Summer has arrived

If there was any doubt about whether summer had arrived in Toronto, it was put to rest yesterday - beautiful sunshine, and hot, hot, hot. I was particularly thankful yesterday for the big tent - which provided much-needed shelter for the 12:30 show - and the various air conditioned venues. Here's a quick recap of my Sunday:

  • 12:30 pm - Martin Loomer & the Orange Devils on the Toronto Star Mainstage. Great, swinging band. These musicians don't just pay tribute to the swing era - they know how to play exactly in the swing style. A treat.
  • 1:30 pm - Off to the Jazz Bistro for the Jazz for the Teach big band session. Gordon Foote led the clinic, and Agincourt CI's North-East Jazz aptly served as the demonstration band.
  • 2:30 pm - Off to a rehearsal of my big band, The Toronto Jazz Orchestra, for this Wednesday's show as part of the Big Band Series. Last rehearsals can sometimes be a bit tense, but we got a lot done - full credit to the musicians for their commitment and patience.
  • 7:00 pm - To Musideum to catch one set with Elizabeth Shephard's trio. I hadn't yet seen her live, and the show met my high expectations. I think she's a great singer, and her composing and arranging is musical and original. Ross McIntyre and Colin Kingsmore rounded out the trio in fine fashion.
  • 8:00 pm - Over to the Jazz Bistro for one set with Ranee Lee. If you haven't yet been to this venue, I encourage you to go. It's a great size, and it feels very intimate - the layout allows musicians to perform with ease, and with minimal amplification - an ideal setup. Ranee shone; a highlight was her interpretation of Pat Metheny's "Last Train Home."
  • 9:30 pm - I ended up back at The Rex. It hadn't been my plan; but I was hoping to meet up with a reporter from out of town. We ended up missing each other, so I had to console myself with some more Rudder. They are very good at music (and the standing-room-only, ravenously enthusiastic crowd I think would agree).
  • 10:30 pm - My final musical stop of the night was at The Horseshoe Tavern, where I caught legendary blues harmonica player James Cotton. We often have legendary musicians on our stages, but some shows feel particularly special - and this was one. I don't have a huge blues section in my record collection, but I'm pretty sure last night's Horseshoe show was exactly how the blues are supposed to look, sound and feel.

It's possible that following The Horseshoe show there were shenanigans back at the square, but they were relatively subdued shenanigans, mostly involving wine, chocolate and philosophical conversations. And I'm mostly over the fact that no one mentioned my new white shoes. Mostly.

A word about Rudder
So as I mentioned above, I ended up seeing some of Rudder again last night. The Rex was packed, and much of the crowd seemed to know their music (at least, the older compositions) well enough to sing along. That may not sound like a big deal, but if you've heard them play, you'll know - these are not jazz standards. They write complicated tunes which often change meter and style without warning (and they handle it so smoothly - one of the things that makes them so good). As performers, they're incredibly engaging - they look like they're having a blast, they give as much energy back to the crowd as they receive, and they talk to the audience throughout their set. And, if you'll pardon my French (and to quote a musical colleague), they bash the shit out of their instruments. It's exciting, electric jazz. It's not for everyone…but as the Artistic Director of a major jazz festival, it's hard to ignore the impact on their audience - and the demographic (mostly, but not exclusively, younger) in attendance.

Here's what's up for today:

  • John McLeod's Rex Hotel Orchestra - 12:30 pm, Toronto Star Mainstage at Nathan Phillips Square (free)
  • Heavyweights Brass Band - 3-6 pm, Nathan Phillips Square (free)
  • Norman Marshall Villeneuve's Jazz Message Quintet - 7 pm, Shops at Don Mills (free)
  • Fred Hersch (solo piano) - 7 pm, Enwave Theatre
  • Canadian Jazz Quartet with special guest Harry Allen - 7:30 pm, Homesmith Bar at Old Mill Toronto
  • Pino Daniele (Rita Chiarelli opens) - 8 pm, Toronto Star Mainstage
  • Bill Charlap (solo piano) - 8 pm, Jazz Bistro
  • Dr. Lonnie Smith Trio - 10 pm, Horseshoe Tavern

Plus all the clubs. Complete listings for today are available here.

Hope to see you on the square! Tweets below...


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