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Considering Jazz Festivals: Josh Grossman and Ajay Heble in Conversation

Considering Jazz Festivals: Josh Grossman and Ajay Heble in Conversation

Jazz festival programming is the subject of much discussion amongst jazz musicians and audiences - and those discussions inevitably oscillate wildly between great excitement and intense frustration. "Did you hear that Wayne Shorter is coming this year?" "Chris Boti is headlining AGAIN???" "Isn't it great that they're bringing Matthew Shipp back?" "I didn't know that Kid Rock was a jazz musician!" For every jazz stakeholder who is satisfied with a festival program, there will be at least one (and likely many more) who is displeased. But of course, pleasing or displeasing jazz fans is by no means the only concern of jazz festival Artistic Directors. As public events that attract large audiences - and significant sponsorship dollars - jazz festivals stand as key ways for jazz promoters to represent the music to the general public. Festival Artistic Directors, therefore, play a central role in constructing an acoustic and visual representation of jazz in the popular consciousness.

On Friday January 27, please join us for a roundtable discussion with Toronto Jazz Festival Artistic Director Josh Grossman and Guelph Jazz Festival Artistic Director Ajay Heble, talking about their experiences with the challenges, rewards, and responsibilities that attend to jazz festival curation. To better engage in the discussion, you might consider visiting the websites for some of the major jazz festivals in Canada and thinking about their past programs (where they are available):

Toronto Jazz Festival
Guelph Jazz Festival
Montreal Jazz Festival
Vancouver Jazz Festival
Halifax Jazz Festival

You might also read Heble's comments on the ethics of festival curation, found in the concluding chapter of Landing on the Wrong Note: Jazz, Dissonance, and Cultural Practice. New York: Routledge, 2000 (pp. 229-237). Landing on the Wrong Note is available as an e-book through the University of Guelph, University of Toronto, and York University Libraries. Hardcopies of the chapter will be available for pickup at the ICASP offices. For more information please contact Mark Laver @

Listening itself, an improvisative act engaged in by everyone, announces a practice of active engagement with the world, where we sift, interpret, store and forget, in parallel with action and fundamentally articulated with it ("Mobilitas Animi" 113).

– George E. Lewis