For the next instalment of "let's talk about a bunch of free shows at the Festival!" (needs a catchier name, I know), I wanted to introduce some of the outstanding emerging talent performing for free in Yorkville this year.
Now, the term "emerging" is always problematic: at what point is an artist truly emerging? At what point are they no longer "emerging" but are instead "established"? Is a regularly gigging musician emerging just because he/she hasn't released a CD? I don't know, exactly. For the purposes of this blog, though, I'll suggest that "emerging" means not yet first call...but well on their way. These are all musicians to watch.
And so, in chronological order...
Nefe: Saturday June 23, 3:30 pm on the OLG Stage on Yorkville Avenue
Nefe was a new name for me just a few months ago, but I'm hooked. A powerful, unique voice, and a soulful approach to her original compositions. See her Festival debut!
Tara Kannangara Quintet: Sunday June 24, 2:30 pm on the OLG Stage on Cumberland Street
Tara Kannangara has already made a major impression at home and across the country, leading to appearances on some of Canada's biggest stages with a variety of big name acts. She uses trumpet and voice equally to create her original compositions which exist somewhere between jazz and pop.
Teri Parker Quartet: Monday June 25, 12:30 pm on the OLG Stage on Cumberland Street
Teri Parker has been on our stage before - last year with her innovative Parker Abbott Trio - but appears this year with an outstanding quartet: joining pianist Teri is Luis Deniz (sax), Mark Godfrey (bass) and Mack Longpre (drums). They'll likely be playing Teri's original music from their 2017 release "In the Past."
Avery Raquel: Monday June 25, 6:00 pm on the OLG Stage on Cumberland Street
Okay full disclosure - I'm always skeptical about teenagers being touted as the next big thing. But when I heard Avery sing with the JAZZ.FM91 Youth Big Band at the Festival last year, I was blown away by her voice and musical maturity. She's now branching out as a solo artist, keeping her jazz roots but moving more into soul - I look forward to hearing her new music.
ART the Band: Monday June 25, 9:00 pm at The Pilot Tavern's Stealth Lounge
This gig is brought to you by the persistence of one Austin Gembora, ART the Band's drummer. Austin emailed me every couple of weeks to get me to hear the group live at The Drake Hotel's Melody Bar. I finally went, and I'm glad - they play high energy, original compositions with musicality and impressive skill. Another Festival debut. (Note: $10 cover for all Pilot shows.)
Chelsea McBride's Socialist Night School: Wednesday June 27, 8:00 pm on the OLG Stage on Hazelton Avenue
Chelsea McBride and her conglomerate of 18 musicians have been impressing presenters across the country for several years now - in part thanks to the quality of the playing, and in part thanks to Chelsea's excellent compositions. Her most recent album was fully funded by granting bodies (with another on the way), and she's currently on tour, across Canada, with the band. They're in town only for a few days between West and East!
Merriam Music All Stars: Thursday June 28, 12:00 pm-3:45 pm on the OLG Stage on Hazelton Avenue
The Merriam Music All Stars, made up of students and faculty from Merriam School of Music, are back again this year. In 2017 they put on an impressive show, with some of the students displaying skills far beyond their years. I'm excited to see who's on stage this year!
Youth Jazz Showcase: Thursday June 28, 12:30 pm-4:30 pm on the OLG Stage on Cumberland Street
The Youth Jazz Showcase has been running for several years now, and each year features three ensembles at various stages of development. This year we're pleased to have the National Youth Jazz Combo, featuring outstanding high school musicians from across Canada; the Humber Music Project, featuring some of Humber College's talented undergraduate students and, from Berklee College of Music, the slightly misnamed quartet Triple Tea. The Showcase is a highlight each year, and a glimpse into the next generation of jazz stars.
Sarah Thawer & Friends: Thursday June 28, 6:00 pm on the OLG Stage on Cumberland Street
One day earlier this year I got an out-of-the-blue friend request on Facebook from Sarah Thawer. I had no idea who she was, so I looked her up, and soon after booked her for the Festival! Sarah's an exciting drummer who seems comfortable playing basically in any style. I've watched video of her mixing jazz with East Indian rhythms and harmonies, and also playing with the York University Gospel Choir. She's earned acclaim from all kinds of fellow musicians, so I'm looking forward to seeing what she brings to the Festival stage.
Big Band Slam: Friday June 29, 12:00 pm-3:45 pm on the OLG Stage on Hazelton Avenue
The Big Band Slam is one of my favourite events. The Slam each year features four high school jazz bands from across the Greater Toronto Area, performing with a guest artist. This year bands from St. Aloysius Gonzaga, Brooklin High School, O'Neill Collegiate and Pierre Elliott Trudeau High School team up with veteran saxophone and big band musician Andy Ballantyne. The Slam is not a competition; it is instead a chance to showcase some of the outstanding music being made by high school music students across the city - and it's always a blast.
Toronto Blues Society Talent Search: Sunday July 1, 12:30 pm-4:30 pm on the OLG Stage on Cumberland Street
In what has become an annual tradition, we're pleased to welcome back the Toronto Blues Society's Talent Search again this year. Over the four hours, you'll hear the six finalists perform short sets; the winner will be chosen at the end of the event. All of the acts are sure to be great; and who knows where you might next see the winning band!
Jazz Musician Intensive Ensemble: Sunday July 1, 5:15 pm on the OLG Stage on Hazelton Avenue
The Jazz Musician Intensive (JMI) is a new professional development initiative, made up of two streams: daily clinics, free and open to the public, on a variety of career development topics; and an 8-member ensemble, made up of students selected by faculty at the four major post-secondary jazz programs in the Greater Toronto Area (University of Toronto, Humber College, York University and Mohawk College). Hear the product of a week of intensive rehearsals, as the JMI Ensemble performs a mix of standards and originals under the guidance of JUNO Award winning bassist Mike Downes.
Collective Order: Sunday July 1, 6:00 pm on the OLG Stage on Cumberland Street
I'm a huge fan of Collective Order's concept. In a nutshell: put together a bunch of outstanding young musicians, who all enjoy playing together, and see what happens. Collective Order features 19 musicians, all whom are making a major contribution to the local jazz scene, playing in a variety of small ensemble makeups. Fresh from recording their second album - this one featuring original compositions - I'm looking forward the hearing live their various permutations and combinations.
The term "emerging" may be nebulous, but the music to be presented by each of these acts is not - expect high quality playing from musicians you're bound to be seeing more frequently around the city and across the country.
Complete information on these and other performers - including some of the artists who qualify as emerging but are not listed here - is available on our website.
Tomorrow we go inside and out to explore the contrast between acts which play straight down the middle, and acts which play anything but.