The annual TD Canada Trust Toronto Jazz Festival officially kicks off Friday night with two major headline performances, both at 8 p.m. Die-hard jazz fans will surely pack the Four Seasons Centre to experience a collective bout of tenor madness with legendary saxophonist Sonny Rollins. The venerable musician gained prominence in the 1950s through his effortless, harmonically innovative playing in a renowned group with Max Roach and Clifford Brown, and on his own recordings such as Saxophone Colossus, Way Out West and the seminal Night at the Village Vanguard. His creative output has rarely flagged since—just two weeks ago the 78 year old garnered three trophies, including musician of the year, at the annual Jazz Awards, determined by more than 450 members of the Jazz Journalists Association. Across the street at the Nathan Phillips Square mainstage (Queen and Bay streets), exciting outfit Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings re-invigorate retro soul and R&B with funky horns, hard-driving rhythms and singer Jones’s incomparable set of pipes. You’ll be dancing long after the band takes its bow! Also on Friday, Toronto- based pianist Hilario Duran and guitarist Luis Mario Ochoa bring their lauded Afro-Cuban stylings to Lula Lounge (7:30 p.m. 1585 Dundas St. W., 416-588-0307), while Canada’s jazzy jack of all trades, Don Thompson, teams up with guitarist Reg Schwager at Mezzetta Restaurant (9 p.m.)
Saturday offers a surfeit of shows, with three hip options of particular note: top-tier avant-electro-jam-jazz trio Medeski, Martin and Wood showcase their improvisational prowess under the stars at Nathan Phillips Square (8 p.m.); super-cool six-stringer Charlie Hunter—who has plied his trade alongside musicians as diverse as D’Angelo, Mos Def and Norah Jones—sits down for two groovy sets at The Pilot (9 & 11 p.m.); and Chicago post-rock band The Sea and Cake bring their underground sound to Supermarket (9:30 p.m.). The resto-jazz crowd is well-served tonight by local lights Dave Young and Robi Botos—the bass-and-keys duo can be found at Mezzetta (9 p.m.).
And if you’re still craving tunes as the weekend winds down, Sunday offers a full slate to satiate. Highlights on this day include a pair of performances from the festival’s “Jazz by the Lake” series at Harbourfront Centre. Here you’ll be treated to some Home Cookin’ with Jackie Richardson and Joe Sealy (7 p.m.), plus the evocative, unclassifiable sounds of the Maria Schneider Orchestra (9 p.m.), which counts among its number Ingrid Jensen, the Vancouver-born, New York-based trumpter.