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Markham Jazz Festival showcases an array of diverse talent

The Markham Jazz Festival is all set to present an array of diversely talented musicians during the weekend of August 16, 17 and 18.

In fact, this year’s artistic lineup has expanded to include more performances and many more musicians than at any time in the event’s 27-year history.

The main festival takes place at four staging areas up and down Main Street Unionville from Friday evening to Sunday afternoon. Main Street and a portion of Fred Varley Drive will be closed to traffic during the event.

Long-time fans know they will hear a wide range of jazz and jazz-related music, much of it original – and all free to attendees. Performers, start times and stage locations can be found at

Artistic director Ernesto Cervini is excited to see the community come together in Unionville.

“We have an extraordinary program lined up this year,” he notes, “with more performers than ever before – over 220 – including some of this year’s Juno and Grammy Award winners. I can’t wait to share this experience with our audiences.”

Cervini, a double Juno-winning drummer and bandleader, first played at MJF in 2002, winning the “Rising Stars” competition. He is now in his second year of programming the festival.

As in the past, music starts Friday evening at the Millennium Bandstand with two acts. At 7:30, vocal trio Duchess offers updated versions of classic songbook numbers. At 9:15, New York-based vocalist Nicole Zuraitis performs with some material from the album that earned her a 2024 Grammy Award.

Cuban-Canadian pianist Hilario Duran.

Saturday and Sunday’s lineups are packed with outstanding acts on three stages – the Varley Art Gallery Patio Stage, McKay Wine & Beer Garden downstairs behind the McKay Art House, and the Millennium Bandstand. Headline performances are by legend Jackie Richardson singing with the Toronto All-Star Big Band on Saturday and brilliant Cuban-Canadian pianist Hilario Duran bringing his Juno-winning big band to close the festival on Sunday.

For the second year, great music also happens at the laneway beside Watercolour Restaurant on both afternoons. Saturday, hear rhythm band Samba Squad; Sunday, catch sensational group Fanfare sous le pommier.

Attendees enjoy strolling between stages, visiting craft vendors, and sampling Unionville’s boutiques and restaurants.

Before and during the main festival, bands perform in various Jazz Hot Spots around the city. Some of the more well-known spots include Jakes on Main and The Duchess of Markham.

To facilitate parking and access to the festival, organizers are again providing free parking and free, continuous shuttle bus service from the nearby Markham Pan Am Centre, near the Unionville GO Station.

For the 11th year, the festival’s title sponsor is TD Bank Group through its Ready Commitment program. “Sponsor support is essential to our survival,” explains festival Chair Linda Briggs, “especially now, when costs have risen so much that many festivals are at risk of not continuing. So, we’re very grateful to every person who chooses to attend.”


Photo: Juno-nominated drummer Mark Kelso brings his “Mystic Isle” project to the 2024 Markham Jazz Festival on the weekend of August 16-18, just one of the 32 acts performing on multiple stages in Unionville. (Story and photo submitted by Christie Day)

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