Sounds of the city

This city is a mass of living, breathing beings. It was born andcontinues to grow, evolving with every ecological twist and gentrifiedturn.

This city is a mass of living, breathing beings. It was born and continues to grow, evolving with every ecological twist and gentrified turn. From High Park to Danforth Village, Toronto’s organism-like neighbourhoods comprise this concrete ecosystem. But all living things must die. And when one of them does, we’ll still have Elizabeth Shepherd’s ode to remind us of what once was.

Parkdale, the new album from the 31-year-old Toronto jazz siren, is like a soundbite of the title neighbourhood told in Shepherd’s soul-filled, reminiscent voice. She recalls how the district has changed since she lived there nearly 10 years ago.

“It’s been astounding to see how West Queen West has now developed all the way west of the Dufferin bridge and there’s all this sort of artistic community that’s cropping up along Queen Street, between Dufferin and Roncesvalles,” says Shepherd. She acknowledges a wave of gentrification occurring in the area since returning to the city concerns her.

“Part of me is a little worried it’s going to become the next yuppie haven following suit,” she says. “That’s generally the case. Rent goes up and the marginalized folks can’t afford to stay there anymore and the artists also move out.”

It’s the region’s artists and residents Shepherd considered while penning the lively, introspective Parkdale.

“What inspires me the most is people and seeing people wage their tiny individual battles,” she says. Grand or not, she finds impulse in the human force that is able to persist through such conflicts.

While Shepherd says it was the parallel manifestation of people and place she observes on the album, she too is experiencing her own substantiation as an artist. She was recently invited by U.K. jazz-pop artist Jamie Cullum to perform this summer at Jazz At The Bowl, a music series at Los Angeles’ Hollywood Bowl amphitheatre. “I didn’t see that one coming,” she says frankly.

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