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toronto jazz festival

Weekend Roundup, June 24 to 26

Friday: Show Aretha Franklin some respect at David Pecaut Square

Friday, June 24
Start the weekend on a high note as the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, opens the TD Toronto Jazz Festival with a free show at David Pecaut Square. The festival continues until July 3, and promises performances by the Dave Brubeck Quartet, Branford Marsalis, and even hip-hop outfit The Roots.

One of the largest GLBT celebrations in the world, Toronto’s Pride Week begins this weekend with events throughout the city. Tonight the Gladstone Hotel hosts a Gay-Straight Alliance Dance Party, with DJs including Cosmic Cat and Broken Social Scene’s Brendan Canning, spinning tunes. The festival culminates with the annual Pride parade on July 3.

Enjoy an evening of timeless classics and traditional swing-jazz numbers at a Roy Thomson Hall performance by the Glenn Miller Orchestra. Directed by renowned trombonist Gary Tole with special guest Susie Arioli, the big band’s setlist includes all-time favourites like “In the Mood,” “Moonlight Serenade” and “Chattanooga Choo Choo.”

Saturday: Sway to the sweet sounds of folk crooner James Taylor

Saturday, June 25
The sweet sounds of acoustic folk music fill the open-air Rexall Centre at York University as James Taylor makes an appearance at the BlackCreek Summer Music Festival. Fans of the Grammy-winning troubadour can expect to hear his hits including “Fire and Rain”, “You’ve Got a Friend” and “Carolina in my Mind.”

Cheer on all the competitors at the 23rd Annual Toronto International Dragon Boat Race Festival. The two-day event at Centre Island offers multicultural food and entertainment, plus more than 180 teams paddling teams competing for glory.

Calling all cycling enthusiasts! Join the fun at Mountain Equipment Co-op’s Bike Fest in the Distillery Historic District, featuring clinics and seminars, demonstrations, a scavenger ride and even live local bands.

Sunday: Les Chiclettes and other francophone artists perform at Franco-Fete.

Sunday, June 26
Round out the weekend by celebrating Canada’s other official culture at Harbourfront Centre’s Franco-Fete. The city’s only francophone festival presents a bevy of family-friendly performances, culinary demonstrations and much more. Très bien!

The Toronto Zoo marks the occasion of the International Indian Film Academy Awards being held downtown with it’s own Bollywood party. The festivities include music and dancing for children, as well as storytelling, henna tattoos and more.

Welcome the start of summer with a 1920s-style garden party at Spadina Museum: Historic House and Gardens. Guests can marvel at the mansion’s decor—recently restored to its Jazz Age heyday—dance to jazz rhythms, enjoy period-appropriate refreshments, and even solve a murder mystery.

Hot Date: Jazz Fest Still Jamming

Roy Hargrove

JUNE 25 TO JULY 4 A few groovy days remain for music fans to crowd the stage for swing and bebop by day and night. The TD Toronto Jazz Festival continues its presentation of 350 concerts by emerging and established performers at 40-plus venues—among them, esteemed trumpeter Roy Hargrove and his big band grace the Koerner Hall stage on July 1, while guitar aficionados are sure to gather the next evening at Nathan Phillips Square to check out John Scofield. Or, catch a variety of local gigs at clubs across the city. Call 416-928-2033 or click here for further details.

Hot Date: All That Jazz

Harry Connick Jr. is among this year’s Toronto Jazz Festival headliners

JUNE 25 TO JULY 4 Some of the world’s top contemporary musicians arrive in Toronto for the TD Toronto Jazz Festival. With 350 concerts at more than 40 venues, there’s a show to suit anyone’s style: traditional swing and bebop, vocal jazz, avant-jazz, blues and more. Popular crooner Harry Connick Jr. performs on June 27 at the Canon Theatre. Piano enthusiasts will want to check out Herbie Hancock and his all-star band on June 26, as well as the Keith Jarrett Trio on June 30. The genre’s adventurous spirit is also well represented by boundary shattering Polish trumpeter Tomasz Stanko, freewheeling guitarist Mike Stern, the multifaceted Dave Douglas and Keystone, and talented band James Farm featuring Joshua Redman. Call 416-928-2033 or click here for a full schedule and ticketing information.

Jazz Fest Picks—July 3

Branford Marsalis

Branford Marsalis on the soprano saxophone (photo by Funkman).

