HEY DID YOU KNOW THE 30TH TD TORONTO JAZZ FESTIVAL STARTS TOMORROW?!
I'm yelling because, frankly, I'm excited. But before I launch into my annual "festival survival guide" post (which I will do tomorrow), I wanted to reflect on the unofficial first event of this year's festival. On Tuesday night (June 21), Chase Sanborn led a special preview concert at North York Central Library - and it was brilliant.
Originally, this was to be a two-part event - a 60-minute workshop on jazz basics followed after a brief intermission by a 60-minute concert. Instead, Chase, joined by three recent graduates from the University of Toronto Jazz Performance Program (Angela Turone, voice; Chris Platt, guitar; Connor Walsh, bass), led a two-part lecture/demonstration. Over the two hours, the 200 or so in attendance were treated to anecdotes from each musician on the challenges and satisfactions of being a musician; introductions to a variety of musical concepts; and some beautifully performed Brazilian music.
As I listened to each ensemble member talk, I was struck not only by how well-spoken they were, but also with how much thought they each have given their craft. This obviously shouldn't come as a surprise; but I know sometimes when I get caught up in listening to - and, often, evaluating for one reason or another - a lot of music, I forget that there's a real thought process involved in making most musical choices. We all know it takes many hours of commitment to become technically proficient at an instrument; but technical proficiency won't get you far if you don't spend time thinking about the music you're making.
I was impressed, for example, by Angela's approach to singing in Portuguese - not her first language - and how much she's thought about the sounds she produces and the meaning behind the words. I was impressed by Connor's description of the role of the bass, outlining it's importance in keeping time even if the instrument itself is often in the background. I was impressed by Chris' explanation of how he approaches a solo performance on the guitar, covering off melody and harmony at the same time. And Chase, well, I've known Chase for years and have always been impressed with how he is able to impart fundamental musical concepts - including, on Tuesday night, how the trumpet actually works physically - in a lighthearted, accessible fashion. The audience was clearly impressed too - they were engaged for the duration of the session, often laughing at one comment or another coming from the stage, and asked some excellent questions.
After a somewhat challenging couple of days, Tuesday night's session was a welcome refresher, helping to remind me why I remain passionate about my work - as an administrator, performer, composer and band leader. Kudos to Chase, Angela, Chris and Connor on an excellent session.
I look forward, over these next ten days, to hearing much more well-thought-out music, and hopefully hearing more musicians talk about the choices they've made.
P.S. - For more musical insights, check out TDJ News Corps member David Cruz' profile of Mike Murley - some great pearls of wisdom. Read the interview here.