All Over the Place

Clubs 63Pianist Steve Amirault is a welcome addition to the Toronto music scene. The critically acclaimed Acadia-born musician has been based in Montreal for most of his career; he also lived in New York City from 1990 to 1993 where he worked with Dave Liebman, Sheila Jordan, Eddie Henderson, Joe Chambers and Eddie Gomez. In this country he has had the pleasure of working with Ingrid Jensen, Christine Jensen, Kirk MacDonald, Mike Murley, Seamus Blake and countless others; and since September of 2014 he has been happy to make Toronto his new home, already having performed at Jazz Bistro, The Rex, as well as the Savoury Sweet restaurant in Niagara Falls and the Jazz Room in Waterloo.

“I love it here and have found the scene, fans and musicians very welcoming,” says Amirault.

Known primarily as a pianist with an energetic, thoughtful style, in the past decade he has added vocals to his act, revealing a smooth and sensitive vocal instrument.

“I sang a lot of pop and rock music in high school, but when I went to the University of St. Francis, I put singing aside and concentrated on the piano. Then in my early 30s I became interested in vocal music and I started writing lyrics. It seemed natural to put words to my music and I have always thought myself to be more of a songwriter than jazz composer. I wasn’t planning on becoming a singer, but about seven years ago I started singing one song per set on my shows, to see how it felt, and fell in love with it. I recorded my first vocal CD, One Existence, a few years ago, and I’m now preparing a standards recording.“
On December 11 at 8pm Steve Amirault will perform a solo show at Toronto’s most intimate venue, Musideum.

“I’ll play a mix of original pieces, both vocal and instrumental, and some new arrangements of standards that will be on my next recording. I’m really looking forward to playing my music in this lovely space.”

Clubs 64aThere’s no mistaking that soulful vocalist Sacha Williamson sings directly from her heart, taking listeners on a journey that is frequently spiritual and always expressive. While one can hear jazz, blues and R&B in her delivery, Williamson’s original sound mixes contemporary traditions including new soul, hip hop and electronica. On Sunday December 7 at Hugh’s Room, Williamson celebrates the release of her latest collection of originals.

“I’m all over the place but I think it blends nicely,” she says. “One song is a down tempo soul tune that goes into a bossa nova…another one starts with hip hop beats with Billie Holiday-esque vocals on top. It’s called Love Life and these songs are all about elements of my love life and places I’ve been in love – everything from the joy and the heat of it, to anger and the uncertainty of a relationship.”

With music that often relies on extensive production, one of Williamson’s challenges is in translating it into a live performance.

“You need to have a very highly skilled band – and my thing is with this kind of music I need to have a pianist who definitely knows more than one kind of genre – he needs to know Odyssey Arp and 808 sounds – synth sounds – I guess you can say he needs to have gone through the Herbie Hancock school.”

Joining Sacha Williamson at Hugh’s Room on December 7 will be keys wiz Michael Shand, along with bassist Andrew Stewart and drummer Maxwell Roach.

Clubs 64bTrombonist Chris Butcher keeps himself busy with a variety of projects these days, including the Heavyweights Brass Band, The Lula All Stars, Changui Havana, Roberto Linares Brown, as well as his own quartet, which just wrapped up a residency at the Bellwoods Brewery. This month he is excited about playing a gig with Jay Douglas and his All Stars featuring the patriarch of Jamaican jazz, 82-year-old Ernest Ranglin, who was Bob Marley’s guitar teacher as well as one of the most prolific record producers in Jamaica’s history.

“The last time he was in town he played the main stage of the Luminato Festival on the week of his 80th birthday,” remembers Butcher. “Age has not slowed him down and he is still a pervasive and individual voice on the guitar.”

Ranglin, along with Jay Douglas and his All Stars, will perform an afternoon Sunday Jam at Seven44 (formerly the Chick’n Deli) on December 14 at 4pm. Tickets are $50 at the door or $40 in advance and can also be purchased at Henry’s Records in Scarborough, 130 Shorting Road, or at Crasher and O’Neil Barbershop at 169 Eglinton Ave. W.

In addition to Butcher’s busy performance schedule he hosts Dig! On CIUT 89.5FM every Wednesday from 12 to 2pm.

