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Halifax Jazz Fest hits the waterfront for their 25th 

Same jazzy fun, different location. Shannon Webb-Campbell breathes the salty air.

click to enlarge Bulldozers prep the ground for the Jazz Festival’s new home base. - LOUKAS CROWTHER
  • Bulldozers prep the ground for the Jazz Festival’s new home base.
  • Loukas Crowther

It's always good to change it up on a silver anniversary---add a little more shine. Halifax Jazz Fest celebrates 25 years with a little more glamour and a change of venue.

"We had to move because of the new library," says Heather Gibson, JazzEast's executive director. "We knew it was coming down the pipe two years ago."

This year the festival tent moves from Spring Garden Road to the Salter lot, wedged between Bishop's Landing and Waterfront Warehouse. At first there was talk of the Forum, Cunard Centre, Garrison Grounds and Alderney Landing as possible locations.

"Part of what makes a jazz fest a jazz fest is you can go in heels and a dress," she says. "Because of its size and scope the board felt it had to be kept outdoors and a paved spot was important."

But it's not just location, the actual Jazz Festival tent is a new addition. Capacity now caps at 2,500 (doubling the Spring Garden location). Instead of a circus-like tent with a few holes from overuse, this new festival big top even turns into an indoor space with optional siding---just in case the fog rolls in over the harbour.

"If we need to, you can heat it," says Gibson. "The site is bigger. People will feel it's a bigger deal than it has been."

Jill Barber couldn't ask for a better homecoming than a night under the stars in the new main stage tent on July 11. For several years Barber kicked around Halifax, honing her musical chops, evolving from a coy smoky folkie playing at Ginger's Tavern to a bona fide diva festival headliner.

Originally from Ontario, and now in British Columbia, her heart grew wings in Halifax. She returns to release her sultry new album Mischievous Moon and show off the latest incarnation of her career with a five-piece band.

"The new waterfront Jazz Fest main stage will be fabulous," says Barber. "I think it's a big step up for the festival and you really couldn't ask for a better or more unique backdrop than the historic Halifax Harbour. It's especially fitting for the kind of music I make. There's something terribly romantic about spending an evening on the pier, ships crossing the harbour, sailors roaming about. The romanticism of the historical harbour is naturally seductive. It will help create the right mood."

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