Arts & EntertainmentFeature

TD Markham Jazz Festival sizzles with superb music

Summer isn’t complete without the joy of listening to live music outdoors and the TD Markham Jazz Festival is ready to deliver just that.

The much-anticipated annual festival takes place up and down Main Street Unionville on August 18, 19 and 20. Hear more than two dozen performances by award-winning musicians, all free to attendees.

“Grammy winners, Juno winners, jazz legends, tributes and fresh new acts – we couldn’t be more excited about our lineup this year,” says festival chair Linda Briggs. “Whether you think of yourself as a jazz fan or not, I guarantee you will hear something fantastic at our festival.”

The stellar entertainment starts Friday evening with two shows at the Millennium Bandstand. At 7:30 p.m., Canadian guitarist Matt Stevens leads the Matthew Stevens Trio. Now living in Brooklyn, N.Y., Stevens has performed on Grammy-winning albums with Esperanza Spaulding and Teri Lyne Carrington among many collaborations.

At 9:30 Friday evening, another Grammy winner takes the Bandstand stage. New Yorker Catherine Russell uses her soaring vocals to interpret a splendid mix of jazz standards and lesser-heard gems, backed by a seasoned band.

Then it’s on to a full weekend of music spanning many jazz and jazz-related styles. There are big-band sounds and jive, reggae-inspired island sounds and Afro-Cuban beats, as well as excellent mainstream jazz.

On Saturday, music runs continuously from noon to 11 p.m. on three stages along Main St. On Sunday, performances go from noon to 6:30 p.m.

Each stage has its own character. On the more intimate Varley Art Gallery Patio Stage, audiences are closer to bands of different sizes, from trios to four- and five-piece groups. At the McKay Wine & Beer Garden Stage, down the steps behind the McKay Art Centre, feel a relaxing party vibe with lively bands offering a blend of jazz, blues and pop influences.

The festival features more than 24 jazz-related acts – including The Nimmons Tribute.

The festival’s larger bands and noted headliners appear at Unionville’s Millennium Bandstand. This year’s program features a tribute to Joni Mitchell’s iconic music with Laila Biala and Brian Barlow’s big band on Saturday evening and the finale on Sunday by The Nimmons Tribute in celebration of Canadian jazz pioneer Phil Nimmons.

Before and during the main festival, bands perform in “Jazz Hot Spots” around Markham, including Rouge River Brewing Co., The Duchess in Markham village, and Jakes on Main in Unionville, among others.

Main Street Unionville will be closed to traffic on Saturday and Sunday between Carlton Rd. and the Bypass road on the south. A portion of Fred Varley Drive will be closed Friday evening and on the weekend.

To help reduce traffic congestion, the festival offers a free shuttle bus from the nearby Markham Pan Am Center, at 16 Main St. (near the 407 and Unionville GO station). The shuttle runs continuously from Friday evening to Sunday afternoon. Parking is free.

Visit for the full schedule, plus “Jazz Hot Spots” locations and times, artist bios and other details.


Main photo: Don’t miss the high-energy Heavyweights Brass Band as they light up Main St. Unionville during the 2023 TD Markham Jazz Festival. 

Story submitted by Christie Day.

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