Alright - here we go - part 2 of the trilogy of posts hoping to help you navigate the variety of free programming at this year's TD Toronto Jazz Festival. Today - Toronto-based emerging artists.
Now, defining the term "emerging" is kind of like defining the term "jazz." (And if you think I'm going down that road you are sorely mistaken.) For the purposes of this post, I'm taking emerging to mean any artist, of any age, who is still developing his or her distinctive voice. So that could be a high school student, or it could be a very active member of Toronto's jazz community who has not yet released an album under his/her own name, or who may not be - yet - the "first call." The term is meant to indicate someone whose development is worth following - these are artists who, either in the near future or further down the road, are likely to significantly increase their contribution to Toronto's jazz scene.
And with that bit of administration out of the way, let's dive in...
The Humber Student Ensemble: Friday June 23, 8:30 pm on the OLG Stage on Cumberland Avenue. Further proof that the tradition of jazz is in good shape: this sextet of Humber College students - Matt Lagan and Emily Steinwall on saxophone, Julien Bradley-Combs on guitar, Erik Larson on bass, David Steinmetz on drums and Chris Tufaro on piano - perform a mix of jazz standards and original compositions.
Toronto Blues Society Talent Search Finalists: Saturday June 24, 12:00 & 2:30 pm on the OLG Stage on Cumberland Street. One of a few "stage takeovers" featured this year, here the Toronto Blues Society features the six selected finalists from their annual Canada-wide Talent Search. The winner will be announced at the end of the 2:30 set!
Amanda Tosoff Words Quintet: Saturday June 24, 5:30 pm on the OLG Stage on Cumberland Street. Amanda performs music from her Words project, which features her original compositions set to words by poets from Canada and abroad - and which helped to earn Amanda the 2016 Toronto Arts Foundation Emerging Jazz Artist Award. The winner of the 2017 Emerging Jazz Artist Award will be revealed immediately prior to Amanda's set, so arrive early!
Chloe Charles: Saturday June 24, 6:00 pm on the OLG Stage on Yorkville Avenue. Chloe Charles is one of the most important figures on Toronto's soul and R&B scenes, and has already performed at festivals around the world. Emerging? She may be past that by now...but she's definitely someone to catch.
Acid Jazz: Jazz Money x DillanPonders: Saturday June 24, 9:00 pm in the Stealth Lounge at the Pilot Tavern. I know I'm not supposed to play favourites, but I'm pretty excited about this one. What started as a busking jazz trio known as Jazz Money has evolved into an exploration of the intersection of jazz and hip-hop, with a seven-piece band backing up live MCs. They will have the Stealth Lounge (upstairs at The Pilot) rocking.
Thompson Egbo-Egbo: Sunday June 25, 1:00 pm in the Yorkville Village Oval. A graduate of both Humber College and Berklee College, Thompson has consistently impressed with his abilities on the piano. Here in a solo setting, you'll get to hear what makes him tick.
Angela Turone: Sunday June 25, 3:00 pm in the Yorkville Village TNT Lounge. I first heard Angela sing last year in a performance/lecture under the direction of Chase Sanborn. I was impressed with her voice, but also with the ease with which she sang in Portuguese (not her first language) and the ease with which she spoke with the audience. Performing a mix of bossas, standards and originals in a trio format, Angela will demonstrate why she's quickly making a name for herself at home and further afield.
KC Roberts & The Live Revolution: Sunday June 25, 8:00 pm on the OLG Stage on Yorkville Avenue. KC Roberts and his powerhouse funk unit The Live Revolution have been putting on incredible shows for at least a decade. When I first saw them, I was knocked out by their energy, the originality of the material and the precision with which it was performed. This is a tight unit, sure to get you moving.
Parker Abbott Trio: Monday June 26, 5:00 pm on the OLG Stage on Hazelton Avenue. The Parker Abbott Trio has been on my radar for a few years now. With two keyboards and a drummer, they're working with a unique sound palette. And while comparisons could be drawn to groups like The Bad Plus or Mehliana, their whimsical, fun and groovy compositions sound like no one else.
Dialectica Saxophone Quartet / Hogtown Brass Quintet: Monday June 26, 7:00 pm at Church of The Redeemer. Two for one! For free! Here are nine musicians who are making an impressive mark on the local jazz, classical and new music scenes. Dialectica features familiar musicians like Chelsea McBride and Shannon Graham; Hogtown member RJ Satchithananthan is a regular in a variety of scenes on trombone and bass, while trumpeter Ira Zingraff performs with (among others) indie band del bel. These two groups - performing a mix of originals and arrangements - will sound fantastic in the church acoustic.
