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Festivals Report

Panamania Toronto 2015: Concert Picks

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PANAMANIA, presented by CIBC, is the 35-day arts and culture festival to enrich the TORONTO 2015 Pan Am/Parapan Am Games experience. More than 250 unique performances and exhibitions, both free and ticketed, will take place across Toronto from July 10 to August 15. PANAMANIA will showcase the diverse cultures and artistic excellence of Ontario, Canada and the Americas through music, theatre, dance, visual arts and fashion.

Juan de Marcos & The Afro Cuban All Stars


After gaining international fame for reviving the classic sound of Cuban son, tres master Juan de Marcos turned the Afro-Cuban All Stars into a sensational showcase for Cuba’s most prodigious young musicians. While long revered in Latin America and Europe as a founding member of Cuba’s great son revival band Sierra Maestra, de Marcos first gained notice in the US as founder of the Buena Vista Social Club. It was de Marcos who assembled Ibrahim Ferrer, Eliades Ochoa, Ruben Gonzalez and the rest of the crew for Ry Cooder when he came to Havana looking for illustrious old timers. But de Marcos is just as interested in promoting Cuba’s brilliant young musicians as in highlighting Cuba’s senior talent. The Afro-Cuban All Stars not only features a multi-generational cast, the group draws on both classic Cuban styles like son and danzón and contemporary dance rhythms like timba.
FREE CONCERT: Thursday, July 16 at 8:45 pm | VENUE: Distillery District
FREE CONCERT: Friday, July 17 at 1:00 pm | VENUE: CIBC Pan Am Park

Alexander Abreu y Havana D’ Primera (Cuba)


Alexander Abreu y Havana D’ Primera is the Cuban Timba band directed and founded by Alexander Abreu in 2008, widely recognized as one of the greatest trumpet players of his generation – enriching most of the musical productions on the island. The band was formed by a collective of the best musicians and Cuban-All-Stars artists in the current Cuban scenario. Alexander has established himself as a dominating vocalist and renowned songwriter. His highly sophisticated melodic voice has made him remain as an outstanding vocalist with the added melodic sophistication of a skilled instrumentalist. He is considered one of the most versatile Cuban musicians, who has made of his music a fascinating rhythmic and musical fusion of Salsa, Jazz, Funk and Afro-Cuban.
FREE CONCERT: Friday, July 17 at 9:30 pm and 9:45 pm
VENUE: Nathan Phillips Square

Plena Libre (Puerto Rico)


Led by founder and bassist Gary Nunez, Plena Libre is recognized for taking the once dormant, Puerto Rican plena style of music and reclaiming it for a new generation of listeners to enjoy. The group became instantly popular in Puerto Rico, with National Geographic crediting Plena Libre among other Puerto Rican acts in “spearheading the Latin invasion of American popular music. Plena Libre features three vocalists singing in captivating three and four-part harmonies which complement the group’s danceable, Afro-Rican compositions. The group’s use of call-and-response, percussion and polyrhythms keeps each show feeling groovy and fresh.
FREE CONCERT: Monday, July 20 at 8:30 pm
VENUE: Nathan Phillips Square

Spanish Harlem Orchestra (New York)


Spanish Harlem Orchestra, the two-time Grammy winning Salsa and Latin Jazz band, sets the standard for excellence for authentic, New York style, hard core salsa. Live or recorded, it doesn’t get any better. Whether a concert hall or an outdoor jazz festival, there is no easing you in, they are coming at you full force from start to finish. Their energy on stage, rich sound and musical precision leave audiences mesmerized until the last note is played. With an unwavering respect for the musics rich history, thirteen world-class musicians and vocalists come together to create an unparalleled musical experience.
FREE CONCERT: Monday, July 20 at 9:30 pm
VENUE: Nathan Phillips Square

Latin Jazz Network is a project dedicated to the advancement of Latin jazz and its creators. Since 2000 LJN has been spreading the word about this wonderful music known under the umbrella term: LATIN JAZZ.

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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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