Jazz festival kicks off

As the old theater adage goes, “the show must go on.”

As the old theater adage goes, “the show must go on.” That’s at least what organizers of the TD Canada Trust Toronto Jazz Festival have been saying since the city’s garbage collectors went on strike earlier this week. But while downtown might smell a little worse than usual, the music at the 23rd fest more than makes up for any unseemly stenches.

Naturally, Patrick Taylor, the festival’s executive director, thinks every year is a good one, but he points out that this year’s lineup includes a lot of “new music” that he hopes will draw big crowds and introduce people to different sounds.

“Jazz isn’t just traditional sounds form the 1920s and ’30s,” he says. “We’ll hear new jazz — Medeski Martin and Wood, Sea and Cake, and we’re introducing Melody Gardot.”

Getting artists new and old to play isn’t easy. Schedules often conflict, especially with bigger European festivals that often get first dibs. Taylor says they co-ordinate closely with other Canadian jazz festivals to do block bookings. So, Sonny Rollins isn’t just playing tonight, he’s also performing in Vancouver on the 29th and the Saskatchewan Jazz Festival on July 2.

One artist who Taylor’s excited to see, and who’s performing a few dates across Canada, is 53-year-old soul singer Sharon Jones and her band the Dap Kings. The New York-based artist has been playing music for decades, but this one-time prison guard and wedding band singer has only become well known in the last few years.

Jones, who is playing Nathan Phillips Square tonight, is thrilled to be on the Toronto bill, and on the festival circuit in general.

“We all like it because we play and then we’re home. We play shows on Thursday to Saturday, and then we’re back Monday,” says the fast talking songstress. “What I don’t like is when I have to use the port-a-potty.”

Jones admits that getting through to people who don’t know her music — which is a task almost all the musicians playing over the week have to do — can be challenging. However, her technique is to “make them know it. I always ask the question, how many of y’all are Sharon Jones virgins? Then I show them what I’m about.”

And that’s really the spirit of the festival, says Taylor. It’s about people — regardless of the musical knowledge — getting together to discover new acts and appreciating not just jazz, but the other genres that are represented at the festival as well.

“The goal of the jazz festival is, no matter where you go, to keep the music alive and introduce the new artists,” Taylor explains. “That's why every day there are workshops — these are for the laymen, to give everyone a better understanding of music’s roots how it's played.”

Festival details
• More than 350 artists will perform at the TD Canada Trust Toronto Jazz Festival starting today and running until July 5. Details at www.tojazz.com.

 
 
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