Okay – day 2 of trying to summarize every free show at the Festival. After a momentary brain freeze (“How exactly do I group together all of these shows?!”), I’ve decided that today’s entry would be purely chronological – first things first, as the saying goes.
For opening weekend this year we were aiming for a party inspired by soul, funk and r&b. We’ve certainly got that on our OLG Stage on Yorkville Avenue…but if we look at the opening weekend’s programming on the whole, we discover quite an interesting range of music! Let’s dive in.
Hector Quartet: Friday June 22, 5:30 pm on the OLG Stage on Cumberland Street
What better way to kick off the Festival than with one of the local scene’s regular contributors? Chris Gale can be seen all over town as a side musician and as a leader – for his funky Hector Quartet he’s joined by Jeff McLeod on Hammond B3, Chris Wallace on drums and Graeme Stephen on guitar.
A Novel of Anomaly: Friday June 22, 7:00 pm at Heliconian Hall
The unique combination of voice, accordion, guitar and percussion – from Switzerland, Italy and Finland – creates unpredictable music: at times full of freedom, at times full of dance. A great way to launch the daily concerts in this intimate space.
Soul Stew: Friday June 22, 7:45 pm on the OLG Stage on Cumberland Street
The party continues outside with Soul Stew, a Toronto mainstay since 1990. Featuring veteran musicians, with lead vocals by Michael Dunston, Soul Stew plays a mixture of blues, jazz, r&b,funk and soul, recalling the classic sounds of some of the legendary recording bands – think Stax, Motown, The Meters and more.
CeCe Winans: Friday June 22, 8:30 pm on the OLG Stage on Yorkville Avenue
Our Friday night headliner is gospel royalty – a 10-time Grammy winner, CeCe Winans is recognized as the most-awarded female gospel singer of all time. Performing with a full band, this is sure to be a powerful show.
Maylee Todd: Friday June 22, 9:00 pm in The Pilot Tavern’s Stealth Lounge
When we reached out to Maylee Todd this year, we were looking for something a bit different than her usual show…and she’s delivering. For this special presentation she’s teaming up with fast-rising producer Kyvita – all of the unpredictability and grooviness of a Maylee Todd show, but in duo format. (Note: $10 cover at the door.)
Duchess: Saturday June 23, 12:00 pm on the OLG Stage on Cumberland Street
Saturday kicks off with three vocalists, tight harmonies and lots of swing. Amy Cervini, Hilary Gardner and Melissa Stylianou are joined by a full rhythm section to put a modern spin on a vocal tradition established by groups like the Boswell Sisters and the Andrews Sisters.
Norman Marshall Villeneuve’s Canadian Jazz Messengers: Saturday June 23, 2:30 pm on the OLG Stage on Cumberland Street
For four decades Norman Marshall Villeneuve was an important part of Toronto’s jazz scene. Now living in his home town of Montreal, Norman continues to play up a storm on the drums, here reuniting with his Canadian Jazz Messengers – some of the country’s best musicians on one stage.
Larnell Lewis Band: Saturday June 23, 5:00 pm on the OLG Stage on Cumberland Street
Believe it or not, Larnell Lewis, the Toronto-based, internationally acclaimed drummer, just this past weekend released his debut album (one of the best shows I’ve seen in a while). Here’s your chance to experience it live – and also learn the recipient of the 2018 Toronto Arts Foundation Emerging Jazz Artist Award.
Jake Clemons: Saturday June 23, 6:00 pm on the OLG Stage on Yorkville Avenue
Holding down the saxophone chair in Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band (which he inherited from his uncle Clarence Clemons), Jake Clemons shows there’s more to him than E Street. He’ll be playing a variety of his soul and rock-rooted original music.
No BS! Brass Band: Saturday June 23, 8:30 pm on the OLG Stage on Yorkville Avenue
I first saw the No BS! Brass Band in a cramped, surely-beyond-fire-code room in New York and have been a huge fan ever since. Coming out of the New Orleans brass band tradition but infused with r&b and hip hop, these eleven musicians add up to one big party.
Hoffman-Lemish Quartet: Sunday June 24, 12:00 pm on the OLG Stage on Cumberland Street
A bit of home and away – Israeli born, Toronto-based pianist Noam Lemish teams up with Isreali born, US-based Amos Hoffman (guitar, oud) to perform a fresh-sounding blend of jazz and Jewish folk melodies.
Jay Douglas: Sunday June 24, 3:00 pm on the OLG Stage on Yorkville Avenue
Jay Douglas has been performing soul, funk and reggae in Jamaica, Montreal and Toronto for over 45 years. A regular in Toronto’s vibrant 1970’s night club scene, he more recently has performed at festivals across the country, including his role as lead vocalist for the “From Jamaica to Toronto” project.
Crystal Shawanda: Sunday June 24, 5:00 pm on the OLG Stage on Cumberland Street
Crystal Shawanda was raised on country music in Wikwemikong reserve on Manitoulin Island, but she feels most at home with the blues. She brings her powerful voice and unique experience – including a stint in Nashville and an RCA Records deal – to every performance.
Shakura S’Aida: Sunday June 24, 5:00 pm on the OLG Stage on Yorkville Avenue
Shakira S’Aida is a powerful presence on the Toronto, Canadian and international blues scenes. An outstanding vocalist, and an advocate for positivity, both on stage and off. Her new album sounds fantastic, and features songs she’s co-written with people like Keb Moâ€™, Larry Fulcher (Ruthie Foster/Taj Mahal) and Donna Grantis (Prince/3rd Eye Girl).
Macy Gray: Sunday June 24, 7:30 pm on the OLG Stage on Yorkville Avenue
Wrapping up the official opening weekend festivities is Macy Gray, whose debut album sold over 15 million copies and earned two Grammy Awards. She’ll be performing a mix of songs including samples from her new album “The Sellout.”
Friday Night Live at the Royal Ontario Museum: Friday June 22, 7:00 pm
We’re excited to team up with the Royal Ontario Museum to co-produce this “Jazz Club” edition of Friday Night Live. Friday Night Live is always a party – get dressed up, enjoy food and drinks, and walk the exhibits until 11 pm. To help us celebrate jazz through the ages we’ll have live sets from Woodshed Orchestra, Jazz Money, Clairmont The Second, Anomalie, Jesse Barksdale and Angela Turone; DJs Misty, John Kong and Medicineman; and Holla Jazz will demonstrate some classic jazz dance steps – and invite you to join in. A ticketed event.
But what about…
Yep – there’s even more going on opening weekend than what’s listed here. Some of the acts I’ll mention in other posts; but there really are too many to list. Check out our website for complete daily listings including more free shows at Yorkville Village – The Lane, Sassafraz, ONE Restaurant and our official Festival jam session at Proof Vodka Bar in the Hotel Intercontinental Toronto Yorkville. Plus ticketed shows like Seal (June 23), Liona Boyd (June 23), The Bad Plus (June 24) and shows at both The Rex and Old Mill Toronto.
Phew. I’m tired and we haven’t even started!