Montreal, New Orleans, New York, any short list of world-class jazz festival cities is simply incomplete without including Toronto — and once again, this year’s edition of the TD Canada Trust Toronto Jazz Festival proves why.
The annual downtown music event officially kicks off today in several venues with one of the most stellar lineups of artists in the festival’s 21-year history.
Flip through the festival program this year and you’ll be hard-pressed to name a style of jazz that isn’t offered — and at least one artist of each genre that is not represented.
The comprehensive roster is the result of extensive planning by the Toronto Downtown Jazz Society and the festival organizing team, says executive producer and CEO Patrick Taylor.
Where some major festivals would seem more concerned with filling seats — by booking big-name rock and pop acts — Taylor says he wants the festival to reflect the progression of jazz, while paying homage to its luminaries and building for the future
“We want to be a legitimate jazz festival, not a traditional jazz festival” Taylor says. “We’re not purists. We want to include as many artists under the jazz umbrella as we can ... our mandate is not to get old.”
Taylor also noted that “pushing Canadian talent has always been a huge part of our focus.” It’s not just lip-service considering some of the Canadian acts set to perform. They include singer/keyboardist Laila Biali, whose group has been tapped to play the inaugural concert launching the Grandmasters Series in the Four Seasons Centre For The Performing Arts on Monday.
The festival has consistently garnered enthusiastic responses from the jazz world’s marquee names, as well.
John Scofield is a case in point. The former bandmate of Miles Davis is one of the pre-eminent electric guitar jazzmen still performing today. He returns to Nathan Philip Square’s big white tent main stage — this year for two nights in a row. Tuesday will see him join Trio Beyond for an exploratory take on the guitar/bass/drums standard. The following night, Scofield will add some rump-shakin riffs to Medeski, Martin & Wood’s unique style of jazz-funk.
Scofield seems to appreciate it all, noting “there’s a certain sophistication and a high level of jazz awareness that really comes out at festival time,” adding, “Toronto is up there with the great jazz festivals.”
if you go...