Where has the week gone?!

An impressive debut, some fantastic students, and lots of great music. This was my Thursday:

  • 12:30 pm - Hilario Duran and his Latin Jazz Big Band on the Toronto Star Stage at Nathan Phillips Square. This has got to be one of the best bands in Canada. Hilario's playing is impressive - he is a piano master - and his writing deserves equal acclaim. He gets the 20 or so musicians on stage to sound like the tightest of salsa bands. Fiery soloing, excellent arranging, and even a world premiere. A nice way to kick off the day.
  • 2:00 pm - The Big Band Slam at The Rex. This is always one of my favourite events each year: an opportunity to hear big bands from local high schools perform for each other and for the public. This year's guest artist was Alex Dean - he sat in with each of the three bands. I caught the first performance (North-East Jazz from Agincourt C.I.). The energy in the room was awesome - the students were excited to play and Alex was having a ball.
  • 3:00 pm - Back to the square to do some TDJ News Corps editing and to greet the Heavyweights Brass Band, setting up for their afternoon roaming session.
  • 4:00 pm - I started the (traffic-filled) trek to Shop at Don Mills for an interview with Susan Hay from Global. I was there longer than expected, but happily made it back in time for…
  • 7:00 pm - Gregory Porter at the Enwave Theatre. This was Gregory's first appearance in Toronto and clearly the word had gotten out - the theatre was packed, and the quintet got an ovation when they took to the stage. Gregory has a fantastic voice, and he's built a reputation on both his interpretations of jazz standards and his original compositions. The four tunes I heard were all originals. He performed them beautifully, chatting with the audience between each tune, inviting everyone in to the show. I knew what to expect from having listened to his recordings…but what I didn't get from the recordings was how engaging he is as a performer - he looked like he was having so much fun. A great energy in the room.
  • 8:00 pm - Marianne Trudel Trifolia at the Jazz Bistro. I've always enjoyed Marianne's playing and especially her composing - some very creative music was made last night by the trio. The audience was small but appreciative, and the musicians held nothing back.
  • 9:30 pm - To the mainstage for some Bettye LeVette. Bettye was a late addition for the festival - replacing Sharon Jones - so we knew the audience would be a bit smaller for this show. But those in attendance were treated to something special - she has a powerful, soulful voice which demands attention. I could have used another uptempo tune or two in the set I caught, but it was a treat to see her again.
  • 10:30 pm - A quick stop in at the Great Hall to catch some of The Herbalizer's live band/DJ mashup.
  • 11:15 pm - My final stop of the night was The Rex Hotel, where New York-based drummer Ari Hoenig was performing with Michael Ruby (tenor sax), Robi Botos (piano) and Jim Vivian (bass). They played a mix of standards and originals, and they were "on" from the get-go. Each of the musicians is more than capable of creating excitement with his playing, but Ari especially has a way of lighting a fire underneath it all. His performance of "You Take the High Road/You Are My Sunshine" on the toms and snare was a highlight. A satisfying way to wrap up the day.

And here's what's up for today:

  • Tommy Smith & The National Jazz Orchestra wraps up the Big Band Series - 12:30 pm, Toronto Star Mainstage, Nathan Phillips Square (free)
  • The Youth Jazz Showcase features emerging artists from Canada, the United States and Japan - 2-4:30 pm, The Rex Hotel (free)
  • The Woodshed Orchestra roams Nathan Phillips Square with their swinging/fun/wacky take on New Orleans-style marching band music - 3-6 pm Nathan Phillips Square (free)
  • Jorge Miguel Quintet - 6 pm, Trinity Stage in The Distillery District (free)
  • DRUMHAND - 6 pm, Pure Spirits Patio in The Distillery District (free)
  • Canadian Jazz Quartet with Allan Vache - 7:30 pm, Homesmith Bar at Old Mill Toronto
  • Grooveyard - 8 pm, Shops at Don Mills (free)
  • Boz Scaggs (Paul James opens) - 8 pm, Mainstage
  • Roberta Gambarini - 8 and 10:30 pm, Jazz Bistro

Plus a busy night in the clubs. Today's full listings are available here.

My tweets are below; see you on the square! (And - how did it get to be Friday already?!)


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