That's a wrap! (Sort of…)

We had some pretty fantastic music on our stages yesterday to wrap up the official part of the 2013 TD Toronto Jazz Festival. There are still a few acts today and tomorrow - the list is below. Here's my recap of Saturday's activity:

  • 7:00 am - The day started with homemade pancakes. At home. With my family. This has nothing to do with the jazz festival, but since it was the first meal we had eaten together in over a week, it felt important. (Plus - blueberry pancakes!)
  • 12:00 pm - Off to a rehearsal with my big band for the June 30th Radiohead Jazz Project. A minor festival-related logistical situation required resolving - for a few minutes my two lives as performer and administrator did not play nice together - but it got solved (thanks in part to help from The Rex Hotel) and rehearsal was only delayed by 15 minutes or so. And it was really, really fun. Feeling thankful again to get to work with these musicians…
  • 3:30 pm - From rehearsal I made my way down to The Distillery to catch some of the sets by Aline Morales' group and Mike Francis' trio. The sun was shining, The Distillery was hopping, and the music from both groups was excellent.
  • 4:30 pm - My next stop was Nathan Phillips Square. I arrived to the sounds of Escola de Samba marching down Queen Street. As with Samba Squad last weekend, I couldn't stand still - the group was providing some high-quality, high-energy entertainment. I sometimes feel as though I could listen to Samba percussion groups for hours on end. I will leave the dancing, however, to the professionals.
  • 8:00 pm - After a fun dinner with some of my colleagues and a backstage hang with the Slocan Ramblers (who opened up last night for Steve Martin on the Mainstage), I made my way over to the Jazz Bistro for the first set of the Alan Jones Canadian All Star Sextet. Alan (drums) was joined by Tom Wakeling (bass), Jon Ballantyne (piano) and the horn line of Phil Dwyer (alto sax), Seamus Blake (tenor sax) and Ingrid Jensen (trumpet). All star indeed! The set I heard featured a variety of styles and tempos - from contemporary composition to Duke Ellington - but whatever they played, these musicians were giving their all. I found it very satisfying - excellent, exciting playing, creative arrangements, and a "no holds barred" approach. Plus, as a trumpet player, I enjoy hearing Ingrid Jensen play every single time she's in town…
  • 9:30 pm - My last stop of the night was the Toronto Star Mainstage for Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers featuring Edie Brickell. This show was fantastic. Outstanding musicianship, great audience engagement (Steve Martin is, after all, a very funny man), fiery soloing…in some ways this show featured more jazzy elements than many of the other shows featured at the festival this year. I can't quite put my finger on the one element which helped me enjoy the show as much as I did. I can tell you that I appreciated the acoustic nature of the show; the great vocal harmonizations; the sense of humour and fun displayed by everyone on stage; the easygoing nature the musicians put out to the audience; and the clever original compositions. Not to mention that Steve Martin is a very good banjo player. When the show wrapped up there was excitement in the air - from audience members, from the musicians themselves, and from my colleagues, many of whom listed this show as one of the best closing nights ever.

With the official activities wrapped up, the unofficial, backstage fun began - a nice way to unwind with my colleagues after a very busy stretch.

However - we're not actually done yet! There are still official festival shows happening today and tomorrow. Here's the list (all shows are free):

Sunday June 30

  • Terry Blankley & Bruce Gorrie - 12:00 pm, Pure Spirits Patio in The Distillery District
  • Woodshed Orchestra - 12:00 pm, Trinity Stage in The Distillery District
  • Brian & The Blainettes - 3:00 pm, Trinity Stage in The Distillery District
  • Danny Marks - Solo & Loving It! - 3:00 pm, Pure Spirits Patio in The Distillery District
  • Toronto Rhythm Initiative - 3:00 pm, Shops at Don Mills

Monday July 1

  • Suzie Vinnick Duo - 12:00 pm, Trinity Stage in The Distillery District
  • Escola de Samba - 3:00 pm, Trinity Stage in The Distillery District

So what does it all mean? What did I learn from this year's festival? It will take me a little while to process everything, but I'll surely write about it in the next few weeks. In the meantime, if you've got some constructive feedback you'd like to send my way, I'd be happy to hear from you. (Heck - buy me a coffee and let's chat in person.) Drop me a line any time at

Thanks for joining us this year. I'm heading into hibernation for a week or so; you'll hear from me again soon enough. And though the festival is over, there's still lots of great jazz happening throughout the city. Be sure to support this amazing music all year long!

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