Summers Little Big Band from Calgary. It’s at the Sylvan Lake Golf and Country Club and tickets are $15.
Bill Dowey and the Blues Devils from Calgary are hosting a Blues Bash from 1 to 4 p.m. on Saturday at the Lions Hall at 50A Avenue and 51A Street. Tickets are $15.
Tickets to all four events are available online at www.jazzatthelake.com or from the Sylvan Lake Tourist Information Centre at 4719 50th Ave.
The rest of the festival events are free, including a farewell jam session at the Sylvan Lake Golf and country Club, from 7 to 10 p.m. on Sunday (reservations are needed for this event by calling 403-864-1887). There are various outdoor concerts, picnic concerts, kids’ concert, and a pub crawl. For times and more information about bands, go online to www.jazzatthelake.com