And suddenly, it’s day 1 of the 2016 TD Toronto Jazz Festival!
It’s already been a full week: the preview concert on Tuesday night at North York Central Library; the annual Rex Players Party on Wednesday night; and last night I was on the Roy Thomson Hall patio for a concert by the Lemon Bucket Orkestra (who also happen to be playing the festival). But today the activity really kicks into gear.
Each day during the festival, I’ll post a reflection on the previous day’s activity – what I saw, what I enjoyed, who I met, what I ate, the socks I wore – that sort of thing. I’ll also include a list of what’s coming up in the 24 (or so) hours following each post. I’m hoping each post will allow you to compare notes (if you’ve been here) or, if you haven’t been here, get a taste for the excitement at the festival. And each post will allow me to clear the daily fog of (inevitably) not enough sleep and completely inappropriate food and beverage consumption.
So – here we go. Things kick off shortly with the duo of Jane Bunnett and Hilario Duran at Holt Renfrew; from there I’ll head home for the last vestiges of down time until early July before making my way to Nathan Phillips Square for opening night festivities. There are a few pieces of advice I give out each year which I hope might resonate with jazz festival rookies and veterans alike.
Come to Nathan Phillips Square. The hub of the festival is once again Nathan Phillips Square, and it’s a great place to start your festival adventure. Here you can pick up a brochure, purchase tickets, purchase food and beverages, do some sampling, and relax in the new Vinyl Lounge run by Kops Records. And, of course, see concerts: for free at 12:30 and 6:30 pm each day, or with a ticket each night at 8:30 pm.
See a jazz master. Being in the audience for a performance by a jazz master – a musician who has helped jazz develop over multiple decades – is a special experience. Check out some of the biggest names in jazz: Wynton Marsalis, Chick Corea, Ramsey Lewis, Oliver Jones, Bill Charlap…you won’t find this concentration of jazz talent anywhere else.
Discover someone new. While the jazz masters have led jazz to where it is today, the festival is also an excellent place to discover those musicians ready to take the music into the future. Robert Glasper, Gregory Porter, Joey Alexander, Avishai Cohen, Alfredo Rodriguez…these are the musicians we’ll be hearing about for many years to come.
Do the hang. Whether it’s at Nathan Phillips Square, in one of our many concert venues or at the late night jam, you’ll have the chance to meet jazz fans and musicians from around the world. The social aspect of the festival can be just as much fun as the music – I encourage you to stay up a bit later than usual, be a little more extroverted than usual, and be open to new experiences. Some of the best stories come from the least expected places.
It would be wise, I suppose, to also recommend getting as much rest as possible…but with music starting at 12:30 pm each day and wrapping up somewhere around 3 am each morning, I can’t give advice that I’m not likely to take myself. I’ll be relying on local baristas to help get me through some of the longer days, and worry about catching up on sleep later.
Here’s what’s on for today:
12:30 pm – Jane Bunnett & Hilario Duran, Holt Renfrew (free)
5:00 pm – Tia Brazda Quartet, Mill Street Beer Hall patio (free)
7:30 pm – Heather Bambrick & Friends featuring Alex Pangman, Home Smith Bar
8:00 & 10:00 pm – Bill Charlap Trio, Jazz Bistro
8:00 pm – An evening with Sarah McLaughlin, Sony Centre
1:00 am – Late Night Jam with the Chris Gale Quartet, The Rex (pay-what-you-can)
And here’s the schedule for tonight’s opening night party at Nathan Phillips Square:
6:30 pm – Heavyweights Brass Band with Jay Douglas
7:30 pm – We Came to Get Down: Swing vs. Street (a dance demonstration which has me particularly excited)
9:00 pm – KC and the Sunshine Band
With emcee and DJ Kardinal Offishall
This has been nearly a year in the making – I can’t wait to dive in.
See you on the square!