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Festivals Report

A Day At The Toronto Jazz Festival 2017

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Brian Blain - TD Toronto Jazz Fest 2017
Brian Blain Trio - TD Toronto Jazz Fest 2017

Brian Blain Trio – TD Toronto Jazz Fest 2017 – Photo credit: Paul J. Youngman

The Toronto Jazz Festival is always a happening event and as with jazz so it seems that the Toronto Jazz Festival does some improvising, changing personnel, adding sponsors, adding acts across a wide spectrum of styles, multiple Grammy award winning  Aaron Neville was the headliner for one of the free shows. Changing locations, usually the festival is at Nathan Philips Square near Toronto City Hall, or sometimes in Toronto’s theatre district. This year’s event, which officially ran from June 23rd to July 2nd had as its base of operations the area located in Toronto known as Yorkville.

Advertised as having more than 100 free concerts presented throughout stages in the Yorkville community, the  shows started daily at noon and ran until about 10 p.m. The Toronto Jazz Festival made use of the newly renovated Concert Hall, formerly the  Masonic Temple, Canadian rock legend Randy Bachman kicked off the Concert Hall series on Friday, June 23. His performance was presented by new sponsor, rock radio station Q107.

Legendary performers and as many sponsors as possible, these are the major components that keep the Jazz Festivals of the world going strong. No matter your tastes in music or your particular brand of jazz, something to be heard and seen for everyone. There were a couple of major cancellations. Aretha Franklin the “Queen of Soul” was scheduled for July 1st, she cancelled due to poor health and her concert has been rescheduled to June 28, 2018. The jazz trio ACS (Geri Allen, Terri Lyne Carrington, Esperanza Spalding ) cancelled, initially due to illness of one of the members. Later it was announced the great pianist Geri Allen had succumbed to her illness, passing on from this world on June 27th. Geri Allen leaves behind a legacy of incredible performances captured on record and video.  I will always remember witnessing the Geri Allen Quartet and the incredibly spiritual performance at that 22nd Toronto Jazz Festival back in 2011.

Alison Young Quintet - TD Toronto Jazz Fest 2017

Alison Young Quintet

There were a  few different venues throughout the Yorkville community, the TNT Lounge, The Laneway, OLG Stage on Cumberland St. , OLG Stage on Hazelton Ave.  I visited the festivals stomping grounds on day 6, including the head office at the Intercontinental Hotel.  Some of the acts I caught included the Alison Young Quintet. Afternoon jazz in the great outdoors on a sunny day. Alison is a saxophone player with a bright powerful sound. Joining Alison, were a keyboard player, a drummer, a guitarist and a bassist. The group played some straight ahead jazz, some standards and an original tune of Alison Young’s music.

Following the sound of music, I headed in that immediate direction down a small laneway and came upon the Brian Blain Trio and heard the Blain hit tune “Saab Story” A romantic ballad about a girl and her car.

After that it was time for a break, the beauty of the Yorkville area is it puts you in the vicinity of some of the best restaurants in Toronto. My guest and I walked back towards the festival’s head office and an Italian restaurant I had heard good things about, Fieramosca.

The restaurant was excellent, delicious food and wine. The service was great and the place had a wonderful vibe. While dining I happened to notice our neighbours at the next table made up of two thirds of the La Barbera family, brothers John and Joe. I wished them well on their gig celebrating Buddy Rich at 100. The John La Barbera Big Band would perform the music of Buddy Rich at the Concert Hall. Brother Pat would be in the band on saxophone as he was when he played in the Buddy Rich band. John La Barbera contributed compositions and arrangements to Buddy Rich’s band from 1969 up to Rich’s passing in 1989. Brother Joe would play the part of Buddy Rich, big shoes to fill but I’m sure he did a splendid job.

Ashley Summers Raison d’Être - TD Toronto Jazz Festival 2017

Ashley Summers Raison d’Être

As the sun was setting my friend and I headed back towards the festival stages. The first group we came upon, Ashley Summers Raison d’Être, performing on the Laneway Stage. A quartet made up of Daniel Bruce, guitar, Chris Baker, drums, tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi and the leader on acoustic bass. They had a great sound and were playing some of the songs from Ashley Summers current CD – True North. A swinging, flowing feeling emanates from the band, blending arrangements for guitar and saxophone with brilliance. The drums and bass in complete simpatico a delightful jazz quartet.

Sambacana with special guest Babi Mendes

Sambacana with special guest Babi Mendes

Not long after the Ashley Summers quartet finished the group Sambacana prepared to take over at one of the outdoor stages. This was a party band, and a party atmosphere reminding me of festival time in Brasil. The show got off to a late start, held up by a delivery truck that manoeuvred its way through crowds and barriers to drop off a giant construction refuse container.  A different kind of entertainment, something a festival could only encounter when taking over the constantly evolving Yorkville Village.

Sambacana with special guest Babi Mendes from São Paulo and made up of Filó Machado, Tico Souza, Alan Hetherington, Ross MacIntyre and Alex Dean. The band samba’d through their set with some hip shaking tunes and Bossa Nova rhythms.

Alexis Baro - TD Toronto Jazz Fest 2017

Alexis Baro and Pueblo Nuevo Jazz Project

After a few tunes of delight from the Sambacana crew it was time for a trip to Cuba with Alexis Baro and Pueblo Nuevo Jazz Project  with  Jeff King, Papiosco, Amhed Mitchell, Michael Shand and Yoser Rodriguez. Outstanding playing all around for these jazz all stars. Some tremendous trumpet and saxophone playing from Baro and King respectively.

Some  excellent video of the show appears here:

A great way to end a day, relaxing in Yorkville and listening to the sumptuous sounds of Alexis Baro and his Pueblo Nuevo Jazz Project. Thanks TD Toronto Jazz Festival for an all around great day.

All photographs by: Paul J. Youngman

An independent journalist, based in Toronto, Canada. A professional musician and a fan of music, dance and the arts. I have written short stories, lyrics, poetry and reviews. I have been published in numerous online webzines. I’ve taught drumming and played in bands; I have felt the passion to create. I enjoy expressing that passion, the artistic experience, in words, reporting on the shows and musical experiences that I have witnessed.

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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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