Having an outdoor component to the Townsite Jazz Festival was always part of the plan for organizers; it just took until the event’s second year to fully materialize.
“Last year during our multi-concert open afternoon, the Ash Avenue Amble, we tested the waters by closing down the entire block and inviting a couple of vendors just to direct attendees to the various indoor venues,” said communications director Andy Rice. “What began as basically a safety measure for our outdoor concierge team and all the kids running around soon grew into an idea for a mainstage somewhere on the block.”
At first, rooftops were discussed, as were parking lots and flatbed trailers. But one afternoon after having a pint at Townsite Brewing, Rice and artistic director Paul Cummings crossed the street and happened to spot a covered alcove on the northeast corner of the Townsite Market building.
“We both kind of looked at each other and immediately began pacing out the dimensions of the space and imagining all the possibilities,” said Rice. “It’s going to be perfect.”
The 2019 Ash Avenue Amble will feature 15 different concerts in six venues between noon and 5 pm on April 6, all included within a single $20 admission fee. Children age 12 and under can attend free of charge, and the hope is that people will make their way from concert to concert at their leisure and sample the smorgasbord of musical talent on display. If one venue happens to fill up early, there is always another waiting just steps away.“It’s such a diverse schedule of artists,” said Cummings, “and really fascinating seeing some of these professional and university groups disassemble their bands and turn them into duos and quartets especially for this event.”
Cummings is particularly excited to pair young saxophonist Steve Carson with guitar veteran Oliver Gannon, and pianist Walter Martella with former student Clancy Sindlinger. Dwight Hall will play host to open rehearsals, the Patricia Theatre will be filled with the sound of vocal jazz, McKinney’s Pub will house student combos and the new outdoor mainstage will showcase secondary school big bands coming from Nanaimo and Vancouver. In the case of inclement weather, things are set to pivot inside to the Townsite Market.
Cummings has also programmed a special kids’ concert in the Rodmay Hotel Rainbow Room featuring Tina Jones, formerly of the Kerplunks, and Juno award-winning jazz bassist and early childhood education specialist Jodi Proznick.
“The kids are in for a real surprise,” he said, “and I think the fire department is going to bring a truck down, too, which is always fun.”
Food and art vendors will round out the festivities while also providing an opportunity for local societies and community groups, such as Brooks Dry Grad, to have a presence.
“We want a real celebration on that road with tents, beverages, food and jazz echoing off the buildings on Ash Avenue,” said Cummings. “A place where everybody can meet and talk about all the great music they’ve been experiencing that day.”
Townsite Jazz Festival runs from Thursday, April 4, to Saturday, April 6. Tickets for the Ash Avenue Amble and other individual concerts are on sale at Ecossentials Local Market, Townsite Brewing and online at townsitejazz.com.
“We’ve already sold out in a couple of the smaller venues on April 4 and 5,” said Rice, “so if you’re planning to get tickets to anything this year, we recommend doing it really soon.”
Ash Avenue Amble schedule
Mass Band Second Line (Ash Avenue)
Gleneagle Secondary Big Band and Wellington Secondary Combo (Ash Avenue Main Stage)
Oliver Gannon & Steve Carson (Rodmay Hotel Rainbow Room)
Vancouver Island University Duo (Townsite Brewing)
SD47 Mass Choir Open Rehearsal (Dwight Hall)
Kids’ Concert with Jodi Proznick & Tina Jones (Rodmay Hotel Rainbow Room)
Tanga Quartet (McKinney’s Pub)
Wellington Secondary Big Band & Combo (Ash Avenue Main Stage)
Walter Martella & Clancy Clancy Sindlinger (Patricia Theatre)
Vancouver Island University Combo (McKinney’s Pub)
Tanga Open Rehearsal (Dwight Hall)
Fifth Street (Patricia Theatre)
Jazzmen (McKinney’s Pub)
Vancouver Island University Combo (Ash Avenue Main Stage)
Gleneagle Secondary & Brooks Secondary Vocal Jazz (Patricia Theatre)
Steve Carson & Friends (McKinney’s Pub)