When Eric Allison and Cheryl Fisher decided to bring to life a vision of having a jazz festival in Sylvan Lake several years ago, they had no guarantee the idea would fly, but they decided to take a leap of faith, anyway.
“It was Cheryl’s idea, actually,” said Allison. “And one day we were sitting around having Caesars at Pete’s on the Beach with Matt Toonders and Al Fisher talking about it and before we knew it, it snowballed. It simply took on a life of its own.”
This year, the 10th anniversary of the Jazz at the Lake Festival, is living proof that the idea, which started small, has turned into an annual event that rocks Sylvan Lake to its very musical core, bringing back the best of the best and highlighting an impressive array of today’s great jazz musicians.
This year promises to be the best festival ever.
“I know I always say that,” said Allison, “but there is no question that this 10th anniversary will be the biggest and the best ever.”
Fittingly, The Best of 10 is the theme of this year’s festival to be held Aug. 16 to 19.
The jazz festival, which takes people back to the days of Varsity Hall, when the music of the big bands was as intoxicating as the summer air, itself, has a star studded list of performers.
Big name in the music industry, Tommy Banks, who was a teenager himself, when Varsity Hall was in its heyday, will headline Friday evening performance as will Cheryl Fisher, Eric Allison and John Stowell.
The musicians are to perform at the Alliance Community Church on 47th Avenue and, no doubt, it will be a performance well worth attending.
Cheryl Fisher, co-organizer of the festival, has been hailed by the Montreal Jazz Festival as one of the greatest female singers in the history of Canadian jazz. She has recorded five CDs and continues to receive glowing reviews for her live performances and recordings.
Eric Allison has been a full-time working professional musician for more than 30 years, playing alto and tenor saxophone, flute and clarinet. He has recorded three CDs under his own name and has worked with a litany of jazz greats.
John Stowell, an international recording artist and teacher has been Artist-In-Residence at schools in Germany, Indonesia, Argentina as well as the United States and Canada.
Johnny Summers Little Big Band will kick start the festival at the Royal Canadian Legion on Thursday, and Friday afternoon will feature the H. O.T. Dixieland Jazz Band at the Sylvan lake Lodge and at the Farmers Market.
Saturday’s performances include H.O.T. Dixieland Jazz Band at the Lions Legacy Park Gazebo and, beginning at 1 p.m. Donald Ray Johnson’s 10-piece band will perform at the Legion.
An outdoor concert will be held at the Lions Legacy Park Gazebo from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday featuring RDC Jazz Ensemble & RDC Faculty Jazz Quintet.
Guitarist John Stowell will hold a workshop later that afternoon at the Lions Hall.
Evening entertainment will feature Alberta jazz all-stars Michael Kaeshammer and his Trio at the Alliance Community Church and The Polyjesters will perform at the Lions Hall beginning at 10 p.m.
On Sunday Jazz Explosion & Flat Iron Jazz will perform at an outdoor concert from 2 to 4 p.m.
This year the jazz pub crawl will occur at 10 venues throughout Sylvan Lake.
The crawl will begin at 11:30 a.m. and continue until 6 p.m. Well known jazz artist Jim Guloien will be one of the featured entertainers.
A farewell jam session with Tim Tamashiro and his quartet featured will be held at Meadowlands Golf Club. The evening will conclude with fireworks.
Allison gives tribute not only to the great musicians who will grace this year’s festival, but to the sponsors and huge contingent of volunteers including festival manager Kathy Bradshaw.