We are only a couple of days away from the 36th edition of the TD Toronto Jazz Festival. 10 days of FREE outdoor music with back-to-back performances on multiple stages. There’s music with varied rhythms and flavours for all the tastes. Here’s a short list with some of our choices.
1. Mark Kelso & The Jazz Exiles / June 24 / 5:15 pm / TD Main Stage / OLG Grove / FREE
The Jazz Exiles are a 5-piece, JUNO nominated, Jazz-Fusion unit out of Toronto. This exciting Canadian group of all-stars is helmed by drummer/composer/leader, Mark Kelso who is originally from Belfast, Northern Ireland. This group also features some of Canada’s finest in-demand musicians as well. On alto sax, from Camagüey, Cuba is the incredible Luis Deniz. On guitar from Santi Spiritus, Cuba is the amazing Elmer Ferrer. On keyboards we have the spectacular talents of Jeremy Ledbetter and on bass, the virtuosic voice of Rich Brown. Together these 5 musicians create a uniquely exciting and melodic sound that has been thrilling audiences across North America since 2015.
YouTube Video – Mark Kelso & The Jazz Exiles
2. Pedrito Martinez Group / June 24 / 9:30 pm / TD Main Stage / OLG Grove / FREE
A consummate master of Afro-Cuban folkloric music and the batá drum, Pedrito Martinez is also the world’s first-call rumbero—playing, singing, and dancing with dozens of Cuban rumba groups and contributing to, or appearing in, several important films, including Calle 54 (2000) and Chico and Rita (2010). Pedrito was a founding member of the highly successful, Afro-Cuban/Afro-Beat band, Yerba Buena, with which he recorded two albums and toured the world in the mid- to late-90’s. Mr. Martinez’s career as a leader began in 2005 with the formation in NYC of the The Pedrito Martinez Group.
YouTube Video – Pedrito Martinez Group at Drom NYC
3. Jane Bunnett’s Afro-Cuban Jazz Jam / June 24 / 10 pm / The Pilot
Five-time Juno Award winner Jane Bunnett has turned her bands and recordings into showcases for the finest musical talent from Canada, the US, and Cuba. She has been nominated for three Grammy Awards, received The Order of Canada, The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal, and, most recently, The Premier’s Award for Excellence. An internationally acclaimed musician, Bunnett is known for her creative integrity, improvisational daring, and courageous artistry. Her exploration of Afro-Cuban melodies expresses the universality of music, and her ability to embrace and showcase the rhythms and culture of Cuba has been ground-breaking.
4. The Ostara Project / June 28 / 6:45 pm / TD Main Stage / OLG Grove / FREE
The Ostara Project, spear-headed by award-winning musicians Jodi Proznick and Amanda Tosoff, is a jazz super-group that showcases the strength and creativity of Canadian women in jazz. Ostara artists are all top-tier musicians, composers and bandleaders who reflect the geographical, cultural and creative diversity of Canada’s musical landscape. The focus is on presenting original compositions by band members, creating a diverse and provocative repertoire that is given continuity by skilled and nuanced performers. Membership is fluid to suit the wide spectrum of projects the ensemble presents: what remains constant is the heart, creativity and artistry that defines the Ostara Project.
YouTube Video – Introducing The Ostara Project
5. Cimafunk / June 29 / 8:00 pm / The Axis Club / PAID
Cimafunk is an Afro-Cuban Rockstar. His name refers to his heritage as a ‘cimarrón,’ Cubans of African descent who resisted and escaped slavery, as well as to the essence of his music that aims to subvert conventional sounds with rhythmic innovation. By bringing out the best in Cuban rhythms and traditions and infusing sounds and styles from Africa and the U.S., Cimafunk has created something unique and special, not only in terms of music but also with the values he stands for. He is redefining contemporary Cuban music as well as Afro-Latin identity and the fusion of black cultures.
YouTube Video – Cimafunk – Tiny Desk
6. The Joy Lapps Project / June 30 / 6:45 pm / TD Main Stage / OLG Grove / FREE
Internationally lauded artist and composer Joy Lapps activates spaces for community building and creative expression. The award-winning instrumentalist of Antiguan and Barbudan descent treats the steelpan as a tool for engagement, anchoring her artistry in a profound, community-centered musical tradition. She aims to amplify women’s contributions in every facet of her work, giving nuanced attention to women of the steelband movement. At her core, Joy connects to music as participatory. The Toronto native has performed alongside Stewart Goodyear, Roberto Occhipinti, Larnell Lewis, and recorded with Gramps Morgan, Elmer Ferrer, Jeremy Ledbetter, Johnny Reid and her musical mentor, pannist-composer Andy Narell.
YouTube Video – Joy Lapps: Josie’s Smile
7. Jesse Ryan & Kaiso Street Collective / July 1 / 3:00 pm / TD Main Stage / OLG Grove / FREE
Kaiso Street Collective is a new ensemble composed of some of Toronto’s most exciting improvisers and composers who share deep musical and cultural connections to jazz and Afro-Caribbean musical traditions.
Led by Juno-nominated, Trinidadian-born saxophonist Jesse Ryan, the grandson of the late calypso veteran Clifton Ryan ‘The Mighty Bomber”; the ensemble is dedicated to presenting fresh arrangements of music from the golden age of calypso to new audiences, re-imagined through the lens of modern jazz.
YouTube Video – Jesse Ryan & Kaiso Street Collective
8. Swingão Brazilian Jazz Project / July 1 / 8:30 pm / TD Village Stage / FREE
Swingão Brazilian Jazz Project is a brand new, international Brazilian jazz project. With musicians born around the globe, they play music fostered by a mutual love of samba, choro and bossa nova. Anchoring the US band members is the legendary Brazilian drummer Portinho, alongside harmonica sensation Hendrik Meurkens. The Canada team features Mexican bassist Paco Luviano, Hannah Burgé and Gord Sheard. They are making the Toronto debut of this international collaboration at Sam’s Place in the beautiful Prince Edward County, Ontario, on June 30th, 2023 at 7:00 pm and on July 1st at the TD Toronto Jazz Festival, at the TD Village Stage in Yorkville at 8:30 pm.
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