Of snarky puppies and more

I'm a bit crunched for time this morning - I needed to squeeze every last possible minute out sleep time - so I may be more point form-y today than usual. In short, yesterday was an excellent day at the festival.

Elizabeth Shepherd Quartet on the Mainstage
The 12 pm lunchtime concerts kicked off yesterday with Elizabeth on piano and vocals with Scott Kemp on bass, Colin Kingsmore on drums and Kevin Turcotte on trumpet. These musicians have been playing together for years and they sounded relaxed while navigating Elizabeth's interesting arrangements of standards and originals, stretching out on solos, singing along and generally having a good time. As a trumpeter I am perhaps predisposed to liking other trumpeters…but Kevin Turcotte sounded soooo good…Plus Elizabeth laid out the best one-liner of the festival so far. (It's political - you'll have to ask me offline.)

Free time!
Okay, not that noteworthy. I caught up on some work, and went in search of good baked goods near Nathan Phillips Square. If you can recommend a good bakery near there, please do. A guy's gotta satisfy his sweet tooth, and my searches so far have been largely unfruitful.

Gerald Clayton interview on JAZZ.FM91
I wasn't conducting the interview nor was I involved; but I sat and watched the interview. Brad Barker asked some good questions and I was interested to hear Gerald's answer especially to the question about Oscar Peterson, and his influence on Gerald's playing. Gerald said something like (loosely paraphrasing) "It's important that people not assume what Oscar's influence looks like." I took that to mean that although Oscar was an influence, it doesn't mean Gerald sounds like Oscar. That could be applied to jazz in general, I think: even though some of the jazz being made today doesn't necessarily sound like the jazz being made in the past, it doesn't mean today's jazz hasn't been influenced by the jazz of yesterday.

Joy Lapps Trio
Joy brought her steel pan and three other musicians with her to the acoustic stage. I had never heard her live, and was glad to have booked her after hearing so many positive things about her playing. I enjoyed her technically as a player, and especially enjoyed the repertoire she performed: I don't know a lot about steel pan, but Joy blew away any expectations I might have had. She played funky, swinging jazz standards, soloing and comping on the steel pan just like any other instrumentalist. The crowd certainly approved. (A drag, then, that the 6:30 pm deluge rained out the remainder of her second set.)

CJQ with Ken Peplowski
I stopped in briefly at The Rex in the hopes of hearing some Tara Kannangara, but caught only the last bit of her first set. I'll have to try again - I've seen her as a side musician only, and I've heard great things about her own projects. So I continued on to KAMA to catch some of the Canadian Jazz Quartet with Ken Peplowski. It's always a swinging time with the CJQ, and Ken Peplowski was in fine form on tenor sax and humour. A particular highlight was Frank Wright's solo turn on "Stardust". (I'm always interested too to see a musician like Ted Quinlan, who I've heard more in jazz/rock settings, play so beautifully in a classic swing situation.)

Gerald Clayton solo
Next stop was the Jazz Bistro for Gerald Clayton's solo show. I caught his first set, during which he played a sort of musical hide and seek with the various standards and originals on offer - the melodies were at times hidden behind the beautiful textures, rhythms and harmonies Gerald created throughout. I was struck not just by his facility on the piano, but also by the musical decisions he made. With an almost infinite combination of notes at his disposal, Gerald seemed to choose the juiciest notes, the most unique voicings. I very much enjoyed the set; I can honestly say I've never heard "If I Were A Bell" played like that…

New Orleans jazz/funk/rock outfit Galactic was on the mainstage last night and I could hear them well before I saw them. Loud shows turn me into a bit of grinch, but it was hard to deny the groove they were laying down on stage. I had never heard them live, and was pleasantly surprised - theirs was a high energy, funky show; they delivered more soul than many bands twice their size. The lead singer was excellent, the audience was on its feet the whole time, and when two members of Big Sam's Funky Nation joined them onstage for a brass-off, the place went wild.

Snarky Puppy
Snarky Puppy's show has been generating buzz for weeks now, and when I got to the Horseshoe the sold-out crowd was spilling out of the space. It was about a billion degrees in the club but no one seemed to mind - everyone was entranced by what was happening on stage. I find it hard to encapsulate their music: the band features great jazz soloists; their tunes are funky and also incorporate African and Cuban rhythms; they go on extended jams; their melodies are singable but there is a bubbling subtext of complexity. All I know is that the crowd - made up of young and older alike - was loving every minute. And then local drummer extraordinaire Larnell Lewis was invited up to sit in. And saxophonist Jeff Coffin (Dave Matthews Band) happened to be there, so he played a tune. And Big Sam was there too, with his trumpeter, so they sat it. And Terreon Gully (drummer with Dianne Reeves) sat in too. It was ridiculous, and was the perfect jazz festival experience - outstanding music, packed house, and the spirit of collaboration and jamming which is vital to jazz. A great way to end the night.

I even got some sleep! Good thing, too - cause today's a busy day:

The complete list of activity is here.

See you on the square!



Yea - I was there too - great band.... but please tell it like it was: the worst venue ever. It was about 35 degrees with 90% humidity and you had a choice to stand in a crowd packed like sardines ...all night long... OR - sit in the back with about 500 people directly in front of the loudspeakers - and band. ie: you can't see anything and it sounds like crap. That might work for a rave or some alternative rock back - but for progressive jazz, it sucked. We left half-way through and I will not return to the Horseshoe for this type of event. The Toronto Jazz festival should be pickier where it places its acts.

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