With the City of Culture initiative, Toronto Downtown Jazz celebrates Toronto as a cultural destination generally, and a must-see destination for jazz lovers in particular. This series of eight concerts, each featuring a different artist in a different venue, performing an outstanding cross-section of jazz and jazz-related music, highlights some of the incredible musicians whose talent is on display here in Toronto every day throughout the year – and on our stages at the annual TD Toronto Jazz Festival, celebrating its 35th anniversary in 2022.
The City of Culture initiative has been made possible by the generous support of Reconnect Ontario, from the Ministry of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries. We’re grateful for the continued support of our title sponsor, TD, and we’d like to thank our media partners JAZZ.FM91 and The Toronto Star.
Please note: all City of Culture concerts were pre-recorded in September and October, 2021.
Sarah Thawer is a JUNO-Award nominated drummer and recording artist who is currently performing, recording and touring around the world with some of the biggest names across musical styles. Whether as a band member, a bandleader or performing solo, she has developed a reputation as a versatile musician, comfortable in everything from jazz and fusion to Indian, funk, r&b, hip hop, latin and more. Recorded at The Rex Hotel, Toronto’s longest running jazz club, located in the heart of this city’s incredible Queen Street West neighbourhood - home to a thriving fashion district, internationally acclaimed live music venues, and food from around the world.
- For fans of: jazz, funk, jazz-rock, R&B and more
- Watch Sarah's concert and the mini-documentary on Queen Street West
Terry Clarke is a legendary drummer and acclaimed educator. He has recorded on more than 300 albums, has performed with the top musicians in Canada and the United States, and has appeared at jazz festivals around the world. He is a JUNO Award winner, a Grammy Award nominee, and a Member of the Order of Canada. Recorded at The Pilot Tavern which, for more than 75 years, has called Yorkville home. In the 1960s, Yorkville was like no other place in Toronto - a place for legendary folk musicians to gather in iconic music venues. Today Yorkville is a family-friendly destination for food, fashion, and music - the neighbourhood has been home to the TD Toronto Jazz Festival since 2017.
- For fans of: straight-ahead jazz
- Watch the concert and a mini-documentary on Yorkville
Tara Davidson is an award-winning alto and soprano saxophonist who has performed at prestigious venues and festivals around the world. She has produced six recordings, four of which were nominated for JUNO Awards; as a woodwind specialist she has performed with companies ranging from the Stratford Festival to the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and the National Ballet Orchestra. Recorded at The Jazz Bistro, located in the same building once known as Top of the Senator, an acclaimed jazz club which helped to confirm Toronto as an international home for jazz, and just a short block away from bustling Yonge Street, a stretch of downtown Toronto which, for more than 60 years, has been home to some of the best venues for jazz, blues, soul, R&B and more.
- For fans of: straight-ahead jazz, contemporary jazz
- Watch the concert
With influences ranging from Wayne Shorter to Levon Helm to J Dilla, the Worst Pop Band Ever aims to combine a love of jazz and indie pop. Whether it be blending acoustic bass with turntables or synths with the saxophone, they set out to twist and bend originals and covers, straddling genres and butting heads with expectation. Recorded at The El Mocambo, one of this city’s most iconic live music venues, housed in Toronto’s vibrant and multicultural Chinatown - a neighbourhood of diverse restaurants, food shops, retail and live music spanning several blocks of the bustling Spadina Road, and adjacent to the famed Kensington Market.
- For fans of: jazz, pop, R&B, country
- Watch the concert and the mini-documentary on Chinatown
In a career spanning more that 45 years, Jay Douglas has developed a wide-ranging repertoire of Blues, West Indian Rhythms and Jazz Standards combined with fancy footwork and incredible on-stage charisma. A vital part of the outstanding soul, funk and reggae scenes on Toronto's Yonge Street in the 1970s, he has spent the past 15 years performing around the world, including as bandleader for the acclaimed "From Jamaica to Toronto" project, earning awards along the way. Recorded at the iconic Reggae Café in Toronto’s vibrant Little Jamaica neighbourhood, an ethnic and cultural hub for Caribbean and African immigrants, and a global hotbed for reggae culture. Today the area features the largest concentration of Black-owned businesses in Toronto, including barber shops, restaurants, Black aesthetics and hair shops, recording studios, music stores and more.
- For fans of : jazz, soul, reggae, ska
Elena Kapeleris is a saxophonist, vocalist, composer, bandleader, and educator, whose love of various styles of music has lead her from jazz and blues, to R&B and music from around the world. She’s played in the bands of Rita Chiarelli and Jully Black, performs regularly with Surefire Sweat and is a member of the Toronto Blues Society’s Women’s Blues Revue Band. Recorded at The Olde Eton House, a longstanding gathering point in Toronto’s vibrant Greektown neighbourhood. Also known as Greektown on the Danforth, this is the largest Greek neighbourhood in North America and one of the most cosmopolitan areas of Toronto. Here you’ll find a fantastic array of Greek food and shopping, but also an outstanding diversity of restaurants and retail showcasing cultures from around the world, plus year-round entertainment options.
- For fans of: jazz, vocal jazz
Born and raised in Brazil, Aline Morales arrived in Toronto in 2003 and since then has been a tireless promoter of the traditional rhythms of northeastern Brazil. Her music draws upon a wide range of influences, exploring lush, eclectic arrangements, seamlessly blending traditional and modern instruments. Recorded at Lula Lounge in Toronto’s Little Portugal neighbourhood. Lula Lounge is one of the city's most exciting live music venues and restaurants - a home to Toronto's incredible world music scene. Here you can experience latin, salsa, jazz, reggae, indie and more - Lula is part music club, part restaurant, part community center and home to musicians and music lovers of all kinds.
- For fans of: jazz, Brazilian music
Thomas Francis is one of Toronto’s leading pianists, well-known for his extensive background in jazz and soul-based musics. He has performed and recorded with an impressive cross-section of Canadian musicians spanning everything from jazz and country to soul and disco. As a bandleader and an educator he delves into the relationship between jazz, hip hop and other Black musics - a concept he calls the "Jazz Gene". Recorded at Poetry Jazz Café which, since 2010, has showcased local, Canadian and international artists performing music and spoken word with an emphasis on the history of these art forms and their roots in Black culture. Poetry is housed in Toronto’s incredible Kensington Market, whose roots go back to the 18th century, and which today is a richly multicultural downtown neighbourhood known for its independent spirit, colourful shop-fronts, charismatic locals, family-friendly events, and over 240 unique and eclectic businesses.
- For fans of: jazz, R&B, hip hop, soul, pop