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The Beaches International Jazz Festival

When warm weather hits here, we love to head to The Beach, a thriving community of eclectic homes, quaint shops and eateries, and beautiful parks. For four days in July, it’s also the site of the Beaches International Jazz Festival. One of the city’s most popular summer events, it’s also one of the most diverse, celebrating jazz, blues, funk, bossa nova and more. Now in its 19th year, the festival’s programming reflects the distinct atmosphere of The Beach, which over the years has developed a reputation as the laid-back antithesis to downtown’s hustle and bustle.

StreetFest is one of two main ways to experience the Beaches festival. Dozens of musicians are slated to perform at this high-spirited jam. More than two kilometres of Queen Street East (between Coxwell and Victoria Park avenues) is closed off to make room for performers and pedestrians—nearly one million revelers are expected over StreetFest’s three days.

Music resounds from restaurant patios, in front of shops, on street corners and balconies for all to hear. The city’s abundance of cultural flavours is the main emphasis, with artists playing swing, bebop, rhythm and blues, folk, reggae and more. The Toronto All-Star Big Band is a perennial favourite, Shakura S’Aida offers a sultry take on the blues, while KC Roberts and his septet bring the funk and hip hop. Hard-bop band Kollage—led by celebrated drummer Archie Alleyne—returns for what is sure to be a powerhouse performance.

The sounds of the street give way to the sounds of the park on the weekend, as featured performers provide a more traditional concert experience on the festival’s MainStage. The OLG Mainstage at Kew Gardens hosts five sets each day, between 11:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. Kew Gardens is an expansive green space offering festival-goers ample room to stretch out, relax and groove to the music.

PARTY HEARTY July 20 to 22
Though it’s not at The Beach, PartiGras shares the Beaches International Jazz Festival’s inclusive spirit. The Distillery Historic District’s cobblestone streets host dozens of musicians and bands on three stages. Visit www.torontopartigras.com for details.

Enjoy this stellar lineup at the Alex Christie Bandshell at Kew Gardens.


11:30 A.M. Jayme Stone: Banjo player with a roots/jazz repertoire.

12:30 P.M. Son Aché: Toronto-based collective has been compared to the Buena Vista Social Club.

2 P.M. David “Ziggy” Walcott: Calypso melodies by a steel-drum specialist from Barbados.

3:30 P.M. Carl Weathersby: Fierce electric-guitar blues with a touch of Southern soul.

5 P.M. Bonerama: Funk and rock featuring four trombones.


11:30 A.M. Treasa Levasseur: Roots musician from Winnipeg.

12:30 P.M. Souljazz Orchestra: Ottawa band performs punchy, high-energy Afrobeat jams.

2 P.M. Bill King’s Saturday Nite Fish Fry: Led by King, the festival’s artistic director, this nine-piece band serves hot-buttered soul.

3:30 P.M. Kal David and the Real Deal: Former guitarist for Etta James and John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers is the genuine article.

5 P.M. Hilario Durán and Havana Remembered: Explosive big band. Cuban-born pianist Durán is one of Canada’s most celebrated musicians.

See The Buzz on Jazz for Where‘s favourite jazz venues.

For more about Toronto’s vibrant jazz scene, check out 10 Jazz Venues.—Craig Moy

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