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The Rex

Your Guide to the 2013 Toronto Jazz Festival

One of the city’s biggest summer music events hands the mic to an eclectic mix of musical pioneers and modern masters.  BY CRAIG MOY

Saxophone and clarinet star Don Byron is just one of this year's Toronto Jazz Festival

Saxophone and clarinet star Don Byron is just one of this year’s Toronto Jazz Festival

The life of a jazz musician must be a somewhat humbling one. On stage, improvising, you’re living on the edge in a way that few other performers do. Professionally you’re dealing with the knowledge that your art form, however vital, now exists largely outside of the zeitgeist (jazz accounted for just two per cent of total North American album sales in 2012).

And yet the music remains all around us, though perhaps not always in its most obvious form. Thankfully, events like the TD Toronto Jazz Festival (running from June 20 to 29) do much to expose both traditional and modern jazz, as well as the genres that have been built on and continue to incorporate jazz’s signal elements—creative spontaneity, harmonic invention, a near-psychic interplay amongst its performers, and an infectious groove.


Weekend Roundup: September 21 to 23

Friday: Tom Cochrane is one of many performers rocking the Canada’s Walk of Fame Festival.

Friday, September 21st
Celebrate this country’s cultural icons as part of the annual Canada’s Walk of Fame Festival, which showcases popular Canadian performers at venues throughout the city, including a number of free concerts at Nathan Phillips Square. Dance the night away to Suzie McNeil, Tom Cochrane and Jann Arden, just some of the homegrown talent that will be gracing the stage.

Canadian sculptor Evan Penny’s new exhibition of meticulously rendered yet distorted human sculptures opened this week at the Art Gallery of Ontario. Titled Re Figured, the display will alter your perspective of the human form with 30 pieces, including sculptures, photographs and a film about Penny’s work over the past decade.

Toronto’s famed jazz venue, The Rex, holds its annual tribute to John Coltrane this weekend. Juno-winning saxophone players Pat LaBarbera and Kirk MacDonald—alongside the rest of their highly capable quintet—take the stage tonight to honour the celebrated musician. (more…)

30 Things We Love About Toronto This June

3. The Art Gallery of Ontario, complete with Henry Moore sculptures (photo by Roger Yip)

1. The soulful voice of Aretha Franklin, who opens the TD Toronto Jazz Festival with a free concert on June 24.

2. Donning red and white to cheer on the Toronto FC.

3. Admiring the collection of Henry Moore sculptures housed at the Art Gallery of Ontario.

4. Sipping a cappuccino from White Squirrel Coffee Shop while seeking its namesake critters in adjacent Trinity-Bellwoods Park.

5. Practicing your swing at Polson Pier’s lakeside driving range.

10. Toronto's skyline

6. Receiving a boisterous greeting from servers and chefs upon entering Japanese izakaya Guu.

7. Examining industrial-landscape photographer Edward Burtynsky’s latest exhibit about the oil business at the Royal Ontario Museum.

8. Strolling the pedestrian-friendly outdoor retail complex Shops at Don Mills.

9. The fervor of the “scramble” at Yonge and Dundas, where you can cross the street in any direction.

10. Taking the ferry to the Toronto Islands and looking back at the impressive skyline.

13. The Rex

11. Perusing refined Scandinavian design at Mjölk.

12. Admiring the cavernous grandeur of Union Station (65 Front St. W.).

13. Winding down the week with the live jazz and laid-back vibe at The Rex.

14. Walking beneath architectural artist Philip Beesley’s Sargasso installation, featured in Brookfield Place during Luminato.