There’s no doubt what about the top ticket for tonight’s Toronto Jazz Festival lineup, as the mainstage at Nathan Phillips Square is occupied by some of the top players in jazz today: Branford Marsalis and the Dave Holland Quintet (8 p.m.). Soprano- and tenor-sax phenom Marsalis (older brother to Wynton) is one of the most respected improvisers of jazz’s post-bop era, and comes to Toronto riding a decade-long wave of must-hear recordings, including this year’s Metamorphosen. Marsalis is joined on stage by British bass player Dave Holland, whose career spans four decades and innumerable styles—he’s played everything from the fusion of Miles Davis’s Bitches Brew to free jazz in a ’70s group with Chick Corea and Anthony Braxton to his own contemporary compositions in large and small ensembles. His current quintet features top talents Robin Eubanks (trombone), Chris Potter (saxophone), Steve Nelson (vibes) and Nate Smith (drums). Expect an evening of unforgettable modern music from these powerhouse performers.

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—July 1

Dave Brubeck

Dave Brubeck

It’s Canada Day, and the TD Canada Trust Jazz Festival marks the occasion at Nathan Phillips Square with a free lunchtime performance by one of the most quintessentially Canadian outfits in the jazz world—Rob McConnell & the Boss Brass (noon). Composed of a number of top-tier Toronto musicians—including the band leader and his distinctive valve trombone, as well as guitarist Ed Bickert—the Brass’s swinging set will no doubt be a crowd-pleaser. Stick around until 3 p.m. as the Shuffle Demons attempt to break a Guinness World Record for the largest saxophone ensemble; they’ll be performing “O, Canada” with (hopefully) 1,000 other sax maniacs.

And before heading out to see any holiday fireworks, take in the dazzling aural fireworks offered by even more veterans of improvisational music. At the Four Seasons Centre, legendary (89-year-old!) pianist and composer Dave Brubeck show that he can still tinkle the ivories with considerable aplomb (8 p.m.). European jazz gets a showcase at the Church of the Redeemer (162 Bloor St. W.), with a performance by Italian post-bop trumpet player Enrico Rava and his frequent foil Stefano Bollani on piano (7 p.m.). And at Harboufront Centre’s Enwave Theatre, insatiable lovers of Latin and Afro-Cuban jazz can gorge on the passionate playing of Chucho Valdés (7 & 9:30 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—June 26 to 28

Sonny Rollins

Sonny Rollins

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.

Weekend Roundup, June 26 to 28

Music, magic and multiculturalism move through the city this weekend as many of Toronto’s adored annual festivals take flight.

Friday: Karen Robinson stars under the stars in <em>The Tempest</em> (photo by Chris Gallow).

Friday: Karen Robinson stars under the stars in The Tempest (photo by Chris Gallow).

Friday, June 26
Surrender to Shakespeare’s lyrical soliloquies in The Tempest during CanStage TD Dream in High Park, where the mystical tale is told in the open air.

Spend an enchanted evening with saxophone colossus Sonny Rollins as he launches the TD Canada Trust Toronto Jazz Festival at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts.

Head to the lakeshore for the opening reception of nine new art exhibits at the York Quay Centre—pursue painting, pottery, photography and more!

Saturday: See this fragment from the Book of War as part of the ROM's Dead Sea Scrolls exhibition (image courtesy of Israel Antiquities Authority).

Saturday: A fragment from the Book of War is part of the ROM's Dead Sea Scrolls exhibition (image courtesy of Israel Antiquities Authority).

Saturday, June 27
Discover the link between the ancient and modern world by viewing the Royal Ontario Museum’s blockbuster exhibition, Dead Sea Scrolls: Words That Changed the World.

Adhere to your appetite of jazz and drinks at popular pub Dominion on Queen, featuring a performance this evening by the York Jazz Ensemble.

Celebrate unique customs with the Multicultural Festival at the Children’s Peace Theatre with face painting, henna tattoos and traditional cuisine.

Delight in the diversity of the Distillery Historic District as you wander its cobbled streets during the Toronto City Roots Festival.

Sunday: Revel at the Pride Parade (photo by Kevin Lam).

Sunday: Revel at the Pride Parade (photo by Kevin Lam).

Sunday, June 28
Rise and shine at Le Petit Dejeuner—Belgian waffles are lightly dusted with icing sugar and glazed in golden maple syrup.

Partake in the pageantry of the Pride Parade, ending this year’s fabulous festival of frivolity and family fun.

Immerse yourself in the infectious, spirited soul of lauded Louisianan Buckwheat Zydeco at Nathan Phillips Square, part of the Toronto Jazz Festival.

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)