“The show is largely geared as a jazz show but I have an eclectic taste and deep love for many styles of music so expect to hear anything I’ve been digging on lately. I try and keep the show very connected to the Toronto scene on the ground level. That means you’re going to hear tracks by local artists or people coming to town before they’re released and before the big radio boys in town are playing them. I also have artists in for interviews and features at least on a weekly basis. This means you may hear a renowned musician with an international following like Elizabeth Shepherd or Adonis Puentes or you may hear a local guy like James McEleney, the bassist in my quartet, down playing tracks and talking music. You can tune in worldwide at ciut.fm.”

Speaking of James McEleney, he just let me know of an exciting weekly residency he has been enjoying with The Breakmen Trio for the past few months in Toronto’s west end, Thursday nights at the Passenger located at 2968 Dundas Street West.

The Breakmen Trio is chordless: Bobby Hsu on saxophone, James McEleney on bass and Sly Juhas on drums.

“I have an affinity for this formation,” says McEleney, “because of classic Sonny Rollins recordings like Way Out West and Live at the Village Vanguard, Toronto’s own Time Warp (which is now a quartet but still without chords) and as I player I find it feels very open and free.”

Of his sidemen, McEleney says: “I work in a variety of settings with Bobby Hsu including his group A Sondheim Jazz Project. He and I have very similar tastes in music and he is well-versed in the world of chordless trios, in particular the aforementioned Sonny Rollins records. Sly Juhas is a no-brainer for this gig. He swings, he has very focused ideas and has a way of pushing everybody’s playing up to a higher level. In the past year or so the three of us started to get together regularly to play tunes and work out some musical ideas so we’ve been really excited to share our work. Any day where I get to play music with these two is a great day.”

The Passenger is an intimate space with a cool vibe, great food including some late night snacks, a special cocktail menu and a wide selection of craft beer. There’s no cover for this series, which they call “The J-Train.” Join the Breakemen Trio at The Passenger on a Thursday night for some jazz in the Junction.

Ori Dagan is a Toronto-based jazz musician, writer and educator who can be reached at oridagan.com.


Celebratory and Joyful

beat - jazz itcBorn in Mississauga some three dozen years ago, vocalist Alex Pangman has been breathing new life into old songs since her teens. As loyal WholeNote readers may recall, my cover story on Pangman a few years back detailed her battle with cystic fibrosis and her comeback to jazz following a double lung transplant. She has since continued to perform, record, tour and advocate for organ donation awareness.

Pangman was lucky to have her life saved through the courtesy of an organ donor not once, but twice. In December of 2013, just a few months after a second lung transplant, she celebrated her recovery with a trip to New Orleans.

“There’s a different feel to clubs there: celebratory and joyful. Musicians are treated as the main event, not an afterthought,” she recalls fondly. “Frenchman Street particularly has a very active scene of musicians playing in a traditional vein while audiences are dancing, clapping, eating and drinking. After feeling that vibe, and hearing those bands, especially the Cottonmouth Kings nailing their 1930s repertoire, I started to get ideas about where to make my next recording.” With her newly donated lungs she returned to NOLA just a few months later to record New – an album captured in a new city, with musicians that are new to the artist and even an engineer new to her ears. Fresh, but certainly no easy feat!

“I felt up to the challenge. I love the vibe of the recording; it’s like we pressed a record on a lovely first date! Breathing, singing, is a joy for me again.”

Joining Alex Pangman at her New CD Launch at Hugh’s Room on Monday November 3 will be her Alleycats: Peter Hill on piano, Chris Banks on bass, Glenn Anderson on drums, Brigham Phillips on trumpet and Ross Wooldridge on clarinet, as well as two guests from New Orleans who appear on the recording: Matt Rhody on violin and Tom Saunders on bass saxophone. Congratulations to Alex Pangman, and here’s to New!

beat - jazz itc 2Bob@60 at Gallery 345: New music, jazz, classical and klezmer, are a few of the genres Bob Stevenson has immersed himself in since the 1970s. He has performed with many ensembles including Arraymusic, New Music Concerts, Tapestry New Opera Works, the Flying Bulgar Klezmer Band, and the Red Rhythm. To celebrate his 60th birthday, Stevenson will be appearing in concert at Gallery 345, with his quartet – Jonnie Bakan on alto sax, Mike Milligan on bass and Jeff Halischuk on drums – as well as Big Idea, an 11-piece ensemble featuring some of the city’s finest improvisers and classical players. A virtuosic and versatile musician, Bob Stevenson’s compositions combine jazz, free improvisation and through-composed music, drawing deeply from his decades of experience as a player, conductor, composer and educator. I asked him to name three of his favourite music venues in the world.

