Last week I had a coffee meeting in Yorkville. Normally, a fairly routine happening...but this was my first in-person meeting with someone not directly related to me for, well, a long time. It was a pleasure to actually see the other person in the flesh - as opposed to on the screen - and have lag-free conversation. The weather cooperated and I enjoyed being out and about, and seeing others doing the same.
But it was also weird. I got off the subway at Bay Station and, as I was climbing the stairs, I realized that in a normal year, on June 25th I'd be exiting directly into the middle of a jazz festival stage. To be in Village of Yorkville Park, with the big rock, and the relatively normal comings and goings of the neighbourhood, but with no music, was somewhat eerie.
Which is why I'm so looking forward to this Friday, when we kick off our second (I won't say annual) TD Toronto Jazz Festival Summer Concert Series at 5 pm, live-to-air from JAZZ.FM91.
Last year, the Summer Concert Series provided, for many participating and many listening, the first real taste of live music since everything shut down due to the pandemic. Things are different this year - I think we've almost all experienced some form of concert presentation over the past 12 months, whether pre-recorded, live-streamed, physically distanced outside or even, for a few glorious weeks late last summer, in a club. But there is still something exciting about bringing together musicians who may not have seen each other for too long, in a controlled environment, for a performance with guaranteed high-quality sound production. Those first few notes on Friday are going to be satisfying...
Also different this year: the series kicks off a year-long celebration of our 35th anniversary. Each concert, while featuring a different outstanding local artist, will also reflect a different theme - an idea that has taken centre stage over the course of the Festival's 35 years: the presentation of artists at every stage of career development; our goal of respecting the traditional sounds of jazz while also presenting new directions in the art form; or celebrating the Blues, Afro-Cuban music and the unique sound of jazz in Canada. From emerging artists who were slated to play their first Festival in 2021, to veteran musicians who played the very first Festival in 1987, the series will represent an excellent cross-section of the past, present and future of jazz in Toronto.
Each concert will feature a full set of music, along with a few minutes of conversation - I look forward to hearing from each performer what is inspiring them at the moment, and a favourite Festival memory. The series kicks off this Friday with Shakura S'Aida, who will explore what the Blues means to her, and reflect on some of the blues artists who have played at the Festival over the years, in what is sure to be a stirring set. (If you haven't already had a chance to read Shakura's "Stories From Home" contribution, I encourage you to do so - it's a powerful and personal reflection on the past 12 months, and provides a unique perspective into what helps to shape her as a musician.) Tune in on Friday at 5 pm - either listen live or stream on Facebook - to hear Shakura in action with her quartet.
From Shakura we move to recent JUNO Award winning vocalist Sammy Jackson, then to Elmer Ferrer, the Shuffle Demons, Jesse Ryan...and so much more! Tune in every Friday at 5 pm and you're sure to hear something you like. Complete Summer Concert Series details are available on our website - we look forward to "seeing" you there!