Come to Get Down at the 30th Toronto Jazz Festival

This summer, the TD Toronto Jazz Festival hits the city for the 30th time. Spanning June 24th to July 3rd, this is an event you won’t want to miss.

Josh Grossman has seen the Festival grow and develop over the years. He assumed the role of Artistic Director for Toronto Downtown Jazz, producers of the annual TD Toronto Jazz Festival, in 2010.

There are certainly challenges with putting on a world-class jazz festival; a major challenge is the music itself. Some critics may claim that there aren’t many traditional jazz performers at the festival any more, but this is not the case.

“If you look at basically every festival around the world, and spend some time looking through the rest of their program booklet you’ll be pretty knocked out by the jazz names,” said Grossman. “I mean yes, we have Sarah McLachlan on Friday, June 24th, but we also have Chick Corea, Wynton Marsalis, Ramsey Lewis, Gregory Porter, et cetera. I think sometimes, the names that stick out because they don’t necessarily fit in get too much attention.”

Part of the challenge of booking acts comes from the high costs associated with putting on an event like this.

“The most stressful thing for me is having to make that bottom-line balance out, because there’s a big difference between an artist who’s fantastic at his or her art form, and that artist’s box office potential. We have to balance those two things out as best we can. However, we’re always prepared to take a bit more risk on certain shows because we feel they’re so important – artistically – for the festival,” said Grossman.

Everyone has different musical tastes, and the festival must showcase performers who appeal to every demographic from youth to seniors. Thankfully, for this year, more venues are participating than ever before. No matter what your taste, you will be able to find something you like.

The 30th TD Toronto Jazz Festival is markedly different from its humble beginnings. Josh Grossman recalls his first time attending, back when he was a teen in university.

“When I first started going, the mainstage tent was set up in a parking lot at King and John. Those kinds of parking lots don’t exist in the city any more – that lot is now the TIFF Bell Lightbox, for example. As we consider our options for the future, finding a space which will allow us to set up a main campus with a tent, stages and vendors will be tricky."

This year, free shows have been added at locations as diverse as Holt Renfrew and Second Cup. Performances at these venues include Hilario Duran and Jane Bunnett, Bill McBirnie’s Find Your Place Band, and Joe Sealy.

The future holds promise for the Festival as new jazz audiences are developed. Jazz.FM91 in particular has had a massive impact, by introducing the public to fantastic music they might not otherwise listen to.

As always, this year’s festival will be a great opportunity to connect with the community. As part of opening night festivities, a special performance at Nathan Phillips Square is sure to get people moving and interacting. Dubbed We Came to Get Down, this performance will feature a live band and dance demonstration, featuring members of street dance and swing dance groups.

Even if you’re not a jazz lover, you should definitely visit the Festival this year. It is the perfect opportunity to connect with your community and celebrate the music. There are a number of free concerts as well as diverse styles of music to choose from.

“I always encourage people to go on a bit of a musical adventure,” says Grossman. “Just come!”

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