It’s hard to believe that we are now two weeks removed from the closing day of the 36th TD Halifax Jazz Festival, as per usual the summer is whipping by in a blur. Considering the full-fledged festival, much like the rest of us, took an extended sabbatical due to the multi-year pandemic, it was great to reconvene on the Halifax Waterfront to take in some great acts.
When the announcements were made, it was a line-up of some unknown acts and a few much-beloved artists who have called the TD Halifax Jazz Festival stage home over the years. Closing this year’s festival was the 25th Anniversary of long-time Halifax staple The Mellotones. They welcomed a few well-known pals to join them during their party, including Reeny Smith, Jah’Mila and Adam Baldwin. One person who joined the band on stage seemingly came as a surprise to some. TD Halifax Jazz Festival Artistic Director Andrew Jackson happily joined the horn section for a couple of tunes. The wonderful Molly Johnson returned to the festival on Saturday night, Julie Doiron took to the stage at St. Matt’s Church, and the incredible Aquakulture opened the show on Wednesday night. Then there were some higher profile acts such as Perfume Genius and The Weather Station who took to the stage on Friday evening and wowed the crowd in attendance.
Personally, I had some scheduling conflicts for the Friday and Saturday night shows, so I was only down for a trio of nights this year. The one date that was highlighted on my calendar was the opening night of the festival when New Orleans’ own Tank and the Banagas headlined. When the initial lineup was released, I was unfamiliar with their work, but tossed on their brand new album Red Balloon and was subsequently blown away by their melange of styles, spanning hip-hop, jazz, r&b, soul and spoken word. It’s an album that will certainly be on my Best Of list for 2022, and it was that album and research that earned this night must-see status. Not to mention, Aquakulture and his backing band The Red Seals warmed up the crowd beforehand. It was a set that featured cuts from his latest album Don’t Trip, as well as 2019’s massive bop “I Doubt It”, in addition to welcoming Ghettosocks to the stage for a little Aquasocks collab on “Problems”. It was a great way to open the night and primed the crowd that were buzzing in anticipation of Tank and the Bangas.
Those who were on the rail, and kept their eyes peeled, would have seen Tarriona “Tank” Ball on stage right taking in Aquakulture’s set before making her way to the stage. She parted the curtain and walked out, beaming a huge smile, clad in her black and white ensemble, paired with a majestic red silk cape. Then she took to the mic and proceeded to wow the Halifax crowd with a set packed with cuts from the aforementioned Red Balloon and the band’s earlier works including Green Balloon. There was a palpable positivity in the air that I haven’t felt since Sharon Jones headlined the 2015 festival on opening night. It was something in the air for both of those shows, and while Tarriona may not have worked the stage like Miss Jones, her presence was magical and magnetic, drawing your attention with her jaw-dropping voice. It was a set that was all sorts of cool and had you wishing for another hour in the set, another of those special Jazzfest nights, that they seem quite comfortable with curating year after year.
Thursday night’s lineup was something of a sleeper line-up for me, as I was slightly familiar with Andy Shauf’s work, and aside from headliner Half Moon Run’s two indie-rock radio staples “Turn Your Love” and “Call Me in the Afternoon”, I was largely unaware of their growing catalogue. Shauf hit the stage and warmed up the crowd with a fantastic set of these quieter indie-folk tunes, which at times evoked a similarity to a younger James Taylor. It was a set that I would have loved to see performed at the Cohn, a room that would be tailor-made for Shauf’s material. Now with a decent understanding of what he brings to the stage, I need to see him live again.
Then it was time for Quebec-based Half Moon Run to hit the stage. Based on the recommendation and excitement of fellow photog Alicia Montague, I was intrigued to see what the band would bring. As they set up, they had mirrors encircling the back half of the stage, which I felt to be a bit curious. But as the show went on, they were each outlined in LED lights adding an interesting dynamic to the drizzle that started to fall from the sky, which the band seemed somewhat surprised by, but for the locals in attendance, this was par for the course. It was a set that also fused elements from electronic, indie, folk and alt-rock for this interesting confection for the ears. It was a solid set, but not one that left me sockless in the audience.
All in all, it was a great few nights of music, for one of the best annual festivals Halifax has to offer. Year after year, they bring in top-tier talent, and 2022 was no exception. Hats off to Sarah and Caroline for their support throughout the festival, you were fantastic to work with throughout. Looking forward to seeing what the Jazz Fest team has cooking for 2023.