Patio season isn’t just a thing in Alberta. When a hot sun and warm breezes appear, it turns into an obsession.
One of the best decked-out al-fresco spaces in the region is La Cité’ francophone’s grassy bowl, a casual, inviting spot sporting a modern European vibe.
Now celebrating its fourth Patio Series concerts, it’s the perfect spot to order a meal, sip a glass of wine, and listen to some of the region’s top-tier talent.
The outdoor stage was built for local performers, and every Thursday evening from July 1 to Sept. 16, recording artists will showcase their talents to a maximum-capacity crowd of 100.
The 12-night pop-up series features a dynamic lineup of musicians who represent a wide spectrum from world, Latino, folk and jazz, to ska, alt-pop, brass, and French-Canadian tunes.
In the summer of 2020, with few music venues catering to the public due to pandemic dominance, La Cité sold out a full roster of open-air concerts.
“Last year at the first concert, the musicians were crying. The audience was crying. People appreciated every concert. We were celebrating doing something,” said cultural manager Allen Jacobson.
During this summer season, St. Albert’s Cristian De La Luna played a double Latin bill with Mariachi Borealis on July 1. The Columbian-Canadian musician, who has released two albums, kicked off the evening with the first set while the five-piece mariachi band picked up the second.
“Mariachi Borealis dresses in sombreros, black suits, and tassels. They’re fun and engaging and the music is infectious. It’s light entertainment, and they’re a crowd favourite,” Jacobson said.
Vocalist Mallory Chipman follows July 8 with a new project. Adding to her solid jazz reputation, Chipman will present a folk-roots-oriented evening of new original material.
Andrea House takes the stage July 15 with a jazzy-world-tinged project. Accompanying her is Chris Andrew on piano and Rubim de Toledo on bass.
“Her voice is pure. It’s crystal clear. It’s perfect for delivering her songs. It’s authentic. There’s a vulnerable delicacy to her voice.”
And of course, saxophone legend P.J. Perry stops by July 22 with a technically-polished, inspiring jazz showcase.
“He is the best jazz sax player in North America in bebop and hard swing. He’s a master of improvisation. It’s always melodic, thoughtful, and communicative. He always has something to say and knows how to say it,” said Jacobson.
Postscript, the husband-and-wife duo Paul Cournoyer and Steph Blais, emerge July 29 with a tapestry of indie-folk Francophone compositions. The couple first met at Maurice Lavallee School when Cournoyer played in Blais’s older brother’s pop band. Later Cournoyer went on to study bass and composition at MacEwan University's jazz-based music program.
“We have similar taste in music,” said Cournoyer, who has deep roots in the St. Albert and Morinville Cournoyer families. "We enjoy indie folk music. It is part of our collective influences. We grew up appreciating independent folk artists. Despite my studies at MacEwan, folk is a big interest for me. Same with Steph. It was a natural fit for us.”
Nationally-acclaimed Maria Dunn, a leading voice of folk music, takes over the stage on Aug. 5.
“She’s a really important voice in the folk music world. She’s a true presenter of the folk spirit of music and she has an incredible level of social engagement with the audience,” said Jacobson.
Jazz inspiration Marc Beaudoin reintroduces his new quartet, Bones from Underground, on Aug. 12. The surreal name was inspired after a jam session at an underground jazz club near the Parisian catacombs. Joining him is trumpeter Joel Gray, pianist Andrew Glover, and drummer Sandro Dominelli, founder of Dominelli Music in St. Albert.
From jazz to Franco party music, Pascal Lecoures et les Mauvais Caractèrs (The Bad Boys) sets the stage rockin’ on Aug. 19.
“They’re going to pay an homage to Les Colocs, a Quebec party band. They’re fun, engaging, with a lot of energy. They’re blues- and rock-tinged, and take a traditional song format. They also have a patois, a fast patter. It’s so much fun to watch.”
If there were rafters at this patio series, King Muskafa’s ska party would shake them on Aug. 26.
“They are a power-packed six-piece with fun, fun energy and dance moves. Hopefully people will dance around. They’re well known in Edmonton’s party zone,” said Jacobson.
Daniel Gervais and Jeremiah McDade, two of Edmonton’s finest Franco-folk musicians, step up to the microphone Sept. 2. Together the two troubadours blend a myriad of influences – roots, folk, Celtic, world, jazz, and French-Canadian folk songs – into a musically-sophisticated-yet-comfortably-relaxing evening.
“Their musicianship and interplay are remarkable. There is a joy, not only in the music, but also (in) performing together. They are truly authentic.”
Alt-pop artist Alex Vissia makes her debut at the series Sept. 9. Impressed with her performance at Flying Canoe Festival, Jacobson booked her for the concert series hoping to attract a young audience.
“She has a lot of energy and she writes her own material. As a young artist, she’s developed very quickly to the point she can deliver a good performance,” said Jacobson.
The series ends Sept. 16 with a shout out to brass in a performance that showcases a musical trip through history from Baroque to Beatles.
“We’ve brought back Bok Brass by special request from the audience. They’re delightful and the musicianship has over 200 years of experience. They’re very good friends and that translates through their performance."
Tickets are $14, available through eventbrite.ca.