Welcome to the Artistic Director's Guide

The Artistic Director's Guide is our way of taking you "beyond the bio". Here you'll find audio and video clips, and I'll describe what I like about each artist and suggest why he or she is important to the scene. So dive in—use the menu options above to find an artist, and let's seek to answer "What's so good about...?"

Josh Grossman, Artistic Director
Toronto Downtown Jazz

The AD's Guide to the Festival - veteran artists

So who knew planning a jazz festival could involve so much last-minute running around? (Yes, rhetorical.) I'm a bit later than I had hoped with this post, but it's my pleasure to round out this mini-series of AD's Guide entries by listing some of the outstanding Toronto jazz veterans performing free concerts at this year's TD Toronto Jazz Festival. There will be lots of names here you recognize, and maybe even some you don't. All are outstanding - these really are some of the best musicians in Canada (if not further afield). Here we go...

The AD's Guide to the Festival - emerging artists

Alright - here we go - part 2 of the trilogy of posts hoping to help you navigate the variety of free programming at this year's TD Toronto Jazz Festival. Today - Toronto-based emerging artists.

The AD's Guide to the Festival - out-of-towners

The 2017 TD Toronto Jazz Festival is only one week away. Already. And while there are still loose ends to be tied and details to be finalized, a definite pre-festival buzz is starting to build. Everything (well, almost everything) feels a bit new this year, and I'm looking forward to having it all finally get underway.

What's a Caravan Palace?

In a word, Caravan Palace is fun. An integral part of the worldwide Electro Swing movement, Caravan Palace, based in Paris, France, takes traditional 1920's jazz sounds and mashes them up with electronic pop beats - think Django Reinhardt meets Daft Punk; picture flappers flitting to funk. The result is upbeat, high-energy, danceable music which is sure to get the Phoenix moving when they stop in on June 26.

What's so good about Buddy Rich?

Calling anyone "the greatest (insert instrument) player of all time" is recipe for endless debate. However - if the greatest jazz drummer of all time had to be crowned, Buddy Rich would certainly be a contender.

Who are these Jensen sisters after all?

Okay - so I have to declare some bias here. I've had the good fortune of working with both Ingrid and Christine Jensen. Ingrid's one of my favourite trumpeters; Christine's writing for big band I think is some of the best in Canada (and the JUNO Awards have agreed twice). All that said - bias or no - I'm pretty excited that the Jensen sisters are coming to Toronto, along with guitarist Ben Monder, bassist Fraser Hollins and drummer Jon Wikan, for a project called Infinitude.

What's so good about Donny McCaslin?

Several years ago, I attended the Detroit Jazz Festival. As part of their always-impressive line-up of free concerts, I caught a performance by the Maria Schneider Orchestra. As a big band leader (and sometimes composer), this was a show not to be missed - and the band sounded fantastic. On one particular tune - I'm having trouble remembering which - Donny McCaslin took a solo. And absolutely blew everyone away in the audience. As far as I can remember, it's the only solo I've ever seen in a big band context which on its own earned a standing ovation.

What's a Bokanté?

In short, Bokanté is a new project, conceived by Snarky Puppy founder Michael League, which brings together the diverse musical traditions of 8 musicians from 4 different continents. The result? Heavy grooves, a head-bop-inducing mix of musical styles, and original music which sounds - and feels - fantastic.

Seriously? A harp and piano duo?

Yes. For reals. But with Hiromi and Edmar Castaneda, I guarantee you won't notice it's just the two of them.

Jazz festival aficionados will be familiar with Hiromi - in the past few years she has appeared as a featured artist with Stanley Clarke's band (2010 in the tent), and twice with her Trio Project (2012 in the tent on a double-bill with The Bad Plus, and 2014 at Koerner Hall). Her performances are bombastic, but also, at times, wonderfully delicate. The lesser known component of the duo - at least here in Toronto - is Colombian harp virtuoso Edmar Castaneda.

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