My Five Must-See Toronto-Based Acts at this Year’s Jazz Festival

Gary Clark Jr. Charles Lloyd. Tower of Power. These are just a few of the well-known and established artists that are drawing in the crowds for this year’s TD Toronto Jazz Festival. But what Toronto artists are creating buzz in the music scene, or flying just under the radar of prominence? From downtown’s veteran live-band bars such as Monarch’s Pub to the bohemian atmosphere in Kensington Market’s Poetry Jazz Café, you never know where you might hear the next Jamie Cullum or Al Jarreau.


Any jazz, urban or Latin music connoisseur living in Toronto will have at least heard of Brownman. Whether he’s groovin’ with his Electryc Trio at May Café or filling in on trumpet big-band style with John Cheesman or Chelsea McBride, Brownman has a hand in every style of music and a foot in every live venue across the city. Brownman’s genre-defying musicianship earned him the title “Jazz Composer of the Year” during Canada’s National Jazz Awards in 2002 amongst several other accolades, and he has recently been nominated for a Black Canadian Award for “Jazz/Soul Artist of the Year.” He’ll be playing a number of shows during the festival, and his expansive repertoire is sure to have a little something for everyone, from acoustic-style jazz to experimental reggae.

Thursday, June 18, 8pm: Tribute to Cole Porter ft. Ori Dagan @ May Café ($10 cover)
Friday, June 19, 9pm: Brownman & Cruzao Latin Jazz Trio @ Poetry Jazz Café ($10 cover)
Saturday, June 20, 9pm: Brownman Electryc Trio @ May Café ($10 advance / $15 door)
Sunday, June 21, 9pm: Brownman Akoustic Trio @ Gate 403 (no cover)
Monday, June 22, 4pm: Brownman +2 @ Musideum ($20 cover)
Monday, June 22, 8pm: sitting in w/ Jordana Talsky @ May Café ($20 cover)
Tuesday, June 23, 6pm: Socialist Night School @ Nathan Philips Square (no cover)
Tuesday, June 23, 8pm: Snaggle ft. Brownman @ May Café ($10 cover)
Wednesday, June 24, 7pm: Arecibo @ Monarch's Pub (no cover)
Thursday, June 25, 8pm: Jason Wilson Reggae-Jazz Quartet @ May Café ($10 cover)
Friday, June 26, 9pm: Ogguere & Cuarteto Rumberos @ May Café ($10 advance / $15 door)
Saturday, June 27, 9pm: Tribute to Freddie Hubbard @ May Café ($10 advance / $15 door)

Dee Dee and the Dirty Martinis

A familiar face to Toronto’s Reservoir Lounge, Dee Dee and the Dirty Martinis bring a feel-good vibe that will keep you twistin’ the night away. The group takes its listeners on a time warp to the 60s, bringing back the best of Motown with a modern flare. Dee Dee is a true powerhouse vocalist who channels the likes of Aretha Franklin and Diana Ross in every note she sings, and the Dirty Martinis get the party started with their growling horn solos and slick hooks. If you’re in the mood for dancing in the streets, Dee Dee and the Dirty Martinis are a must during this year’s Jazz Festival.

Friday, June 19, 9:45pm: Reservoir Lounge (cover)
Friday, June 26, 9:45pm: Reservoir Lounge (cover)

Ori Dagan

Described by JazzTimes as “a budding Kurt Elling,” Ori Dagan has swooned Toronto with his smooth vocals and intricate scatting. His emphatic style and rhythmic virtuosity have proven popular, winning CBC’s “Canada’s Next Top Crooner” and NOW Magazine Reader’s “Best Male Vocalist.” Dagan thrives on bass-baritone standards, but has applied his voice to create fresh renditions of pop songs, including Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” and Madonna’s “Like a Virgin.” Coupled with sporadic scat solos and tender vocal runs, Dagan is a multilayered pleasure to the ear and a consistent talent in the city’s jazz scene.

Friday, June 18, 8pm : Tribute to Cole Porter ft. Ori Dagan @ May Café ($10 cover)
Friday, June 19, 9pm : Ori Dagan Trio @ Monarch’s Pub (no cover)
Sunday, June 21, 7pm : Bellegarde & Dagan @ Pauper’s Pub – Upstairs Piano Bar ($15 cover)
Wednesday, June 24, 8pm : Ori Dagan @ La Rev (PWYC, $10 suggested)
Friday, June 26, 6:30pm : Ori Dagan Trio @ Paddock Tavern ($10 cover)
Saturday, June 27, 6pm : Ori Dagan & Kat Langdon @ 120 Diner ($15 door, $10 w/ dinner reservation)
Saturday, June 27, 9:30pm: Ori Dagan Group @ Poetry Jazz Café ($10 cover)

Boxcar Boys

Take yourself back to the roots of New Orleans jazz with the Dixieland-inspired Boxcar Boys (and girls), a six-piece band that plays an eclectic mix of folk, country and old-time. Their quirky and boisterous delivery provides a unique musical throwback to a time that was a little simpler; however, their instrumental prowess is far from elementary. Every musician brings an impressive vibrancy to the collective, the polyphonic layering coming together into a fun, upbeat mixture of weaving clarinet, sweet string lines, pulsing brass and droning accordion. For a happy-go-lucky, hot jazz experience, the Boxcar Boys are where it’s at.

Wednesday, June 17, 6pm: Distillery District – Trinity Stage (free admission)
Wednesday, June 24, 8pm: Painted Lady ($5 cover)

The Jessica Stuart Few

The Jessica Stuart Few sound like a lazy Sunday morning: refreshing, soothing, and absolutely delightful. Blending folk and jazz with a hint of indie sentimentality, the trio brings an innovative sound that attracts listeners from across genres. Just last year the band scored an Independent Music Award for their sophomore album, Two Sides To Every Story in the “Jazz with Vocals” category, and toured throughout North America, Europe, Asia and Australia within the past two years, their talent evidently recognized worldwide. Stuart has the airy voice of Joni Mitchell paired with a dynamic artistic vision that goes beyond simple classification, and her distinct take on the koto (a 13-stringed Japanese floor harp) is just one of several aspects that makes her one of Toronto’s most intriguing contemporary songwriters.

Thursday, June 25, 9:30pm: Musideum ($20 cover)

Site by GoodWeb & plousia