Long Live Local Jazz


Just needed to get that out.

This past Wednesday night, Tom, Bob, Avi, and the rest of The Rex Hotel staff hosted their annual Rex Players Party. It's the one night each year the venue is closed to the public, so that The Rex can celebrate the local musicians who play on their stage throughout the year. It's always a fantastic event - big thanks to everyone at The Rex - and a true celebration of the talent and community which exists in the Toronto jazz scene. (And it's always epic. I've never made it to the end - and especially not this year, with a 7:40 am CBC radio interview the next morning - but if Facebook posts are to be properly interpreted, the party shut down sometime after 5 am...)

All this to say - we are incredibly lucky to have some of the country's (and, in some cases, the world's) best jazz musicians living right here in Toronto. Here are just some of the outstanding local musicians who will be on our stages this year (and who haven't been mentioned in other posts).

Heavyweights Brass Band: Monday June 25, 8:30 pm on the OLG Stage on Cumberland Street
The Heavyweights play the Festival semi-regularly, and it's always a party. They have a lot to celebrate this year, with the release of their most recent album, "This City" - recorded in New Orleans, it captures the traditional brass band spirit and their uniquely Toronto approach. Sax, trumpet, trombone, sousaphone, drums and 100% fun.

Barry Elmes Quintet: Tuesday June 26, 2:30 pm on the OLG Stage on Hazelton Avenue
Barry Elmes has made an enormous, multi-faceted contribution to Toronto's jazz scene for nearly 40 years: fantastic drummer, but also composer, producer, record label owner and educator. For his quintet he is joined by Brian O'Kane (trumpet), Mike Murley (saxophone), Lorne Lofsky (guitar) and Steve Wallace (bass) - an excellent opportunity to hear some of Canada's best.

Cadence: Tuesday June 26, 8:00 pm on the OLG Stage on Hazelton Avenue
We don't always program a cappella, but when we do, we aim high. Cadence is an all-male a cappella quartet which has been performing around the world for nearly 20 years. Creative arrangements, tight harmonies, and just all-round excellent singing - come hear why they are one of Canada's most in-demand ensembles.

Nancy Walker Quintet: Wednesday June 27, 12:00 pm on the OLG Stage on Hazelton Avenue
Another opportunity to hear one of Canada's jazz scene's most important contributors! Pianist Nancy Walker has earned Canada-wide acclaim for her playing, composing and teaching. Joining her is the ensemble which recorded her most recent album, "'Til Now is Secret", which features ten original, exquisitely crafted compositions: Shirantha Beddage (saxophones), Ted Quinlan (guitar), Kieran Overs (bass) and Ethan Ardelli (drums).

Rhythm and Truth Brass Band: Wednesday June 27, 3:15 pm on the OLG Stage on Cumberland Street
I had already grown to like Paul Neufeld's music through NOJO - the quirky big band he co-leads with Michael Occhipinti - so it was a happy discovery the day he told me about Rhythm and Truth. Here as a 7-piece, the ensemble started as a way to play traditional New Orleans brass band music, but has since evolved to feature original compositions and fun interpretations of funk, soul and reggae classics. They'll have the park rocking!

Carn Davidson 9: Thursday June 28, 8:00 pm on the OLG Stage on Hazelton Avenue
Co-led by saxophonist Tara Davidson and trombonist William Carn, it is the compositions which set this ensemble apart. (I mean, the players are outstanding too...) With seven horns plus bass and drums, this is a "chordless" group - no piano, no guitar - which means their original tunes sound like no others. Fresh off of their 2018 JUNO Award nomination, we're glad to have them back this year!

Johnny Griffith Quintet: Friday June 29, 3:15 pm on the OLG Stage on Cumberland Street
JUNO Award nominated saxophonist Johnny Griffith has toured across Canada and Europe with a truly diverse range of artists from the jazz, pop, reggae and hip-hop worlds. Johnny's quintet plays outstanding post-bop jazz; the role of guest trumpeter, usually held down by Jeremy Pelt, is here covered off by Kevin Turcotte...who still sounds better every time I hear him play. This will be good, swinging fun.

Turboprop: Friday June 29, 5:15 pm on the OLG Stage on Hazelton Avenue
Also nominated for a 2018 JUNO Award, Turboprop is a north-south collaboration which, like so many other of the acclaimed groups listed here, has set itself apart for its compositional approach (in addition to excellent playing). Leader and drummer Ernesto Cervini is joined by Tara Davidson (alto saxophone), New York-Based Joel Frahm (tenor saxophone), William Carn (trombone), Adrean Farrugia (piano) and New York-based Dan Loomis (bass) to play creative originals and truly unique arrangements of some unexpected repertoire.

Humber College Music Faculty Nonet: Friday June 29, 8:00 pm on the OLG Stage on Hazelton Avenue
We're fortunate to have four excellent post-secondary jazz programs in the Greater Toronto Area: University of Toronto Jazz, Humber College Music, York University and Mohawk College. Each school's faculty features Canada's top jazz musicians; here, nine of Humber's outstanding teachers take to the stage to put into practice the concepts they aim to imbue each year in their students. This will be a first-class, multi-generational performance, featuring top-notch musicians at various stages of their careers.

YUKA: Friday June 29, 8:30 pm on the OLG Stage on Cumberland Street
Because who doesn't want a little funk in their Friday? This 7-piece ensemble has been packing Toronto dance floors for over ten years with music whose influences run classic and contemporary - they site artists like James Brown, The Meters, Soulive and Sharon Jones. Especially impressive is vocalist Clair Doyle - while the band deftly lays down the groove, she brings it home with a powerful voice.

Ted's Warren Commission: Sunday July 1, 12:00 pm on the OLG Stage on Hazelton Avenue
Representing the (very far) West side of the Greater Toronto Area, Ted's Warren Commission features drummer Ted Warren - known in part as the last regular drummer in Rob McConnell's Boss Brass - along with Canadian jazz veterans Mike Malone (trumpet), Ted Quinlan (guitar) and Mike Downes (bass). They play upbeat original compositions, with a sense of humour which may be evident from the band's name (or the tile of their most recent CD, "The Great Regina Pizza Debate"). A nice celebration of Canadian jazz on Canada Day!

And that's the end of my concert list for blogging purposes! I'm going to try for one more, as we've got a variety of non-concert initiatives which I'd like to share...but that's for another day. In the meantime, there are even more acts, beyond what I've covered in these posts, performing throughout the Festival's ten days - please check out the full daily listings on our website.

And - come down to Yorkville! We've got great music lined up, much of it for free, all day starting at noon, for 10 days. It's going to be a blast, and it would be lovely to see you there. We start at 5:30 this afternoon!


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