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Christchurch to fill with sounds of jazz and blues for five-day festival

5 April 2018

New Zealand's biggest combined jazz and blues event is returning to Christchurch for its 23rd year, with over 30 shows across five days.

Cavell Leitch New Zealand International Jazz and Blues Festival director Jodi Wright says music lovers can expect to enjoy some of the world’s and New Zealand’s best artists performing in 10 different venues across the city from May 23, including an authentic Dixieland band on the heritage tramway.

“We have something for everyone, from the outstanding vocal depths of American legend Kurt Elling and his Quintet, to the smooth sounds of Miami-based singer Fantine, and the bold, brassy swing of James Morrison and the New Zealand Army Band.”

Australia’s multi-instrumentalist James Morrison will kick-off the Cavell Leitch New Zealand International Jazz and Blues Festival together with the vocal, instrumental and rhythm talents of the New Zealand Army Band in the Isaac Theatre Royal for one night on 23 May.

American jazz wonder Kurt Elling is headlining the festival this year. The Grammy winner is among the world’s foremost jazz vocalists. He won the DownBeat Critics’ Poll 14 consecutive times and was named Male Singer of the Year by the Jazz Journalists’ Association on eight occasions.

Grammy-nominated over a dozen times, Elling has also been honoured with several international jazz awards, including the prestigious Edison Jazz Oeuvreprijs Lifetime Achievement Award. Watch his short preview for Christchurch here.

International jazz singer Fantine is on board for two nights of jazz, soul, and funk on 24 and 25 May. “Fantine is a fabulous talent with a unique musical style that reflects her cultural diversity, and a beautiful voice, blends a mix of indie and electro soul. She wowed audiences with her fantastic performances here in 2015, and we can’t wait to have her back again,” Jodi Wright says.

Ireland’s great female jazz and blues singer Mary Coughlan brings her moving and passionate tribute to Billie Holiday back to Christchurch. Fifteen years after it was first performed here, Billie and Mary are returning with a talented quintet at The Piano on 23 May.

New Zealand stars, Nathan Haines and Jonathan Crayford will present Adagio at The Piano on 24 May. They are both multiple recipients of New Zealand’s Best Jazz Album of the Year and will be accompanied by a superb trio of violinists.

New Zealand’s blues master Darren Watson is back in Christchurch with his latest album release show, and an intimate acoustic guitar session at the Blue Smoke on 25 May.

Favourite local performers include The Eastern, this year teaming up with local master chef Richard Till for Country Eats, and two great food and music shows on 25 and 26 May at the Lyttelton Arts Factory,

Food, wine and jazz lovers have it all matched up with a three-course southern food dinner menu at Hotel Montreal, accompanied by live music of New Orleans by King Tubbs, and wine pairings from award-winning Black Estate, on 24 and 25 May.

For three days Christchurch is going to be humming to the beat of free music from the River City Jazzmen, an authentic Dixieland band on the Christchurch Tramway from 12 noon to 2pm on Thursday 24, Friday 25 and Saturday 26 May. While Jazz for lunch at The Piano highlights the sounds and souls of two notable young women vocalists, Georgie Clifford and Alice Tanner on 24 and 25 May.

To wrap up the festival, versatile Christchurch singer Roslen Ulaula will present a Jill Scott tribute, accompanied by three backing vocalists and the Judah band, at Christchurch Boys’ High School on 27 May.

The festival after-party jam at the Blue Smoke on Sunday 27 May promises to be a highlight of the week. Sumo Jazz take the reins as house band, play from their new album Shiko. They will be joined by many of the local, national and international musicians who played throughout the festival.

Ticket info
  • The complete festival programme is on the festival website from April 6.
  • Follow the festival's Facebook page for updates.
  • Tickets are available through the festival website and Dash tickets, starting at just $12.
  • James Morrison tickets are available through Ticketek.

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