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Festivals Report

5 CD Releases during Lulaworld 2013 at Lula Lounge

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Since its inception in the local music circuit in 2002, Lula Lounge, a club with a vision, has become one of the most important hubs for Latin and World music, jazz, Latin jazz and Afro-Cuban artists in Toronto. It has become as well the place to be for a growing audience of music lovers with a taste for global rhythms from all over the planet.

May in Toronto is the month of Lulaworld. This year, the popular festival celebrated the 11th anniversary of the opening of Lula Lounge. For three weeks, from May 10 to 31, Lula Music and Arts Centre (Lula’s sister cultural organization) presented an eclectic festival with representation of outstanding local and international talent. With a strong emphasis on Latin music, Lulaworld 2013 also showcased a diversity of musical genres that included Ethiopian jazz, soul, reggae, Brazilian, Jewish and classical concerts by artists with musical roots from around the globe. From the opening night, dedicated to Ethiopian jazz, until the closing night, dedicated to the history of Brazilian samba with a special guest dancer/choreographer visiting from Brazil, 16 concerts took place. The participating artists, around 120, represented more than 12 countries.

Eliana CuevasOn Wednesday, May 15th, Eliana Cuevas released her new CD entitled Espejo. This is her 4th album, which has been well received by her followers and praised by the local media. Espejo has a distinctive sound that identifies the music of Eliana Cuevas. It blends Latin rhythms, a touch of jazz  and world music  with beautiful, original melodies, intelligent songwriting and a superb job executed by producer and composer Jeremy Ledbetter. About Eliana’s new project our senior writer and Editor, Raul da Gama, says: “It is clear from the music on this album that Ms. Cuevas has matured considerably since her 2002 debut Cohesión... Ms. Cuevas has pushed her skills to the limit… Despite its pop appeal, Espejo is a wonderful revelation of the artistry of Eliana Cuevas. It is indeed a wonderful reflection of her expressive musicality as well as the depth of her spirituality and soulfulness.” Read full review.

Everton Pablo Paul and La AcademiaOn Thursday, May 16th, drummer Everton “Pablo” Paul & La Academia (a band formed in Havana for this project) released their CD Remembrance. A native of Jamaica who migrated to Toronto in 1965, Everton “Pablo” Paul is well known in the local scene as member and founder of the fabulous reggae band The Cougars. Born from a strong desire to fusion his musical roots with Afro-Cuban music, Remembrance (in Everton’s own words) “is an inventive fusion of indigenous contemporary rhythm patterns from both countries (Cuba and Jamaica), based on the universal songbook of Bob Marley.” Recorded at the Nelson Studio in Havana, Cuba, Remembrance creatively reinvents Bob Marley’s music featuring Everton “Pablo” Paul and La Academia, a group of extremely talented Cuban musicians led by drummer Ruy López Nussa and arranged by musical director Roberto García López.

Amhed MitchelOn Friday, May 17th, Cuban drummer and bandleader Amhed Mitchel and The Breath of Life Project released their CD Path to Heaven. With original compositions written and dedicated to the memory of Amhed’s recently deceased father, Jorge Mitchel García, Path to Heaven is a poignant tribute from a loving and grateful son  who honors the career of a great drummer, a friend, and the best teacher one student could ever have: his own father. Mitchel’s octet is integrated by some of Toronto’s most brilliant jazz and Latin players: Elmer Ferrer (guitar), David Restivo (piano), Stan Fomin (accordion), Roberto Riverón (bass), Luis Denis (saxophone), Jorge Luis Torres “Papiosco” (percussion), Pablosky Rosales (tres). Special guests are: Pat Labarbera (soprano sax), Robi Botos (piano) and Cuban trumpet virtuoso, Alexander Brown. This project is the perfect example of the high level of artistic collaboration between musicians from different backgrounds in Canada. A wonderful creative melting pot in the True North strong and free.

Yani BorrellThe same evening of May 17th, right after Amhed Mitchel and The Breath of Life Project’s CD release, the talented singer-songwriter and bandleader Yani Borrell released his first recording as a solo artist, simply entitled Yani Borrell. Yani hails from Camagüey, Cuba, where he honed his skills from a very early age. He performed with recognized Cuban bands, including the internationally acclaimed orchestra, Valentín y Los del Caribe. He has become a fixture of the Latin music scene in Toronto since his arrival in 2004. A great improviser and a very energetic performer, Borrell is a crowd pleaser and a favorite on the dance floor. Yani Borrell was recorded in Colombia, produced and arranged by Borrell’s creative partner, the great Roberto Linares-Brown.  The album offers very danceable tunes, original compositions paired with terrific arrangements.

Adonis PuentesOn Saturday, May 25th, singer-songwriter and bandleader Adonis Puentes released his new recording Sabor a Café. One of the lead singers on the acclaimed first CD of José Rizo’s Mongorama ensemble (a tribute project to Master conguero Mongo Santamaría), Puentes is a nominee for both Canada’s Juno and Grammy Awards. Feeling strongly compelled to write about this great project after giving it a first listen, I pointed out that Sabor a Café “was created with a winning formula: original compositions richly imbued with tradition; superb arrangements with an international flavor; a world class band that delivers with great precision; witty, intelligent lyrics inspired by everyday life and by the greatest power of all: Love. Adonis is a gifted vocalist and songwriter, a true sonero with clear intonation and powerful projection. I believe this recording is an award-winning project. Watch out! Adonis Puentes’ time has come.” Read full review.