15. The sense of otherworldliness in Sarah Anne Johnson’s Arctic Wonderland photos, displayed at Stephen Bulger Gallery.

19. Buca

16. Queuing for the $5.99 lunch specials at Sushi on Bloor—it’s worth the wait.

17. TV’s Rachel and Finn—a.k.a. Lea Michelle and Cory Monteith—belting it out on stage for Glee Live! In Concert!

18. Working up the courage to step onto the CN Tower’s glass floor, then looking down at the street 342 metres below.

19. Crunching on crispy pigs’ ears within Buca’s reclaimed industrial space.

20. Centering yourself at a drop-in yoga class at the Evergreen Brick Works.

24. Stillwater Spa

21. Finishing off a meal at The Gabardine with a burnt marshmallow ice cream sandwich.

22. Ordering creative cocktails and shareable snacks at Origin.

23. Admiring the elaborately designed merchandise windows at posh Holt Renfrew.

24. Getting pampered with a deep blue Tahitian massage at Stillwater Spa.

25. Picking up a new pair of flip-flops or sandals at always on-trend  shoe store Get Outside.

26. The Drake General Store

26. Quirky items from the Drake General Store to bring back home to your family and friends.

27. Tucking into tacos el pastor and a bowl of guacamole at Mexican stalwart El Trompo.

28. Coveting the volume of tomes at The Cookbook Store.

29. Scouring the rows of kitchenware at Chinatown’s Tap Phong Trading Company (360 Spadina Ave., 416-977-6364).

30. A stroll through the ravines of the Don Valley—you might glimpse a white-tailed deer by the river.

Jazz Fest Picks—July 2

Guitarist Al Di Meola (photo by JuanZappa).

Guitarist Al Di Meola (photo by JuanZappa).

Fleet-fingered guitar virtuoso Al Di Meola enlivens the Nathan Phillips Square mainstage tonight, as the TD Canada Trust Toronto Jazz Festival rolls onward. The former member of Chick Corea’s pioneering ’70s band Return to Forever brings his World Sinfonia ensemble to the city, to perform its trademark fusion of jazz, classical, tango and Middle Eastern-inflected music (8 p.m). Toronto vocalist Amanda Martinez grabs the mic as a special guest.

An intriguing mix of Canadian talent rounds out this evening’s schedule: Saskatchewan-born bassist Chris Tarry (currently enjoying success on the New York scene) and his eponymous Chris Tarry Group groove at The Rex (8 p.m.); sought-after pianist and singer Laila Biali joins forces with Mark Kelso on drums and Brandi Disterheft on bass for a sultry set at the Old Mill (7 p.m.); local vocals are also on offer a west-end hot spot Gate 403 (403 Roncesvalles Ave., 416-588-2930), where Shannon Butcher scats over bass lines laid down by Ross McIntyre (5 p.m.).

Jazz Fest Picks—June 30

Don Byron

Don Byron

The Toronto Jazz Festival rolls along today with a ton of local and international talent. Topping the bill today is popular British singer and pianist Jamie Cullum, who brings his distinctive stylings to the Nathan Phillips Square mainstage (8 p.m.), with special guest Dominick Farinacci, a rising star on the trumpet. Also in the vocal vein, The Music Hall (147 Danforth Ave., 416-778-8163) presents Madeleine Peyroux (8 p.m.), whose smoky interpretations of jazz, blues and folk standards—along with her own material—have earned comparisons to Billie Holiday. And for true night owls, The Rex offers up what is sure to be a superlative set of modern jazz by clarinet master Don Byron with the Michael Occhipinti Quartet (11 p.m).

Jazz Fest Picks—June 29

Kool & the Gang: Still funky (photo by Silvia Mautner).

Kool & the Gang: The '70s stalwarts are still funky (photo by Silvia Mautner).

The Canadian talent quotient is high today at the TD Canada Trust Toronto Jazz Festival. The music starts early with a free lunchtime concert at Nathan Phillips Square by the Dave Young Octet (noon), while T.O.-based saxophonist Mike Murley plays in a trio setting at Mezzetta (9 p.m.) and well-established trumpeter John MacLeod bring his Rex Hotel Orchestra to—where else?—The Rex (9.30 p.m.) .

A quartet of high-profile performances also play out this evening. Funky fan-favourite Kool & the Gang are sure to have everyone celebrating at the Nathan Phillips Square mainstage (8 p.m.). At the nearby Four Seasons Centre, aficionados will no doubt sit in awe of the Gary Burton Quartet Revisited (8 p.m.), which sees the renowned vibraphone player join forces with famed guitarist Pat Metheny, nimble bassist Steve Swallow and hard-driving drummer Antonio Sanchez. The festival’s “Jazz by the Lake” series continues at Harbourfront Centre’s Fleck Dance Theatre with a sure-to-be-riveting solo concert by Japanese piano prodigy Hiromi (7 p.m.), and at The Pilot, Chris Potter’s Underground (9 p.m.)—a ultra-tight yet supremely flexible quartet led by its namesake saxophone sophisticate, who has performed with the likes of Herbie Hancock, Paul Motian and Dave Douglas—plays its groovy, post-bop best.

