Food Community

Jazz Winnipeg Festival Opening Night

Yesterday marked the start of my first found of vacation. It also marked the start of the Jazz Winnipeg Festival. As I mentioned in my David and Jonathan post, I plan on broadening the focus of Dining with Donald to include my interest in the arts. The Jazz Winnipeg Festival has long been one of my favourite times of the year. Although, most years my time has been spent at the free stage with one or two of the ticketed shows thrown in.

Jazz Fest Americano
An Americano from Miss Browns is a great beverage to enjoy while taking in the outdoor stage at the Jazz Fest.

I have two favourite memories from the festival. The first was being able to see Al Green live. Al Green is one of my musical heroes. I only wish I could sing with a tenth the amount of soul as he has. The other memory concerns the free stage. I believe it was the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, but it was quite a while ago, and it may have been a different group from New Orleans. As they approached the end of the show they invited people up to the front to dance. My friend Wesley Konrad and I headed up to the stage area.

Jazz Winnipeg Festival
One of the signs announcing the Jazz Winnipeg Festival

I was in the lead and ended up getting tagged to be a part of the show. The band was playing the classic Just a Closer Walk. I ended up as a corpse over whom a sermon was preached, during the slow part. Then, when the music sped up I was required to jump back to life and start dancing in front of the crowd. It made for a fun end to the evening. Fortunately there was no one there rating my dance skills.

Last night was the opening night on the free stage and was a little unusual. I think that it might have something to do with the Women’s World Cup being on, but when I got there the infield around the cube was already fairly full. The first act was local singer Joanna Majoko. I really enjoyed her sound. She has a voice that is at once powerful and able to deliver a nuanced sound. Her arrangements also brought freshness to a couple of standards. I enjoyed her set, but thought it a little ballad heavy. It would have been nice to kick off the evening with something a little more uptempo.

Jazz Winnipeg Festival opener
Janet Majoko, the opening act for the opening night of the Jazz Winnipeg Festival

The tempo and energy picked up with each succeeding act. First the Niall Bakkestad-Legare Septet delivered a swinging set. Then, the Dirty Catfish Brass Band took the energy and crowd passion to a whole new level. By this time the area around the Cube was packed tight with spectators having a great time. Finally, the night finished off with Moses Mayes. This was the oddest part of the night for me. I’m so used to seeing Moses Mayes closing out the Sunday session, that somehow it didn’t seem right to have them finishing up the Thursday portion.dsc 0925

Fueling Up During Jazz Winnipeg Festival

Of course, it takes a fair bit of energy to make it through several hours at the free stage. Fortunately there are plenty of options to choose from.
One thing I like about Festival’s down in the Exchange is there are often new foods to try. This year is exceptional in that regard. Since last year The Fyxx is now Across the Board Game Cafe. Bronuts, King + Bannatyne, and Miss Browns have all opened. Bronuts was closed, but the latter to were both open. I was particularly happy to see Miss Browns open since it meant I could get a good cup of coffee in the evening.

India Palace Fesival tent
India Palace is a mainstay of the Exchange District festivals

The addition of Pop Cart to the Winnipeg scene makes for a refreshing new taste on the street. Their popsicles focus on natural flavours and sweetness. This means that they are actually thirst quenching, not giving you a brief break. The Grapefruit-Mint one I had yesterday combined the flavours very well. There’s also ice cream available over at Cakeology.

Jazz Winnipeg pop cart
the Pop Cart team add a dash of style to any downtown event.

While you’re down in the Exchange don’t forget to check out Tokyo Rabbit and their crepes. Plus, no festival in the Exchange would ever be complete without the presence of India Palace.

festival popsicle.
Pop Cart popsicles always provide a refreshing break during the evening.

Last night was a great kickoff to the Jazz Winnipeg Festival. Tonight is looks even better. It’s Latin Night. Starting off with Trio Bembe and ending with Papa Mambo. The evening held together by the presence of Rodrigo Muñoz in the opening and closing acts. I’ve been enjoying Muñoz’s music since his early days of busking in Osborne Village and look forward to hearing him again to night.
If you’re down in the Exchange tonight take some time to try some of the great food offerings available. If you happen to see me while you’re there, stop and say hello. I also plan on taking in several of the club shows next week, so you can say hi to me there as well.

By Donald McKenzie

Anglican priest, and food blogger. This blog is focused on Food. It will feature reviews of places to eat books, and the odd recipe. I also write about what it means to gather together around food.