Soul Motivators: Monday June 26, 9:00 pm in the Stealth Lounge at The Pilot Tavern. Moar funk! The Soul Motivators have been steadily building a loyal following in Toronto over the past several years. They've most recently headlined at The Horseshoe Tavern and Lee's Palace, so it will be a treat to get up close and personal in the Stealth Lounge for their take on vintage funk and soul.
Les Petits Nouveaux: Tuesday June 27, 3:00 pm on the Yorkville Village TNT Lounge. Reminiscent of the Hot Club of Paris, Les Petits Nouveaux has consistently impressed me with their authentic interpretation of the music of people like Django Reinhardt, but also with their original compositions and their always-tight ensemble playing. They take seriously a style of jazz which doesn't always get much attention these days - and it's refreshing!
Chelsea McBride and the Cityscape: Tuesday June 27, 4:00 pm on the OLG Stage on Hazelton Avenue. The brainchild of saxophonist and composer Chelsea McBride, Chelsea and the Cityscape features interesting compositions which effectively combine jazz with pop, rock and folk. Chelsea's compositions (I know from experience!) are fun to play but can also be a challenge - vocalist Mara Nesrallah does a great job performing Chelsea's more-intersting-than-you'll-hear-on-the-radio melodies.
Merriam School of Music - Merriam All-Star Band: Wednesday June 28, 1:30 & 4:00 pm on the OLG Stage on Hazelton Avenue. Here's your chance to see what's in store a generation or two from now. Featuring some of Merriam's outstanding students and faculty, the Merriam All-Star Band performs a mix of original compositions and cover tunes.
Alison Young Quintet: Wednesday June 28, 2:30 pm on the OLG Stage on Cumberland Street. Over the past several years, Alison Young has established herself as a go-to saxophonist in the local swing, blues and jazz communities. Alison has a great sound and is able to generate impressive energy with her soloing. She'll be playing music from her soon-to-be-released debut album.
The National Youth Jazz Combo 2017: Thursday June 29, 1:30 pm on the OLG Stage on Hazelton Avenue. An auditioned ensemble featuring high school musicians from across Canada, The National Youth Jazz Combo gathers each year in Toronto under the leadership of Kirk MacDonald. And each year, their playing is outstanding. They dive into challenging material - often originals by Kirk or from members of the ensemble - and consistently demonstrate why the selected musicians are names to watch.
The Big Band Slam: Thursday June 29, 2:00 pm at The Rex Jazz & Blues Bar. The Big Band Slam is one of my favourite events each year. This year, bands from Martingrove Collegiate Institute and Don Mills Collegiate Institute, along with the High Rendition Youth Jazz Band and the Hart House Jazz Ensemble, team up with special guest trumpeter Jason Logue for a fun and friendly afternoon of big band music.
FOG Brass Band: Thursday June 29, 5:30 pm on the OLG Stage on Cumberland Street. FOG Brass Band leader Rebecca Hennessy has earned a reputation for consistently creative playing; she is now a top call trumpeter in a variety of settings. With FOG, Rebecca and the group start from the New Orleans brass band tradition and go on quite a journey - into blues, rock and wackiness - all while keeping things groovy.
The Jessica Stuart Few: Thursday June 29, 6:30 pm in the Yorkville Village Laneway. This group has been one of my go-to bands for original music played well. Jessica sings and plays guitar and koto; her music mashes up jazz with folk, rock, pop and musical traditions from East Asia (among many others) in an always-entertaining set list. Come hear why she has been invited to perform around the world.
Allison Au Quartet: Thursday June 29, 8:00 pm on the OLG Stage on Hazelton Avenue. Allison's quartet has been together since 2009 and in that (relatively) short time has earned awards, scholarships and general acclaim across the country - including a 2016 JUNO Award. Allison's sound and approach on the saxophone, coupled with her original compositions, have made her a distinct voice on the Canadian jazz scene.
JAZZ.FM91 Youth Big Band: Friday June 30, 12:00 pm on the OLG Stage on Cumberland Street. Since its creation eight years ago, the JAZZ.FM91 Youth Big Band has proven to be an important training ground for young musicians seeking to further their jazz experience. Under the direction of Jules Estrin, the quality of the band improves each year; they are now at home on stages at festivals and venues throughout Ontario. You never who you'll hear - or where their jazz career will take them.
