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Festivals Report

Toronto Luminato Festival: Cuban Fusion

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The 2015 edition of the prestigious Toronto Luminato Festival presents world class, globally inspired performances. One of the highlights of their musical offerings is without doubt the CUBAN FUSION free event, which takes place on Tuesday, June 23, 2015 between 8:30 pm and 11:00 pm at the Festival Hub: David Pecaut Square.

Pedigree New York Afro-Latin Jazz meets Canada’s Queen of Cuban Fusion

CUBAN FUSION is an amazing double-bill that begins with the Canadian Lady of Jazz and Afro-Cuban music, Jane Bunnett and her latest band Maqueque, followed by Arturo O’Farrill and his Afro Latin Jazz Orquestra. Coming all the way from New York, this is a rare opportunity to see such a large ensemble performing in Toronto, and for free on top of that. Kudos to Luminato Festival and its organizers for making great concerts like this one happen.

Jane Bunnett and Maqueque

Jane Bunnett and Maqueque LJN

Toronto saxophonist, flutist, Canadian jazz and world music heroine Jane Bunnett has introduced many Cuban musicians to North American audiences over the past decade. Today, the Juno Award-winner has assembled an exciting all-female and all-Cuban group: Maqueque, a sextet that blends traditional Cuban music with folk rhythms and jazz.

Arturo O’Farrill and the Afro Latin Jazz Ensemble

Arturo O'Farrill Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra LJN

Pianist, composer and educator Arturo O’Farrill was born in Mexico and grew up in New York. O’Farrill has performed with a wide spectrum of artists including Dizzy Gillespie, Freddy Cole, The Fort Apache Band and Harry Belafonte. In 2002, O’Farrill founded the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra, a multiple Grammy-nominated band, bringing the vital musical traditions of Afro Cuban Jazz to a wider audience, and greatly expanding the contemporary Latin jazz big band repertoire. He also performs with Malpaso Dance Company at the Fleck Dance Theatre, June 24 to 26.

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.

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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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