I woke up at 6 am this morning. On purpose. (For an appearance on The Weather Network.) So I'm still waking up. But I have fond memories of yesterday - day 8 at the festival, already.
Suzie Vinnick and her bandmates (Roly Platt, harmonica; Victor Bateman, bass; Dave Clark, drums) put on a fantastic show at noon on the mainstage. Lots of blues with some rock and folk mixed in, excellent playing, a full audience - a great way to start off the day.
The Big Band Slam, featuring four high school big bands from the Greater Toronto Area, started at 2 pm at The Rex Hotel. The Slam is one of my favourite events each year - it's a great opportunity to hear high school students in action, there is always a buzz in the room, and a packed house. I have such fond memories of these types of special performances when I was a high school student; the students yesterday played with lots of energy and seemed to be having a blast. Guest artist and moderator Mark Promane was excellent, conducting and playing along with each group. Kudos to the bands from York Mills CI, The Woodlands, Martingrove CI and the TCDSB Big Band for putting on a great show, and to The Rex for hosting the event again this year.
Rosemary Galloway's trio took over the acoustic stage starting at 5 pm. Rosemary, on bass, was joined by Jane Fair on sax and Lorne Lofsky on guitar - another all-star group. The playing environment was less than ideal - yesterday's mainstage soundcheck was particularly loud - but the musicians persevered, presenting two swinging sets of music. We continue to work on how best to present music outdoors on the square while also completing mainstage soundchecks. Unfortunately the logistics are made complicated by a ban on sound imposed by City Hall between 1:30 and 4:30 pm on weekdays - we therefore can't start sounchecks until 4:30 pm. We'll keep trying…suggestions are welcome.
Next stop for me was KAMA to hear the Canadian Jazz Quartet with tenor saxophonist Houston Person. Yesterday's show was the last in a four-concert run featuring the CJQ and some swinging guests. Houston brought a bit more of the blues than the three other guest musicians had, which perhaps made last night's show just a bit juicier. On one particularly bluesy tune, after a powerhouse solo from Houston, Ted Quinlan unleashed the most fiery solo I had heard from him at KAMA this week - I enjoyed hearing him stretch out a bit. The four shows at KAMA were a blast and, for me, a bit of a refresher in what fundamentally is important to great jazz: swing, melodic soloing, collaboration.
From KAMA I made my way to Musideum. Though not a show we booked, I was looking forward to hearing the duo of Terra Hazelton and Sophia Perlman, otherwise known as Perlhaze. Unfortunately, I missed in the listing that they were featuring an opening act. My evening's schedule meant I had to leave before Terra and Sophia took the stage, but I did enjoy the opening set from Bruce Horak. (His is an interesting story - check it out.) My favourite moment came when he was singing "Rubber Ducky" (yes, from Sesame Street - it was an eclectic set list): at one point in the song the audience laughed…and Bruce couldn't help but laugh too (so much so he had to pause his playing). I think there's something wonderful about having the fourth wall break down a bit - a reminder that performers are, after all, just human. I look forward to catching Perlhaze another time.
From KAMA I went to Koerner Hall to see the first bit of Measha Bruggergosman's set of jazz and jazzified pop standards. This is a new project for Measha and, based on what I saw, I think it's best to describe it as "in development."
After a couple of tunes at Koerner Hall I was ready for some rock jazz with Dave Holland, Kevin Eubanks, Craig Taborn and Eric Harland - a group called PRISM - on the mainstage. I had heard the album, so knew roughly what to expect, and they delivered a high energy show from beginning to end. Each of Kevin's solos seemed to fire up the audience even more; the highlight for me in the 30 minutes I saw was an incredible Craig Taborn solo - fingers-flying, keyboard pounding greatness. The crowd gave the band a standing ovation at the end of their set - an excellent start to a strong double-bill in the tent.
I slipped out of the tent during the set change (John Scofield's Uberjam was up next) - I wanted to be sure to catch some of Norma Winstone's set at Jazz Bistro. I'm glad I did - with Glauco Venier on piano and Klaus Gesing on bass clarinet and soprano sax, the trio delivered a fantastic set of music, finishing with a suite of tunes which seamlessly changed keys and tempos. Norma's voice is an incredible instrument - she can sing ballads beautifully, and can just as easily jump around within her range on more contemporary tunes. The unique instrumentation (I can't say I've ever seen a trio with that particular setup) created a wide variety of sounds and textures - although only three on stage, at times they sounded like a full orchestra. The crowd demanded two encores. I wish I could remember the standard ballad they performed for their first encore (see 6 am wakeup, above)…it was stunning - an excellent example of how jazz singing should be done.
Realizing that John Scofield's band might still be playing on the mainstage, I made my way back to the square in time to catch the encore. The crowd was on its feet, excitement was in the air and, if the encore was any indication, the Uberjam show had been a groovy, funky affair. An excellent end to the day. A particular treat for me was to see so many local jazz musicians in the audiences last night both at the Bistro and in the tent.
It's hard to believe, but today is the second-last day of the 2014 TD Toronto Jazz Festival. I've had so much fun - I've heard some outstanding music, had some great chats, and have even managed to get some sleep. Here's what's on today:
- Benny Meets Artie: Galaxy Orchestra directed by Ross Wooldridge - 12 pm, Toronto Star Stage (free)
- Harkness - Herriott Duo - 5 pm, Acoustic Stage (free)
- Cyndi Cain - 7 pm, Shops at Don Mills (free)
- June Garber & Friends featuring the Russ Little Quartet with Barbra Lica - 7:30 pm, Home Smith Bar at The Old Mill Toronto
- Bobby McFerrin - spirityouall (Soul Nannies opening) - 8 pm, Toronto Star Stage
- Roy Hargrove Quintet - 8 pm, Jane Mallett Theatre
- Oliver Jones Trio - 8 & 10:30 pm, Jazz Bistro
- Broadsway - 10 pm, Hard Rock Cafe
The complete listing of the day's activity is here.
See you on the square!