The 21st edition of the TD Markham Jazz Festival rolls out along Main St. in Unionville from Aug. 17-19. This year’s festival promises exceptional performances throughout Markham, plus an expanded schedule of extras designed to please all kinds of musical tastes.

Key venues include the Pfaff Town+Country BMW Stage at the Millennium Bandstand, the Watford Group Stage at the McKay Art Centre, a wine and beer garden and the Source Office Furnishings Stage on the Varley Art Gallery patio.

Brand new this year is a special piano fest, taking place inside Unionville’s Central United Church on Main St. just south of the GO railway tracks. The new series mixes seasoned piano pros and young protégés, playing from 5 to 10 p.m. on Aug. 17 and from noon to 9 p.m. on Aug. 18. A modest ticket price, with in-and-out privileges, makes it possible to present the new event.

“We are so excited to bring this idea to life,” explains festival artistic director Sarah Kim Turnbull. “The Central United Church is an excellent performance space and it allows us to overcome the one limitation of traditional outdoors stages, namely that you can’t place a baby grand piano on them. Even better, Steinway is graciously lending us a piano.”

The festival also features Hot Spot performances in selected restaurants and pubs, starting the weekend before and continuing throughout the festival weekend. This year’s Hot Spots include five businesses in Unionville, one in Markham Village and two new locations in downtown Markham. As well, look for performers located on the street throughout the weekend. Visit markhamjazzfestival.com for the full program.

The weekend kicks off with the popular opening night concert inside the Varley Art Gallery on Aug. 15 with award-winning Canadian singer-songwriter and pianist Laila Biali. Some tickets are still available for the event, which includes a silent auction and an intermission reception with hors d’oeuvres and a complimentary glass of wine or beer.

The 2018 program combines Grammy and Juno winners with top session and recording artists. Blues fans will flock to the Millennium Bandstand on Aug. 18 to hear triple-Grammy winner and R&B legend, Dee Dee Bridgewater. Two other performers bring a legacy of musical excellence with them. On Aug. 17, headliner is Deva Mahal, daughter of blues pioneer Taj Mahal. Pianist-singer Devin Cuddy, son of a Rodeo man, performs in the McKay Wine & Beer Garden. The festival ends on Aug. 19 with Canadian Grammy winner Dan Hill sharing his soulful sounds on the Bandstand stage.

The thousands of attendees who return year after year are expert at timing their venue-to-venue moves so they can catch as many of the more than 30 free performances as possible. They also know they will hear something brand new.

“The sense of discovery is my favourite thing about this festival,” notes festival chair Christie Day. “Thanks to our very generous sponsors and grantors, including ongoing support from our title sponsor, TD, we’re able to bring the best Canadian and international musicians to play right here in Markham.”

Photo: Blues fans will flock to the Unionville Millennium Bandstand Aug. 18 to hear triple Grammy winner Dee Dee Bridgewater.