Background of the Markham Jazz Festival

Jazz for the community

In 1997, local residents Hal Hill and his wife Chris came up with the idea of holding a jazz festival in Markham to bring great music to the community. Hal was a well-known jazz authority, broadcaster, concert producer and the author of “Jazz Canadiana.” With the assistance of a team of volunteers, the Markham Jazz Festival made its debut in 1998 –  to critical acclaim.

Since then, the MJF has garnered a reputation as one of the finer community jazz festivals in Canada, thanks to its innovative programming and unique setting. Diverse and eclectic performers are drawn from the cream of the crop of Canadian jazz artists and from several other countries, including the U.S.A., Cuba and Japan. The Festival’s repertoire spans many genres ­– from traditional, swing and Dixieland to Latin, fusion, world and contemporary jazz.

Take a look at some of the artists who have graced our stages.

  • Guitarist Jeff Healy
  • Pianist Oliver Jones
  • Rob McConnell
  • International jazz star Fred Hersch
  • Violinist Mireille Proulx
  • Legendary proto-bopper Michael Pickett
  • Jazz vocalists and theatrical stars Lyne Tremblay and Ranee Lee
  • Latin trumpeter Nic Ali and “Cruzao”
  • Cornetist Warren Vache
  • Boogie woogie pianist Michael Kaeshammer
  • Dynamic Gospel trio “Revelation Three”
  • Jazz song and lyric writer Bob Dorough
  • Toronto Mass Choir
  • Cimarron with Luis Mario Ochoa
  • June Garber
  • DEW East
  • Tom Van Seters
  • Hilario Duran Big Band
  • Flying Bulgar Klesmer Band
  • P.J Perry
  • Reg Schwager
  • Russell Malone
  • Monte Alexander
  • Sam Rivers
  • Dave Young
  • Chase Sanborm
  • Kevin Clark
  • Autorickshaw
  • Ted Quinlan
  • Shakura S’aida
  • Russ Little
  • Vanessa Rodrigues
  • Heather Bambrick
  • Barry Elmes
  • Marc Jordan
  • Tony Monaco
  • Monkey Junk
  • Bruce Cockburn
  • Dee Dee Bridgewater
  • Dan Hill
  • Dr. Lonnie Smith

Our customary format

While we have adapted our 2020 events in keeping with the restrictions caused by COVID-19, we look forward to returning to the wonderful heritage village of Unionville to present live jazz all along Main St. when it is safe to do so.

It is always our mandate to highlight a diversity of styles and backgrounds within the jazz family, and to make the music available to as wide an audience as possible.

In 2019, the 22nd annual Markham Jazz Festival kicked off with a fabulous Opening Night Concert and party at the Markham Museum featuring Oakland Stroke, followed by 30 free performances on outdoor stages along Main Street Unionville. Venues normally include the Millennium Bandstand, the Varley Art Gallery and the McKay Art Centre Beer and Wine Garden, as well as various other stages around town.

To complement the Main Stage events, “Hot Spots” (a variety of venues in Unionville and Markham) present fantastic jazz artists in a street festival environment. Festival attendees wander from venue to venue, soaking up the party atmosphere, the jazz music, and the historic beauty of the villages of Unionville and Markham – a truly a magical experience.