I'm fairly tired today, but I'm coming off a bit of a high - last night's Israeli Jazz Showcase at The Rex was pretty fantastic. Toronto was represented by Kobi Hass and his crew; Guy Mintus and his trio impressed; Anat Cohen blew us away with a great mix of repertoire, showing off her abilities as composer and performer on clarinet and tenor saxophone. It was a packed house, an appreciative audience, and well worth the effort required to mount such an event.
There seems to be a glut of outstanding music happening in this city over the next seven days - Jerry Bergonzi's at the University of Toronto tonight with the student big bands; Ingrid Jensen is in town tonight and tomorrow night with Gray Matter at The Rex…great players from at home and abroad abound at venues all over Toronto.
Here at jazz festival headquarters, we're especially looking forward to two shows next week, both of which fall under the TD Discovery Series Special Projects banner: Alexander Brown's quintet plays next Wednesday at Lula Lounge; Robi Botos celebrates the release of his CD Movin' Forward next Thursday at the Jazz Bistro with impressive bandmates Seamus Blake (saxophone), Robert Hurst (bass) and Jeff 'Tain' Watts (drums). I wanted to take a minute today to talk about Alexander Brown; more details on Robi's show will follow on Monday.
Since arriving in Toronto about 10 years ago, Alexander Brown has established himself as one of the most exciting trumpeters on the local jazz and Afro-Cuban scenes. That shouldn't necessarily be a surprise given his credentials: in Cuba, where he grew up, he earned a Master's degree - then went on to teach trumpet - at the Instituto Superior de Artes. He performed and toured with a variety of legendary Cuban musicians, and was invited twice to record with sax innovator David Murray. Once in Toronto, he quickly hooked up with some of the top local musicians: Jane Bunnett, Hilario Duran, Don Thompson, Amanda Martinez and more; he was a long-time member of Archie Alleyne's Kollage.
I've heard Alexander play in a variety of settings, including in the trumpet section of my big band. His soloing is fiery and clearly indicates the influence of the hard bop and Cuban traditions - his vocabulary is vast and he gets around the instrument with an impressive ease. He demonstrates a passion for music, whether he's leading his own band or playing under someone else's direction; he emanates a joy whenever on stage and a gratitude for the opportunity to perform when offstage. His compositions are challenging in the best ways, maintaining the interest of the other musicians on stage and the audience.
All this will be on display next Wednesday at Lula Lounge for his Special Projects presentation of The Process - music from his recently released CD. The show starts at 8 pm; joining Alex on stage are Luis Deniz (alto sax), Christopher Butcher (trombone), David Restivo (piano), Roberto Occhipinti (bass) and Amhed Mitchel (drums). This promises to be an outstanding night of music, and an excellent start to our TD Discovery Series Special Projects presentations.
Complete details about next Wednesday's show are available on our website.
I look forward to seeing you there!