Decisions, decisions!

It's hard to believe that we're now into the last four days of the festival! These past few days have been particularly busy, and yesterday I had to choose between several night-time shows. Here's a quick run-down of my day.

At 12:30 pm, John Medeski joined Jim Galloway on the Outdoor Stage for the day's edition of the KPMT Inside Track. It was a fun session - John responded enthusiastically to Jim's questions and had lots of interesting things to say about topics ranging from how he started playing Hammond B3, to how Medeski Martin & Wood got its name, to melodicas. It's been a pleasure to watch Jim Galloway in action during these first five days of the Inside Track; I feel a bit nervous stepping in to the interviewer's chair for the next four sessions.

The afternoon was quiet, allowing me some time to catch up on proofing and publishing stories by the TDJ News Corps; Jeanette and Adelaide also came for another visit so I got some welcomed daddy-daughter time.

At 5:00 Don Thompson's George Shearing Tribute Quintet launched into their set on the Outdoor Stage. They were playing tunes exactly as George Shearing's quintet would have played them - Don Thompson did the transcribing and arranging (with each player adding his own solos). As a result, the audience was treated to the authentic sounds of George Shearing, as reproduced by some of Canada's finest musicians (Don on vibes with Reg Schwager on guitar, Bernie Senensky on piano, Neil Swainson on bass and Terry Clarke on drums). A bonus for me was bumping into the parents of a childhood friend - it was great to catch up.

At 5:30 I headed down to Quotes for the last of four shows featuring the Canadian Jazz Quartet with special guests. Yesterday's guest was Ken Peplowski on clarinet and tenor saxophone. I only caught a few tunes, but as I've mentioned in previous posts when discussing Quotes, it was a treat to see him live in person for the first time. The recordings of Ken's I've heard swing like crazy, and he was in fine form yesterday evening. The audience clearly was enjoying the music, but also Ken's great storytelling and sharp sense of humour. Kudos to Fay Olson, everyone at Quotes and especially the Canadian Jazz Quartet (Frank Wright, vibes; Gary Benson, guitar; Duncan Hopkins, bass; Don Vickery, drums) for a great series.

From Quotes I zipped up to the Church of the Holy Trinity to hear the first bit of Phil Dwyer's Canadian Songbook with special guest Laila Biali. I was pleased to see such a strong turnout in the audience to support these excellent Canadian musicians, and they proved to be an appreciative crowd as the band presented their tribute to Canadian songwriters. The arrangements I heard were well-written, the solos energetic, and it was wonderful to hear Laila sing. The acoustics of the church were perhaps not ideal for this particular ensemble, but I enjoyed hearing the group in action.

From the church it was a quick hop over to the Toronto Star Stage for Saidah Baba Talibah's opening set at 8 pm. She promised a high-energy show, and she brought it - her crew of guitar, keys, sax, trumpet, tuba and drums rocked and funked the tent, bringing the audience the their feet at the end of the set. Saidah's is more than just a flashy show, though - she performed a couple of beautiful down-tempo tunes, showing off her fantastic voice. A great way to kick off the night, and a great way to set up the audience for the irrepressible Trombone Shorty.

My next stop was the Sound Academy, where I was keen to check out KC Roberts & the Live Revolution opening up for Spectrum Road. I had never before been in the venue. It's a beautiful large space, ideally laid out for concerts, and right on the water. KC Roberts is an outstanding local guitarist and composer, and I think his band is actually scary good. During their set they moved seamlessly from groove to groove, with tight horn arrangements, clever rhythmic breaks and burning solos. Their main home is funk and soul, but I also heard jazz, R&B, blues and rock. They were a blast to hear, and just as fun to watch - they seemed to be having a great time on stage. If you missed them last night, check them out when you can.

Spectrum Road took to the stage about 30 minutes after KC and his crew wrapped up. They immediately launched into the driving performance I had expected. Formed as a tribute band to Tony Williams' Lifetime, the band plays Lifetime tunes but also other tunes in a similar vein. The crowd was smaller than we would have preferred but they gathered at the front of the stage and gave a lot of energy back to the band. I had a bit of trouble getting into the music - I'm not sure if it was the sound production, which was over-the-top loud, or if I needed a bit more melodic content to grab onto...but the dedicated Jack Bruce/Vernon Reid/John Medeski/Cindy Blackman Santana (who is a force) fans in the audience got exactly what they were hoping for - explosive, high-energy playing.

My final stop of the night (after a quick check-in at Nathan Phillips Square, where raves about Trombone Shortly were rolling in) I made my way over to The Rex Hotel for some Snarky Puppy. When Snarky Puppy comes to town one can be assured of a few things: some fantastic, danceable tunes; fiery solos from all involved; and a completely packed audience. All was true last night. The band delivered their high-energy blend of funk, soul, jazz and world music, and the audience was sardine-like - pretty much everything you could ask for in a successful show. And, with a cameo from local drummer extraordinaire Larnell Lewis, the night was ass good as it could get.

Of course, and as I mentioned in the opening paragraph, this particular course of activity meant missing both Trombone Shorty and Ziggy Marley. I know Trombone Shorty rocked the mainstage (we've had lots of great feedback on Facebook and Twitter)...anyone at Ziggy Marley last night? Let me know how it went!

Here's what's up for day 7:

  • The Youth Jazz Showcase takes over The Rex Hotel this morning starting at 11 am
  • I interview Gretchen Parlato for today's KPMT Inside Track
  • Catalyst plays the Outdoor Stage at 5 pm
  • Benny Green performs a solo piano show at Church of the Holy Trinity at 7 pm
  • Esperanza Spalding performs on the Toronto Star Stage, with Gretchen Parlato opening up, staring at 8 pm (this show is close to sold out...)
  • Angelika Niescier brings her quartet to the Music Gallery for tonight's Incubator concert at 8 pm
  • The Chris Tarry Group hits The Rivoli at 10 pm (doors at 9:30)

There's also Tim Posgate's Sorry Cousins in the Distillery at 6 pm, the Bill King Trio at Shops at Don Mills, and lots of activity in the clubs - I may try to catch this afternoon's British Jazz Showcase at The Rex. Check out the full listing of today's activity.

See you on the square!

Josh

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