We're now only days away from the 30th anniversary edition of the TD Toronto Jazz Festival and, other than a frustrating sideshow or two, I'm raring to go. I'm not going to lie - these past six months have been challenging. Transition at one job, an incredibly hectic schedule at both jobs, extra-curricular activities - plus a recently-minted two-year-old and an about-to-be-minted five-year-old at home...I'm tired! But the adrenaline is starting to pump now.
In the past week I've done seven interviews (mostly good), including one in French; the interviews have helped me focus in on what exactly has me particularly excited about the Festival this year. Here are a few items:
Artist debuts. This year we're presenting the Toronto debuts of Joey Alexander, Kandace Springs, Jamison Ross, Jarrod Lawson, Gwyneth Hebert and the Eagle Rock Gospel Singers, all of whom have made - or will soon make - an interesting mark on the international jazz circuit.
Music and Dance. This Friday, as part of our opening night celebrations, We Came to Get Down: Swing vs. Street will feature 16 dancers from the local street and swing communities dancing to live music (provided by Worst Pop Band Ever with Chloe Watkinson). As far as we can tell, this is the first time a dance demonstration like this - featuring this particular combination of dancers performing to each other's musical tastes - has ever happened in Toronto. Judi Lopez (of Keep Rockin' You) has done an outstanding job curating the dancers, and Tim Shia has worked overtime to put together the music. This has been months in the making - I'm excited to see it all come together.
Rare appearances. The Festival is always a great time to see artists you may not see anywhere else. This year, Avishai Cohen (the bassist) makes a rare North American appearance (he's based in Israel); Alfredo Rodriguez performs solo (perhaps a new name for many, but definitely one to watch); and Romani technical wizards Fanfare Ciocarlia are in town.
Canadian heavyweights. We have some outstanding jazz talent in this city and across the country, and we're pleased to have so much Canadian talent on our stages this year: Molly Johnson and Jane Bunnett, Oliver Jones, Laila Biali (with Phil Dwyer), Robi Botos (with Paul Novotny, Hilario Duran and Seamus Blake, among others), David Braid's quartet, and the entire series hosted by Heather Bambrick at the Home Smith Bar - these are some of the country's top musicians...and those are just the ticketed shows! Our free concerts - nearly fifty in all - almost exclusively feature the musicians who prove that Canadian jazz is some of the best in the world.
The return of the late night jam. The late night jam is one of the most important components of a major jazz festival, and we're excited this year to have the jam living at The Rex Hotel. For many years, The Rex has been the after-hours go-to place for local and visiting musicians during the festival, so it made good sense (as far as we're concerned) to make it official, and bring the jam there this year. Join us every night of the festival starting at 1 am; experienced jam session ringleader Chris Gale hosts.
And that's just a sampling!
Later this week I'll make another general post in advance of the festival, and then I'll be in the thick of things. I hope to be posting daily reflections again this year because, from what I understand, to be an effective blogger, one has to actually, like, blog and stuff. Plus it's a nice way for me to keep track of what exactly I did the day before...
Get your schedules ready...it's almost go time!