Music is fun

I've probably already used that title for a blog post at some point in the last four years but I'm tired, it's hot, and the power is out at home, so my creative muse is clearly stuck in transit. But also, after yesterday's lineup, it's a most appropriate title. Here's the rundown:

  • 10:00 am - the day started a bit on the early side with an interview with Luca Zaramella on Radio Classica - in Italy! My first-ever over-the-phone overseas interview.
  • 12:30 pm - John MacLeod's Rex Hotel Orchestra on the Toronto Star Mainstage. If you haven't yet seen this band, get to The Rex on the last Monday of next month (heck, every month). Their first album won a JUNO Award, and they've just released their second. John's an excellent composer and arranger, and he's assembled some of the top musicians in Canada. The band sounds fantastic - great ensemble playing, great soloing, and (I'm biased - trumpet player, remember?) inspiring lead trumpeting from Jason Logue. A great way to kick off the day's musical happenings.
  • 3:00 pm - The Heavyweights Brass Band did their fun, funky, brassy thang on Nathan Phillips Square, leading willing listeners on a snaking path through the square.
  • 3:30 pm - An interesting meeting with the Director of Programming for Union Station, exploring how Toronto Downtown Jazz might get involved with presenting music in the current and future iterations of Union Station. It's exciting to hear that art and culture are priorities as the redevelopment continues.
  • 4:00 pm - A fun visit with the Artistic-Director-in-Training (a.k.a Adelaide) and Jeanette.
  • 4:30 pm - Interview with Howell Gatchell from 91.5 in Richmond, Indiana. Howell's been coming up to the TD Toronto Jazz Festival for the past seven years. It was a fun chat - good questions!
  • 5:30 pm - Connection made! I met up for dinner with the out-of-town reporter with whom I seemed to be playing hide-and-seek the night before. He writes for Downbeat magazine, and this is his first visit to a Canadian jazz festival. Good conversation about jazz in general and festivals in particular.
  • 7:00 pm - I slipped backstage at the Enwave Theatre to say hi to Fred Hersch, then went front-of-house to catch the first 40 minutes or so of the show. He played all original compositions (in the portions I saw) and didn't let distractions like noisy audience members and a falling microphone (which rolled up against the pedals, requiring some fancy footwork) derail some outstanding playing. I feel as though Fred Hersch probably plays about as many notes per concert as many other pianists; he just plays them differently: they come in waves, and only when they fit the musical arc of the piece. His touch on the keys is wonderful; his mastery of the instrument absolute. So yeah - you could say I enjoyed what I heard.
  • 8:00 pm - To the Mainstage for Rita Chiarelli's set. I had not yet seen her perform live, and I was fairly blown away. I knew she had a big voice, but recordings don't quite do it justice. To hear her move from octave to octave with such ease and control was impressive. She performed a mix of blues and Italian folk repertoire which had the crowd hooting and hollering (blues) or singing along (Italian folk) - they gave her a well-deserved standing ovation.
  • 9:00 pm - Over to the Jazz Bistro for some of Bill Charlap's second set. He quickly demonstrated why he is acclaimed as an interpreter of the Great American Songbook - his renditions paid tribute to the era in which the tunes were written without sounding out-of-date, and spun them in a contemporary fashion without getting too far out. I especially enjoyed his slightly less sunny version of "Sunny Side of the Street."
  • 10:00 pm - Back to the Mainstage for some of Pino Daniele's Italian folk-infused jazz fusion. We would have preferred a bigger crowd, but what they lacked in size they made up for in enthusiasm. Every tune was given a rousing ovation; Pino and his bandmates seemed to thrive off of the energy.
  • 10:45 pm - Last stop of the night was the Horseshoe Tavern for Dr. Lonnie Smith's trio. The band was different by one member from when I saw them in New York in January - Jonathan Blake was on drums last night instead of Jamire Williams - but the change in personnel certainly didn't seem to affect the chemistry of the group. This was a long, groovy, fantastic set of music. The trio's often extended crescendos got the crowd worked up every time; the tension and release on stage was echoed by the audience's applause and vocalizations. They wrapped up the set with a long, soulful version of Dr. Smith's "Pilgrimage", which featured one of the most satisfying musical builds I've experienced in recent memory. The crowd insisted on an encore, and they obliged - starting with an extended solo by Dr. Smith on his Slaperoo - a musical walking cane. (Impossible to accurately describe - see the video.) When the show was over, the excitement in the room was evident - conversation buzzed and a long line waited for autographs.

So - a good musical day. I've enjoyed all of the music at the festival so far, but my crank was especially turned yesterday.

Here's what's up for today:

  • Jim Galloway and his Wee Big Band (celebrating their 35th year!) - 12:30 pm, Toronto Star Mainstage (free)
  • Boxcar Boys - 3-6 pm, roaming on Nathan Phillips Square (free)
  • Amy McConnell/William Sperandei Quartet - 6 pm, Pure Spirits Patio in the Distillery District (free)
  • Lily Frost Swings - 7 pm, Shops at Don Mills (free)
  • Canadian Jazz Quartet with special guest Ken Peplowski - 7:30 pm, Homesmith Bar at Old Mill Toronto
  • Bob James and David Sanborn featuring Steve Gadd (Robi Botos Trio opens) - 8 pm, Toronto Star Mainstage
  • Nikki Yanofsky - 8 pm, Koerner Hall
  • Geoffrey Keezer - 8 pm, Jazz Bistro
  • Robert Glasper Experiment - 10 pm, Horseshoe Tavern

Plus all the action in the clubs. Complete details are available here.

My tweets are below…see you on the square!


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