The Calgary International Jazz Festival is an annual 10-day celebration of jazz. The 2005 event was held from June 17 - 26. It featured a number of free outdoor concerts in downtown Calgary on Stephen Avenue.
Twenty six years ago, legend dictates that a few Calgary musicians - Dave Klinger, John Reid, and others, got a permit from the city of Calgary to perform music in Princes Island Park. “We are going to have a jazz festival”, they said. “Who wants to play?” And Calgary's first jazz festival was born.
Over time, that little gathering evolved into southern Alberta's biggest jazz event of the year, featuring the best and the brightest of the genre.
Unfortunately, as the organisers wanted to present more and more music, they seemed to outgrow their audiences. In 1998, the Calgary International Jazz Festival declared bankruptcy, leaving creditors and musicians in the lurch. The Jazz Festival Calgary Society suddenly appeared, picking up the pieces,(that some would say they helped create) and Jazz Festival Calgary was born.
The local guys were still involved, but gradually, as the festival grew, the producers forgot about the people who got them there, the local musicians. The festival wasn't even produced in Calgary any more, but based two hundred miles north, in Edmonton.
Twenty years after the original festival started, the musicians discontent had reached a peak. They were being appreciated, some weren't being paid, or their cheques bounced. They tried to change the festival from within, but all they received were empty promises. So once again, the Calgary jazz community said, 'we're going to have our own festival. Who want's to play? And they did.
Originally titled the Riverside Jazz Festival, the first annual C-Jazz Fest featured local musicians such as Pat Belliveau, Karl Roth, Peter Manley, and special guest Hugh Fraser with the Prime Time Big Band. Seven hundred people baked in the scorching sun, and went through eleven kegs of beer listening to the great music in the September sun.
Under the mandate of "Calgary's best musicians, and their special guests", the C-Jazz festival slowly grew into five days of concerts in the nightclubs, and on Stephen Avenue Mall, leading up to twelve hours of free concerts on Friday and Saturday in Olympic Plaza.
Calgary now had two jazz festivals. After the city decided to demolish the park and community centre for the construction of condominiums, the C-Jazz Fest moved downtown, to Olympic Plaza. The Jazz Festival Calgary Society received title sponsorship from a major bank, and morphed into the "TD Canada Trust Jazz Festival Calgary." With it's corporated moniker, it's out-of-town office, poor financial management, and most importantly, continued maltreatment of many local musicians, it was bound to fail.
And fail it did. On May 15th, 2006, five weeks before the beginning of annual event, producer Marc Vasey declared that the 'TD Jazz Festival Calgary" could not continue.
The C-Jazz Festival, and C-Jazz, The Calgary Jazz Society, confirmed their festival would carry on in September. But they immediately began getting requests from musicians who had already scheduled their flights to Calgary in June for Jazz Festival Calgary. "Could you find us a place to play? We're going to be there anyway."
C-Jazz talked to the Calgary jazz community about what they could do about the situation. And the Calgary Jazz Festival was reborn!