Preview – Toronto Jazz Festival 2009


Toronto – Good weather is kind of sort of almost upon us and it’s time for a summer filled with fantastic live music! The Toronto Jazz Festival (sponsored by TD Canada Trust) runs from Friday June 26th till Sunday July 5th. That’s 10 straight days of amazing music at over 40 different venues for your sonic enjoyment! Can you tell that I’m excited?

I’ve been attending the downtown jazz fest for a number years now, and I have to stay that it remains one of my favourite jazz festivals (I have to go to Newport, perhaps I’ll take this cause up with our Editor?)  In any case, there are many amazing acts coming to the city. But I’ll highlight a few of the choiciest shows:

June 26 – Sonny Rollins – Four Seasons

Sonny Rollins has been a grandmaster since the late-50’s with his seminal work Saxophone Collossus.  He is a collossus, and his sense of rythm and phrasing is simply unmatched even today. Toronto has been happy to have him play Massey Hall on on quasi-annual residency. As this grandmaster approaches octagenarian status, I wonder how much longer we will be gifted with his unique talent?

June 26 – Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings – Nathan Phillips

Sharon Jones is a modern day Soul Queen.  Here’s a review of her playing in Toronto last October.

June 27 – Medeski, Martin & Wood – Nathan Philips

MMW sits on the edge of jazz and electronic music. They produce an atmospheric electronic sound. For you electronic lovers looking at jazz from the outside, MMW is a fantastic gateway drug.

June 29-30 – Chris Potter – The Pilot

Chris Potter is one of the brightest of the avant-guarde saxophonists around. I’ve seen him live twice before and both times I walked away with brain aneurysms. Warning: Chris Potter can get crazy (read: crazy jazzy). It’s worth the effort though. Chris Potter will kick your ass. The first time I saw him live in 2004 ranks in my books as “2nd best live jazz show I have seen”.

June 30 – Madeleine Peyroux – Danforth Music Hall

Now I’m not a big jazz vocal kind of guy. Don’t get me wrong, I really do appreciate some of the late great jazz-singers: Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holliday, Sarah Vaughan. But there’s just something about the modern day jazz vocal aesthetic that just isn’t my cup of tea. Sometimes it strikes me as the type of bubblegum that gets thrown on a compilation called “Jazz by Candlelight on the Beach by The Fire” and purchased at a Starbucks near you.

But Madeleine Peyroux is no bublegum jazz. Hers is a serious and legitimate voice that is as commanding as it is genuine.

July 3 – Branford Marsalis – Nathan Phillips

Branford Marsalis has been playing with his quarter for almost 10 years now. That is an eternity in the jazz scene. He’s assembled a top-notch cast: Joey Calderazzo on keys, Jeff “Tain” Watts on drums and the bassist Eric Reeves. They’ve spent the last decade learning to read each others minds and I kid you not that seeing them live still commands the exalted position of “Best Live Jazz Show I Have Seen”.

Now there are many other artist playing at the festival. The big hitters that I have’t yet mentioned are: Dave Brubeck, Gary Burton & Pat Metheny, Jamie Cullum, Kenny Garret, and Tony Bennett.  While the big boys will certainly be fantastic, it may be worth your while to get off the beaten path and check out:

Chucho Valdés – Cuban pianist playing at the Enwave Theatre (one of the best sounding accoustic venues in the city) on July 1st.

José González – Also playing at the Enwave Theatre. Jose has been gaining critical acclaim for his latest album, In our Nature. Jose is certainly more accoustic folk rock than jazz. Think upbeat Great Lake Swimmers. So for the non-jazz fans out there, this will be an amazing show.  His accoustic sensibilities will sound ridiculously good at the Enwave Theatre.

Check out the full lineup TO jazz central.

Posted on by Mark in Concerts, Toronto Jazz Festival