Sunday evening saw the 2018 TD Halifax Jazz Festival wind down with the powerhouse offering of Charlotte Day Wilson and Daniel Caesar, and now we can relax and unload our memory cards and let the reminiscing begin. As with previous years, we tend to set up shop at the mainstage, and take in the top tier talent coming to the city. The festival has only grown in its cachet, having landed prominent acts such as St. Vincent, Sharon Jones, Charles Bradley, Niles Rodgers, and this year The War on Drugs. This isn’t a festival to sleep on, and sure it may conflict with some summer vacation plans, but it should be a summer destination unto itself.
2018 marked the festival’s 31st year, and it locked down a lineup that packed the house consistently night in and night out. It doesn’t hurt that the festival opened with a set from the legendary crooner Molly Johnson, and to boot it was a free show, just to give audiences that initial hit of goodness to lure them in for the remainder of the week. The surprising fact was not that Molly Johnson was on the bill, but that instead she managed to insert herself into the lineup, as she has been a long-time fan of the festival, and rather than sit around bemusing about why she hadn’t recently been invited, she picked up the phone and offered her talents to the Jazz Fest.
Molly Johnson just released her latest album Meaning to Tell Ya back in May, and her Tuesday evening set featured a number of tracks from it. While she could easily possess a diva demeanour with the number of years she has logged on the Canadian music scene, she was every bit as warm, engaging, and somewhat self-effacing as one would hope. Her voice is full of soul and texture, and is just velvety smooth to the ears. She is an artist who would be an amazing fit for any room, but I could definitely imagine her commanding the room at the Carleton with ease. While I expected Ms. Johnson’s set to be the evening headliner, she got the crowd primed for the Halifax All-Star Jazz Revue. I hit the mainstage for Molly’s set, and as it was the opening night of a marathon week, I opted to hit the road and rest up for the remainder of the fest.