The Joy Lapps Project: Friday June 30, 2:30 pm on the OLG Stage on Cumberland Street. If you've never seen a jazz steel pan musician, I hope you'll come and see Joy Lapps. Whether soloing over jazz standards or original compositions, Joy is as fluid on the steel pan as the most proficient musicians on any other instrument. Her joy while performing is obvious, and her mix of jazz, calypso, reggae, salsa and more always generates high-energy set lists.
Myriad3: Friday June 30, 8:30 pm on the OLG Stage on Cumberland Street. Here's another group which perhaps does not fit comfortably in the "emerging" category. Myriad3 members Chris Donnelly (piano), Dan Fortin (bass) and Ernesto Cervini (drums) are some of Toronto's busiest players. But as a trio, they are still carving out their own unique landscape. Their repertoire mixes interesting arrangements of jazz standards with original compositions, and the playing switches effortlessly from more bop-influenced lines to more experimental adventures. You never know exactly where they'll take you, but it's sure to be good.
The Youth Jazz Showcase: Saturday Jul 1, 12:00 pm at The Rex Jazz & Blues Bar. Here's another of my favourite events each year. Three bands - the National Youth Jazz Combo, a student group from Berklee College in Boston (this year under the direction of trumpet Jason Palmer), and a group from further afield (this year from the Thelma Yellin School of the Arts in Israel) get together for three days of musical exchange and mentorship. The activity culminates in what is always a high-quality performance which reflects the jazz traditions of three different parts of the world (and demonstrates that jazz truly is a universal language).
Eliana Cuevas Quintet: Saturday July 1, 2:30 pm on the OLG Stage on Cumberland Street. I've been a fan of Eliana's since first hearing her sing several years ago. Whether leading her own band or as a side musician, when singing lyrics or in a wordless setting, her instrument is impressive. She uses her full range effortlessly and accurately, and lyrics are delivered cleanly and clearly - whether in English or Spanish. Come see why she was once called "Canada's emerging Latin Music queen" by 680 News!
Joanna Majoko Quintet: Saturday July 1, 5:30 pm on the OLG Stage on Cumberland Street. I'm excited about this show for a couple of reasons. First - Joanna really is a talent to be watched. Still relatively new to Toronto, she has quickly impressed with her soulful voice and her interpretations of jazz and soul standards as well as original compositions. And second - this is the inaugural concert under the "Toronto Jazz Up Next" banner. Thanks to the generous support of Michael Bourgeois and Marilyn Legge, Toronto Jazz Up Next helps us to provide prominent public exposure to emerging jazz acts based in the Greater Toronto Area. We look forward to expanding the program in the future.
Do Right at The TD Toronto Jazz Festival: Sunday July 2, 1:30-9:30 pm on the OLG Stage on Hazelton Avenue. Over the course of the afternoon, Do Right! Music presents three outstanding groups worth checking out. At 1:30, The Cookers Quintet pays homage to the musical mastery - and mentorship - of groups led by the likes of Horace Silver and Art Blakey. At 4:00 pm, Jill Peacock shows off the vocal and compositional skills she developed as a student at Berklee College. And at 8:00 pm, get ready to party with Tush - an unapologetically high-energy 6-piece disco group.
Joel Visentin's Boogaloo Squad: Sunday July 2, 2:30 pm on the OLG Stage on Cumberland Street. From what I can tell, pianist Joel Visentin can play anything - any tune, any time. For his Boogaloo Squad, he focusses on his passion for the Hammond B3 organ, and with his bandmates Adam Beer Colacino on guitar and drummer Jeff Halischuk demonstrates an authentic knowledge and understanding of the B3 tradition - this is bluesy, gospelly, groovy music played by some outstanding musicians.
OKAY - DID I FORGET ANYONE TODAY? Oh probably. But I think my eyes have gone crossed and I've lost feeling to most of my fingers. That's a lot of typing...and a lot of music! As I mentioned yesterday, daily listings - along with full bios - are available here.
Believe it or not, our first official Festival shows happen on Wednesday - Russ Little at Don Mills Library, and Gregory Porter at Koerner Hall. But I'll still have a day or two to complete this trilogy before the free shows kick into high gear. The exciting conclusion? Some of the outstanding veteran musicians appearing on our free stages this year. Stay tuned!