What time is it?

Okay. I think I've officially lost track of what day it is. I'm just back from the Hard Rock Cafe and am unsure - is it Tuesday night? Wednesday morning? Does it really matter?

This was, overall, a very good day. The Jazz Ambassadors Sextet started us off with their Lunchtime Concerts performance, providing the audience with a mix of repertoire ranging from swing to contemporary. In my experience, army bands are always top-notch, and this one lived up to my expectations. The only let-down (as I wrote in yesterday's entry) was that due to a bus breakdown, they could only send six musicians and not the full big band. Even so, the audience was well-served by the six musicians on stage.

Shortly after 2 pm I headed over to The Rex Hotel to catch the end of the Youth Jazz in the City Combo A set and the Kudo Takuto Trio's set as part of our Youth Jazz Showcase. Both groups were excellent. The Youth Jazz in the City combo belied their age (they are all high school students who auditioned to gain entry into the program), demonstrating an impressive musical maturity and command of the arrangements. Meanwhile, the Kudo Takuto Trio - winners of the 2009 Sapporo Jazz Competition and visiting a country other than their homeland for the first time - impressed everyone with their virtuosic performance and broad range of styles. If the audience members present have their way, we'll be flying the Trio back to Canada next summer for a spot on the mainstage; and I have to say that I might agree with them! It was a fun afternoon; I had the chance to chat with a number of colleagues and music educators and I'm always refreshed by their desire to provide the best opportunities for young jazz musicians. What's more, I thoroughly enjoy watching musicians perform well while having a good time; both groups did just that, clearly enjoying themselves on stage while making outstanding music.

Just before 5 pm I sauntered over to the Primus Stage to say hello to the Barry Elmes Sextet, an all-star group of local musicians: Kelly Jefferson on sax; Lina Allemano on trumpet; Ron Westray (the only non-Canadian in the bunch but Oscar Peterson Chair of the jazz program at York University) on trombone; Reg Schwager on guitar; Steve Wallace on bass and Barry on drums. It was a treat to hear these musician perform, and, now post-G20 and in the glorious sunshine, we had a big crowd for the show.

From there I swung past the Jazz.FM91 Talkback Tent to say a quick hello to Brownman, who was to discuss with Ralph Benmurgi the fusion of jazz and hip-hop (in advance of tonight's mainstage performance by The Roots), and then I was on to the Enwave Theatre at Harbourfront for Dave Douglas' show as part of the Jazz by the Lake Series, one of my most eagerly anticipated concerts. The performance featured the screening of a film by Bill Morrison called Spark of Being, Bill's re-imagining of the Frankenstein story, while Dave Douglas' ensemble Keystone performed the live soundtrack. I had to leave about 30 minutes in, but what I saw was fantastic. The music was excellent, and there was something exciting about combining film with live music; I especially enjoyed the way the ensemble seemed to effortlessly line up the music with the film, ending their final cadence just as the screen faded to black. If you weren't able to see tonight's performance, I would suggest watching out for it and catching it when you can...

From the Enwave I was off to the Music Gallery for the third concert in the Next Wave Series, tonight featuring the Swyves opening up for Barnyard Drama and the Element Choir. I unfortunately wasn't able to stay for the second set (Barnyard Drama and the Element Choir) but I did see the Swyves' set in its entirety. The group - Jay Hay and Jeremy Strachan on saxes, Aaron Lumley on bass and tonight featuring a special guest (whose name I did not catch) on drums - seem to hang out primarily in the improvised world, quickly moving from composed melody to free improvisation. The Swyves proved why they've earned acclaim: they're a powerhouse ensemble which frequently moved from full ensemble improvisation to the sparsest of textures; they also seem to have an excellent sense of form: just as I started to tire of free improvisation, they would inevitably bring in a melodic hook or re-state the main melody. It was a good opening act and the audience was appreciative. (Oh yeah - speaking of audience, it was up by about 400% from the night before. So tonight's audience was 4x Monday's audience, which is a step in the right direction. Solve for x.) I had to slip out the back just as the 45-member Element Choir was taking the stage, but based on what I've seen in other performances, the audience was no doubt in for a treat.

My next stop was the mainstage which tonight featured The Roots. Usually in the mainstage tent we put out about 1200 chairs. Tonight, there were no chairs - everyone was standing, and it was party time. Now, I'll admit - calling The Roots "jazz" might be a bit of a stretch...but they absolutely rocked. With amazing beats laid down by ?uestlove, fantastic rapping and even a sousaphone, they kept the audience bopping. The show was certainly not subtle - I'm pretty sure I could hear it from the corner of Queen and University as I walked back from the Music Gallery - but subtlety is not what one seeks when one books The Roots. We were looking for a party and they delivered.

Official business (hosting a guest from TD's head office) took me next to the Trane Studio for Grace Kelly's show. This hadn't originally been on my itinerary, but I was glad we made it - Grace was outstanding. As I wrote in my Artistic Director's Guide to the Festival, the term "child prodigy" is sometimes used a bit liberally, but when it comes to Grace Kelly, it's entirely appropriate: at 18 years old and having just completed her second year at the acclaimed Berklee College of Music in Boston, Grace has earned all of the praise she's received. She sounds great when playing alto and soprano saxophones; is developing a lovely singing voice; and is an excellent composer. She also has fantastic stage presence and can work the microphone; she was equally as engaging when playing, singing, or talking to the audience. My guest and I (along with everyone else in the venue) were impressed with her poise and talent; and here again it was such a pleasure to see a musician enjoying herself on stage. Well worth the unexpected trip.

The night wrapped up at the Hard Rock Cafe with the late-night jam featuring Vanessa Rodrigues on organ, Chris Gale on sax and Morgan Childs on drums. This is, without a doubt, one of my favourite bands. Each musician is a monster (in the best way) on his or her instrument, and together they are a musical force. They have a great time playing together and seem to know exactly how to make music sound and feel good. There weren't necessarily more people in the audience tonight (as compared to last night), but there were more musicians, so it was fun to actually jam a bit tonight. Jam sessions can be a bit tricky, depending on the level of the musicians who want to sit in, the tunes called, etc., but Vanessa and Chris handled the situation with grace and diplomacy and a good time was had by all.

Tomorrow (or is that today...I just don't know anymore...) will be yet another busy day, so I won't get to everything, but that won't stop me from trying (nor should it stop you!):

So - lots to see, do and hear. Swing on by!

Josh

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