That's a big clarinet

Submitted by Josh Grossman on Sat Jun 21 10:09am

My day yesterday started with the pickup of a contrabass clarinet and a euphonium. Which, frankly, is a sentence I never thought I'd write.

But it's true - there I was, standing on the steps of the University of Toronto Faculty of Music with a big clarinet in one hand and a little tuba in the other, waiting for my cab. (And, in case you're interested, yes - a contrabass clarinet does fit in the trunk of a cab.) We need the instruments for Sunday's show with Darcy James Argue's Secret Society. The music will be great, and it will be fun to see how all these different instruments are used…

From there I attended a session co-hosted by Music Canada, 4479Toronto and NXNE called the "Music Cities Exchange." Featuring representatives from five different cities - three in Canada and two in the States - the panel discussion explored how each city has capitalized on their respective music scenes: how the musicians are fostered (or aren't); how the city bureaucracy supports the music scene (or doesn't); unique ideas for collaboration and audience development; etc. I found it interesting to hear the various perspectives around the table, and took a few ideas away. Toronto certainly has some work to do on a bureaucratic level to better facilitate events in this city, but I feel that the city on a whole has some work to do when it comes to being hospitable to events. It's drives me bonkers at times to hear the resistance faced by events trying to set up in one neighbourhood or another. We can't claim on one hand to be a culturally rich city and on the other make it as difficult as possible - through red tape, NIMBYism or whining about traffic - for culture to actually thrive. But that's a post for another time.

With a bit of spare time before the evening's activities started up, I made my way home and spent some time chasing after our daughter in our backyard. I gotta tell you - it was pretty awesome. I'm not sure exactly what game we were playing, but it involved a lot of running, a lot of giggling, and the occasional throwing her over my shoulder.

The evening required a decision or two. With shows spread out around the city - activity included shows at Shops at Don Mills, the Homesmith Bar and Jazz Bistro - I ultimately decided to take in Gregory Porter's show at the Jane Mallet Theatre. Not to oversimplify things, but here's my take on Gregory Porter's philosophy (and please pardon the asterisks): sing the sh*t out of every song, make sure your bandmates play the sh*t out of every solo, engage the audience, have fun. At least, that's what was on display last night. No matter the tempo, style or feel of the tune, Gregory gave it his all and sounded fantastic. Alto saxophonist Yosuke Sato tore up every solo; pianist Chip Crawford moved seamlessly from soloist to accompanist; bassist Aaron James provided the solid foundation and drummer Emanuel Harrold grooved over top. The energy in the room was electric, with ovations after every tune; everyone was on his or her feet at the end of the night. I even clapped along when required, and I'm particularly grinchy about audience participation. Great music, a full house - we couldn't ask for anything more.

From the Jane Mallet I walked up to Nathan Phillips Square to take in the World Pride festivities. It was a true party - thousands of people, an air of celebration, and Melissa Etheridge rocking out on stage. Last night on the Square was all about Pride - we were happy to help produce the event, and from all accounts it was a success. Lots of revelry, good music and, to finish it all off, an impressive fireworks and laser display. It meant a quieter night in the compound - not the usual level of artist management or media relations, since much of that was handled by Pride - which allowed for some welcome socializing and perhaps a sort of charging up of batteries: the busy schedule starts up today.

There's lots to see and do today:

We've also introduced some other free, family-friendly activity in which I invite you to partake. At Nathan Phillips Square:

  • A "play me" piano, on the acoustic stage throughout the festival, which encourages you to bring out your inner Herbie, Keith or Liberace
  • Three giant notes plus an interactive music note wall, on the Square throughout the festival, which should be great for photos and may even loosen up any compositional writer's block
  • A Silent Headphone Disco, in the afternoons of June 21, 22, 27 and 28, for which you can slip on a pair of headphones and bop about to whatever the DJ is spinnig

And - bring our Jazz Man to life with our new TD Jazz app! Download the app from the Apple App Store, point your phone/iPad at our Jazz Man and see him come to life! (With music provided by Patrick Tevlin's Tevlin Swing.)

So - lots to see and hear on this first weekend of the festival and, happily, the first day of summer. With activity now fully launched, I can truly say:

See you on the square!

Josh