Willowbank is a school of “Restoration Arts” located in Niagara-on-the-Lake that specializes in the field of cultural heritage. Focused on a more sustainable and ecologically sound approach to conservation, the school trains its students in the work of restoring buildings, artifacts, and landscapes according to a holistic approach that recognizes the interconnectedness of historical objects with the rituals, cultures, and people who produced them.
An independent and nonprofit school, Willowbank is highly dependent on donations and fundraisers to keep the lights on, and every year, one of their most popular fundraisers is their jazz festival. Now in its 12th year, the Willowbank Annual Jazz Festival will take place at the Riverbend Inn and Vineyard on June 14 from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.
An afternoon of the best from Canada’s jazz scene is just $45, and you can watch, dance, and listen, and every last penny goes to support the work of the school. The afternoon will also feature both a live and a silent auction, local wine, and food, but the real highlight of the day will be the performers. This year’s roster includes:
- Bourbon Street Buskers. A Dixieland/swing band from Toronto that’s been performing since 1991, the Buskers play a style of music that’s perfect for dancing, and they have a good enough repertoire to take requests.
- Guido Basso and Friends. A legendary Canadian trumpet player originally from Montreal, Guido Basso has been playing music for over 60 years. Named a member of the Order of Canada in 1994, he plays trumpet, harmonica, and flugel horn.
- Climax Jazz Band. Another Toronto-based Dixieland band, Climax Jazz Band plays traditional favorites and a few obscure numbers, and occasionally, they feature a vocalist or two.
- Tyler Yarema & His Rhythm. Self-taught pianist Tyler Yarema leads this high-energy band in a unique blend of jazz, blues, boogie-woogie, jump blues, and swing music.
- Terry Clarke. One of the best-known drummers in jazz, Terry Clarke has performed all over the world, on hundreds of records, on countless television and movie scores, and is one of the founding members of Rob McConnell’s “The Boss Brass.”
- John Sherwood. A St. Catharines native, John Sherwood is a highly respected jazz pianist who regularly performs with his trio and other groups in the greater Niagara area.
- Steve Wallace. Upright jazz bassist Steve Wallace is considered by many to be Canada’s finest upright bass player. Another member of “The Boss Brass,” Wallace has played with everyone from Rosemary Clooney to Oscar Peterson.
- Reg Schwager. A jazz guitarist and composer, Reg Schwager has been playing and touring the world for roughly 40 years. He has also been named “Jazz Guitar Player of the Year” four times at the National Jazz Awards.
If you love jazz, plan a weekend stay during June 13 and 14. Listen to a full afternoon of some of the best in Canadian jazz, while raising money for Willowbank School of Restoration Arts.