The 25th TD Toronto Jazz Festival kicks off in one short week (already!). Here at festival headquarters, we're busily preparing, making sure all is in order...and I'm hoping that you might be doing the same - making preparations to visit us during the ten days of the festival. I thought I would spend a few minutes making some recommendations for your visit, creating a "set list" of sorts - a few things to do or try which might make this year's jazz festival experience your best ever.
Try something new
With more than 300 shows over ten days, there is lots to see and hear during the festival. For me, one of the most exciting aspects of any festival is the possibility of discovering something new. This year, try something you've never tried before. If your tastes are more in the traditional jazz realm, go on an adventure with the ear-opening Incubator series at the Music Gallery. If your jazz collection primarily lives north of the 30th parallel and west of the Atlantic, try out some Brazilian (Eliane Elias), flamenco (Paco de Lucia) or Afro-Cuban (Spanish Harlem Orchestra). Or discover why I think a standup comedian (Reggie Watts) is, as a matter of fact, a perfect addition to a jazz festival.
Try something free
More than half of the performances on official jazz festival stages are free, which means it's easier than ever to access great music. At Metro Square, we've got some of the best local and international jazz artists on stage at noon and 5:30 pm each day; there are also shows throughout the festival in the Distillery District and at Shops at Don Mills. Great music, great price - a risk-free way to see your favourites or make a new discovery.
Chat with an artist
Attending a jazz festival concert is a great way to see your favourite artists in action on stage, but sometimes the interactions backstage are just as memorable. Many of the artists performing at the festival are happy to chat with fans (once they've had a few minutes after their show) and you might walk away with a great photo, an autograph, or simply a great memory.
Join the conversation
There has been much talk over the past few years about the overall state of jazz, programming at jazz festivals, and more. Come out to the Ken Page Memorial Trust Workshop Series to hear discussions on a whole range of topics - and get engaged. It might be the best way to hear from and chat with established and emerging artists and other stakeholders in the jazz community.
Support the yutes
Some of the most enthusiastic and exciting music-making will take place at The Rex Hotel during the Big Band Slam, featuring four local high school big bands, and the Youth Jazz Showcase, featuring Youth Jazz in the City, the Berklee Global Jazz Institute Quartet and the winners of the Sapporo (Japan) Jazz Festival Competition. Come out and hear what the next generation of great jazz musicians is up to. And, if you'd like to support young jazz musicians by becoming a better teacher, check out Jazz for the Teach - a great way to hone your jazz teaching chops.
Visit the festival hub
The best place to get a true sense of the energy and excitement of the festival will be at Metro Square. Activity kicks off each day at noon with our Lunchtime Concerts, and continues until 11 pm when our Mainstage Concerts wrap up. You'll find music (live concerts and the JAZZ.FM91 broadcast centre), food, samples from our sponsors (experience Panasonic's 3D TV!), a music store (hmv), an artisans' village, festival merchandise and more. It's also our centre of operations and the meeting point for our 200 volunteers, so it's the best place to find out what's going on each festival day.
Stay up late!
This last suggestion is geared perhaps to the more advanced jazz festival attendees (but certainly not exclusively!) - check out a late night jam. We'll be doing six nights of late-night jamming (June 24, 25, 27-30) at Quotes - right across the street from Metro Square - starting each night at 10:30 pm and wrapping up at 1:30 am. You needn't be a musician to attend; in fact, sometimes it's best to just be in the crowd...you never know who might show up!
And finally, be sure to say hi! It's always a pleasure for us to meet our audience. After ten months of planning, it's exciting to see the hard work pay off...but we couldn't - and wouldn't - do it without you.
See you next week!