Jazz Fest Picks—Thursday, June 25

Toronto saxophonist Pat LaBarbera blows up at The Rex tonight.

Toronto saxophonist Pat LaBarbera blows up at The Rex.

The TD Canada Trust Toronto Jazz Festival begins in earnest tonight and continues through to July 5, with some of the genre’s biggest names performing on the mainstage at Nathan Phillips Square plus smaller (but no less superb) shows at the city’s hottest jazz clubs.

Two performances in particular stand out this evening, and it just so happens they’re at the same venue—downtown institution The Rex. At 8 p.m., a quartet of Toronto stalwarts takes the stage, as saxophonist Pat LaBarbera shows his hard-bop chops alongside Brian Dickinson (piano), Neil Swainson (bass) and Bob McLaren (drums). The club’s late show at 11 p.m. offers a special treat in the form of a performance by Michael Herring’s Vertigo with esteemed altoist David Binney, in celebration of the group’s new album, Dark Materials. Herring, a young Toronto bass player, weaves his modern-jazz compositions from a variety of musical styles—a perfect foil for New York–based Binney, whose distinctive playing has long drawn from a diverse sonic palette–from Latin to Indian to the avant-garde. Best of all, if you miss the group tonight, they’ll be jamming again on Friday, at the slightly more reasonable hour of 8 p.m.

Toronto Jazz Festival Extra—Hip Venues

Visit these six venues for more swinging sounds. —By Danielle Milley

ALLEYCATZ: Graffiti Park (June 26), Swing House Band (June 30), Lady Kane (July 2 & 3)

DOMINION ON QUEEN: Mega City Big Band (June 26), Big Smoke Big Band (June 29), Peggy Mahon (July 3)

THE PILOT: Charlie Hunter (June 27), Chris Potter’s Underground (June 29 & 30), Bobby Militello (July 2)

RESERVOIR LOUNGE: Jake Rude & His Swing Sextet (June 26), Sophia Perlman & The Vipers (June 29), Luke Nicholson (July 5)

THE REX: Joel Miller’s Mandala (June 27), Will Vinson Quartet (July 1), Fieldtrip (July 4)

TRANE STUDIO: Danny Lockwood & The Favourite Grooves (June 28), Jarek Dabrowski (June 30), Tim Posgate Horn Band (July 3)

Weekend Roundup, May 29 to 31

The weekend arrives once again. Enjoy it!

Friday: Embrujo Flamenco's paella festival

Friday: Embrujo Flamenco's paella festival

Friday, May 29
Explore how the shape of a garment communicates cultural beliefs and outlooks in The Cutting Edge, a feature exhibition at the Textile Museum of Canada.

Savour the exotic flavours of Embrujo Flamenco’s paella festival, featuring various takes on the filling, authentically Spanish dish. A gazpacho starter, one of four daily paellas like the arroz negro—black rice and seafood cooked in squid ink—and dessert are just $49.

Sing along to the roots-rock hits of eclectic British band Gomez as they storm the Pheonix Concert Theatre stage.

Saturday: Sommelier Taylor Thompson offers wine expertise at Reds (photo by Daniel Shipp).

Saturday: Sommelier Taylor Thompson offers wine expertise at Reds (photo by Daniel Shipp).

Saturday, May 30
Spend the day discovering the art of food-and-wine pairing by participating in historic Campbell House Museum’s Global Wine Tour: Fundamentals of Food and Wine course.

Combine food and fashion while celebrating South-Asian music and culture at DesiFest.

Marvel at the poise of performers from the Canadian Children’s Opera Company as they stage Hansel and Gretel Go Into the Woods: A Fairy Tale.

Choose your favourite tipple from more than 90 wines available by the glass at Reds Bistro & Wine Bar—or, seek the advice of Taylor Thompson, the restaurant’s expert sommelier.

Tuck into brunch at the Drake Hotel's eclectic Corner Café

Sunday: Tuck into brunch at the Drake Hotel's eclectic Corner Café

Sunday, May 31
Relax at The Rex with enough jazz, blues and beer to keep you occupied between lunch and dinner.

Take in the Drake Hotel’s trendy ambience as you chomp down on a hearty breakfast burrito from its lauded brunch menu.

Catch the Toronto Blue Jays and Boston Red Sox—or perhaps even a foul ball—as these Major League Baseball rivals do battle at Rogers Centre.