Entertainment

Oscar Peterson Jazz Fest unveils lineup

John Law

By John Law, Niagara Falls Review

The inaugural Oscar Peterson International Jazz Festival heads to Niagara-on-the-Lake and St. Catharines this February. Artistic director Renee Rosnes, left, and artistic producer Kelly Peterson announced the lineup of artists Tuesday at Stratus Vineyards. (Julie Jocsak/ St. Catharines Standard/Postmedia News)

The inaugural Oscar Peterson International Jazz Festival heads to Niagara-on-the-Lake and St. Catharines this February. Artistic director Renee Rosnes, left, and artistic producer Kelly Peterson announced the lineup of artists Tuesday at Stratus Vineyards. (Julie Jocsak/ St. Catharines Standard/Postmedia News)

Jazz isn't just for summer in Niagara-on-the-Lake any more.

The town's second major jazz event will debut in February with the three-day Oscar Peterson International Jazz Festival. The lineup, announced during a media conference Tuesday, will include Kenny Washington and Christian McBride to go along with Canadian artists such as Carol Welsman and Kevin Turcotte.

“The festival isn't meant to be a tribute to Oscar as it is representing his ideals, and what he stood for both musically and as a person,” said the festival's artistic director, Juno-winning pianist Renee Rosnes. “We just made sure, with our choice of musicians, that we were holding up to that standard. Something that we're proud of, and if he were here, he would be completely proud of.”

Rosnes has teamed with Peterson's widow Kelly Peterson and Bravo Niagara! Festival of the Arts for the event, running Feb. 16 to 18 at venues in Niagara-on-the-Lake and St. Catharines.

“The idea is to present Canadian artists alongside international artists, to create quite an interesting dialogue and bring a whole different feel and diversity to what we're presenting,” said Peterson, the artistic producer.

The festival's first night Feb. 16 will feature an all-star band of multiple Grammy winners at FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre in St. Catharines. The lineup includes Cecile McLorin Salvant, Jon Faddis, Jimmy Greene, Michael Dease, Benny Green, Christian McBride and Kenny Washington.

Rosnes will pair up with Grammy-winner Bill Charlap Feb. 17 at Stratus Vineyards in Niagara-on-the-Lake, while Feb. 18 will conclude the festival with an all-Canadian finale of Carol Welsman, Kevin Turcotte, Mike Murley, Robi Botos, Dave Young and Jim Doxas at St. Marks Anglican Church in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

The Montreal-born Peterson is considered one of Canada's jazz greats, winning eight Grammy Awards and recording more than 200 albums before his death in 2007 of kidney failure.

“Oscar represented the entire history of the music,” said Rosnes. “Everything he played felt fresh and at the same time inevitable.”

The inaugural festival will be dedicated to Peterson's friend Norman Granz, the civil rights activist who founded Jazz at the Philharmonic in 1944 and gave several black jazz artists the spotlight by insisting there be no segregation at the concert halls he booked.

“He was the most important non-musician in the history of jazz,” said Peterson.

The festival will also feature the newly created Canadian Jazz Master Awards, presented to one living and one deceased artist, chosen by a rotating panel of Canadian jazz experts.

Tickets for the event's first year go on sale Nov. 20 at www.opjazzfest.org.

jlaw@postmedia.com