Founder, Editor, Webmaster: Latin Jazz Network, World Music Report, That Canadian Magazine. A passionate and committed communicator with a sensibility for the arts based in Toronto, Canada.

Festivals Report

TD Toronto Jazz Festival – June 24 to July 3, 2022

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TD Toronto Jazz Fest 2022

10 Days of Free Shows — Say What!

My TD Toronto Jazz Festival started mid festival, Tuesday, June 28th, early evening. It was all about Juno winners and nominees. The first act, Sammy Jackson and her quartet performing at the TD Main Stage at the OLG Grove.

Sammy Jackson - Photo by Paul J. Youngman
Sammy Jackson – Photo by Paul J. Youngman

Sammy Jackson won a Juno for vocal jazz album of the year. Her band, made up of Jackson on Vocals, Thomas Fleming – guitar, Chris Pruden – keys, Mark Godfrey – bass and Ian Wright playing the drums. Jackson sang songs from her award winning 5-track EP With You, featuring original compositions. Sammy Jackson added some songs from her 2016 release, the 5-track EP Take Me Back, to make for an enjoyable hour long performance. Jackson’s songs are about joy, vulnerability, long distance relationships, and love. Jackson blends jazz, R&B, soul and pop with her beautiful voice.

Sammy Jackson - Photo by Paul J. Youngman
Sammy Jackson – Photo by Paul J. Youngman

Jackson covers an impressive vocal range, and her phrasing is delightful. Jackson shines on the ballads. I especially enjoyed “Bad Reception” and “Every Time We Say Goodbye”.

Sammy Jackson concluded her show with one dedicated to her son, entitled “Chuckie”, a toddler who happened to be in the audience and made a cameo at the front of the stage. This tune was upbeat and had a happy go lucky, dance groove to get everybody moving.

I spoke with Jackson after the show, I asked her if she noticed the Juno enhancing her career? She said, “I think it’s why I’m here. The Juno increased my exposure. So that’s great. Thank you Juno!”

Kellylee Evans - Photo by Danilo Navas
Kellylee Evans – Photo by Danilo Navas

Kellylee Evans performed the evening of the 28th and I was not going to miss her concert at the TD Main Stage. Kellylee Evans was in great vocal form and in accompaniment with a wonderful band made up of Joel Visentin – keyboards, Mark Godfrey – bass, Rich Grossman – guitar, and Ian Wright on drums.

Evans has suffered some serious physical setbacks in her recovery from a tragic accident in 2013. She has an injury that is effecting her ability to walk and even to stand. She performed the show from a sitting position.

Kellylee Evans - Photo by Danilo Navas
Kellylee Evans – Photo by Danilo Navas

Evans puts her heart and soul into her singing. She is a Juno winner for vocal jazz album of the year for Nina, released in 2010. One of my favourite vocal jazz albums.

This evening, Evans performed songs from her new 5-song EP Green Light as well as many others. A beautiful, dynamic, high energy performance—even from her seated position.

Alexis Baró Quintet - Photo by Paul J. Youngman
Alexis Baró Quintet – Photo by Paul J. Youngman

I started off Wednesday, the 29th with the amazing trumpet playing of Alexis Baró. The Alexis Baró Quintet was performing at the TD Stage at Festival Village in Yorkville.

I really enjoy Baró’s trumpet playing. I think he is one of the most expressive players in the Afro Cuban style. Baró performed songs from his new album Ma Raiz.

Larnell Lewis Band - Photo by Paul J. Youngman
Larnell Lewis Band – Photo by Paul J. Youngman

I only stuck around for a few of the songs as Joy Lapps and Larnell Lewis were performing at the TD Main Stage at the OLG Grove, a few streets south. It is most unfortunate to have these scheduling conflicts. However, It is amazing to have so much talent at one festival.

Joy Lapps and Larnell Lewis performed on the TD Main Stage Wednesday the 29th – a dynamite performance. The band, made up of Larnell Lewis – drums, Joy Lapps – steelpan, Jeremy Ledbetter – piano, Elmer Ferrer – guitar, Rob Christian – woodwinds, Andrew McAnsh – trumpet and Marc Manhertz – bass.

Larnell Lewis Band with Joy Lapps - Photo by Paul J. Youngman
Larnell Lewis Band with Joy Lapps – Photo by Paul J. Youngman

“Rejoice” was the title of one of the songs performed and to hear this band is to rejoice. When I listen to Larnell Lewis play I feel the pulse through my soul. I think this is the most heartful drummer I have ever heard. His music is uplifting, powerful, dynamic, his beats, fills and rhythms, just outstanding. He shares his heart with the audience, nothing is left on the stage. 

Now to get ready for a return to Koerner Hall, after 2 years of isolation, for one of the few ticketed events, the Gregory Porter band. Excited? Yes, indeed!

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