Message from the Artistic Director

Welcome to the 21st edition of The Guelph Jazz Festival!

This year marks the birth, or (more appropriately) the arrival, centenary of the pioneering jazz artist Sun Ra on planet Earth. In honour of this occasion, we’re delighted to feature (all the way from Saturn) the Sun Ra Arkestra, under the direction of Marshall Allen, in a collaborative performance, Hymn to the Universe, with the renowned Canadian dance company Coleman Lemieux & Compagnie. Throughout his time on this planet, Ra insisted that he was—well, yes—from another planet, that he hailed from—well, yes—outer space. But it’s precisely Ra’s out-ness (and he may well be the most out-cat in the history of the music) that commands our respectful attention. As artistic director of a festival dedicated to presenting some of the most “out” jazz on the planet, I’ve learned from Ra’s example. I’ve learned that other futures, futures not confined to scripted or predefined ways of knowing or doing, are possible: who, after all, would have imagined 21 years ago that a small and unassuming university town in Southern Ontario would become known as a must-go “out jazz” destination for musicians and audiences from around the world?

It is also a great honour for us to host a rare appearance by the legendary Milford Graves (he, too, performed with Sun Ra), who comes to Guelph this year with pianist D.D. Jackson and New Orleans saxophonist Kidd Jordan. And returning to our Festival after many years is another giant of the music, Randy Weston. Indeed, many of the artists you’ll hear have contributed to (or been inspired by) sono-futurist movements in the historical narrative of jazz and improvised music.

There’s lots more to tell, of course: artists making first-time appearances at the Festival, world premieres, a new youth stage, 80th birthday celebrations, a fabulous program at Market Square, and our one-of-a-kind colloquium (called “the gem” of the Festival by many of our attendees).

Thanks so much for continuing to spread the good word about jazz in Guelph. It means a lot to us. I look forward to seeing you at the Festival.

Ajay Heble
Artistic Director

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