The TDJ News Corps

The TDJ News Corps is an annual initiative geared towards post-secondary students who are interested in writing about jazz. Successful applicants to the TDJ News Corps program are given full media accreditation for the TD Toronto Jazz Festival, granting them unprecedented access to the festival – attending and reviewing concerts for free, interviewing artists and experiencing the festival from behind the scenes. In addition, TDJ News Corps members are assigned a mentor – an experienced music journalist.

The 2019 TDJ News Corps participants are Rosemary Akpan and Cole Brocksom, who are both Journalism students at Ryerson University. Mentors for 2019 are Garvia Bailey, arts journalist, broadcaster and co-founder of, and Ben Rayner, longtime music critic for the Toronto Star and, at one time, the Ottawa Sun, who has also contributed to publications as varied as XLR8R, Fashion and

Check this page throughout the Festival for TDJ News Corps articles – concert reviews, artist interviews and other editorial content.

The Intersection: Jazz and Hip Hop

“What’s the difference between me and you?” the three MCs from the T.Dot Bangerz Brass band ask, performing a bombastic cypher of Dr. Dre’s “What’s the Difference.” The difference between these three rappers and most modern hip-hop artists is that they’re backed by a full brass band complete with trumpets, saxophones, trombone, drums and even a sousaphone.

Favourite songs from Cécile McLorin Salvant’s show

On Thursday evening, the Grammy-award winning jazz singer Cécile McLorin Salvant and pianist Sullivan Fortner performed together at Koerner Hall. The two presented original pieces and covers of songs from artists like Hoagy Carmichael, Bessie Smith, Stevie Wonder and more. Salvant made it easy for the audience to connect with her through her spunky delivery and relatable song choices. In each song you heard emotion, range and attention to the tiniest of vocal details. Although it’s unjust to choose favourites, here are my top three songs performed that night.

Ghost-Note and Rinsethealgorithm at the Horseshoe Tavern

“Don’t clap yet, it might suck” band leader Rich Brown said as the audience applauded his entrance to the stage at the Horseshoe Tavern Wednesday night.

Brown dexterously picked up his six-string bass guitar and looked back out to the house.

“It won’t suck,” he said with a knowing smile.

It didn’t.

Omara Portuondo gives Toronto their last kiss

As apart of her “One Last Kiss” tour, Cuban Omara Portuondo stopped in Toronto to give a riveting farewell performance at Koerner Hall as part of the TD Toronto Jazz Festival. The house was packed with faithful fans anticipating Portuondo’s arrival. After a quick performance by her band Portuondo made her way into the hall. Dressed in a salmon coloured gown, the 88-year-old singer was escorted onto the stage where she sat comfortably near her pianist and sang for nearly 90-minutes.

OKAN: the heart and soul of jazz music

Earlier this week, the JUNO and Grammy nominated women-led duo OKAN performed at the TD main stage on Cumberland Street. The area was packed with tons of people who were thrilled to see the Cuban natives Elizabeth Rodriguez and Magdelys Savigne perform their world jazz fusion melodies. And on the morning of their performance, I got the chance to have a conversation with Elizabeth on their Afro-Cuban roots and their passion for jazz.

Makaya McCraven at Adelaide Hall

At times cool and easy, others intense and urgent, but always tightily controlled, Makaya McCraven’s performance on Saturday night was one of contrasts. Even when he and the band were playing full-tilt and things seemed just at the brink of going off the rails and falling to pieces, the band effortlessly brought it back at the drop of a hat. McCraven had his hands on the wheel the whole time.

Highlights from Friday Night Live at the ROM

The imposing skeleton of the futalognkosaurus greets the guests in the main hall of the Royal Ontario Museum after they’ve had their tickets taken for Friday Night Live, the first night of the TD Toronto Jazz Festival. In front of the massive display are propped big wooden letters lined with faintly glowing light bulbs that spell out the theme for the evening: MARDI GRAS. Now, however, instead of the bright natural light that shines through the hall in the daytime, the bones are lit by the pulsing purple nightclub lights coming from Currelly Gallery.

Toronto gets down Mardi Gras style

On Friday evening, the Royal Ontario Museum transformed their space into a New Orleans style party - a fitting kick-off for the TD Toronto Jazz Festival, now in its 33rd year.

Packed with visitors from all around the city, the night kicked off with DJ L’Oqenz centered in Currelly Gallery.

As guests were greeted with colourful beads, L’Oqenz set the mood by playing the classic Mardi Gras anthem "Do Whatcha Wanna" by Rebirth Brass Band—this is the same song singer Beyoncé Knowles-Carter walked out to at her historic 2018 Coachella set.

Big Smoke Brass Band Brings the Heat on the Street

Only hours before the June 21 opening festivities of this year's TD Toronto Jazz Festival, the Big Smoke Brass Band is out busking on Yonge Street. Escaping the first-day-of-summer heat by playing in the shade of the Aura building, the Big Smoke Brass offer their powerful, high-energy take on the classic hits and original compositions that fill their repertoire.The band closes off their fourth set for the day with a medley they call “MJ.”

“I think there’s four songs in there,” said Max Forster, a friend of the band who was subbing in on trumpet for the day. “It’s a long one.”

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