“I’ve been fortunate to perform some great music with inspiring artists in wonderful venues throughout the world,” says Stevenson. “The three conditions required for a quality venue are the acoustic, the vibe and the willingness and ability of the venue to support your work. More than any other concert hall, the Brahms-Saal at the Musikverein in Vienna meets these requirements. The hall functions as an extra player in your group; whatever you give, it gives back. The crew is fantastic, great choice of well-maintained pianos. I first played Massey Hall when I was 15. Again, you really feel the room and its history, plus you can speak from the stage, and everyone can hear you, even if you don’t have a mic. I got to play in an orchestra backing up Dizzy Gillespie there. I have a very nostalgic feeling for the first Music Gallery in Toronto on St. Patrick just north of Queen. You were welcome to try just about anything. It was a hole in the wall, but it was our hole. For a young artist just starting out, that’s very important.” 

Why Gallery 345 for his birthday concert?

“Thanks to Ed Epstein, musicians from a wide variety of approaches and backgrounds have the opportunity to present their work in a supportive atmosphere. He’s performing a great service to the cultural community. He does it because he cares about music and the people who make it.”

You, reader, are invited to Bob’s 60th birthday party on Sunday November 23rd at 3pm at Gallery 345, and please tell him we sent you!

beat - jazz itc 3Candido Camero: Fresh off a successful tour with Maqueque (comprised of Cuban musicians mostly in their early 20s), Jane Bunnett will be feeling younger this month when she and pianist Hilario Duran share the stage with 93-year-old jazz legend Candido Camero for three exciting evenings at Jazz Bistro.

“Every conga player all over the world has the most incredible respect for what Candido has done and for who he has played with. Legends like he – at 93 – you never know, he might make it to 100 – just aren’t around anymore,” reflects Bunnett.

“I first met him at the last IAJE in Toronto. I interviewed him, so I really researched it and I was checking up on all this stuff, it was so amazing! He was on the Ed Sullivan show 50 times – he recorded with Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, Tony Bennett, Dizzy Gillespie, you name it. The first time he played in Toronto was 1952 with Stan Kenton at Massey Hall, just down the street from where we will be playing. The exciting thing about him for me is that he was really the first Cuban musician, along with Chano Pozo, that really took the congas into jazz. He was also the first conga player to play two, and later three congas. Nobody had ever done that before – and he tuned them. A lot of people just bang them but he tunes them before every gig. At 93 of course he’s not as forceful as he was but he’s still extremely eloquent and tasteful. He knows the older style of this music, how not to overplay, where to accent. He never drank a drop of alcohol in his life so his brain is pretty amazing.”

Get intoxicated by the music of Jane Bunnett, Hilario Duran and Candido Camero on Thursday, Friday and Saturday November 6, 7 and 8 at Jazz Bistro.

Ori Dagan is a Toronto-based jazz musician, writer and educator who can be reached at oridagan.com.

For a Syncopated Good Time ...

BBB-JazzITC1If you happen to fancy the music of the 1920s, 30s and 40s, you would be wise to get to the Rex Hotel every Friday afternoon from 4 to 6pm for The Hogtown Syncopators. While this kind of promise is hardly customary, I guarantee you will be entertained.

First there are the vocals of Terra Hazelton. It’s not at all surprising that Jeff Healey chose this woman to front his Jazz Wizards for six years and that Jaymz Bee of Jazz.FM91 has said that she is one of a handful of singers who take you back to the 1930s. Oozing with personality, Hazelton can be found singing jazz, roots, country and original music, but her voice is ideal for the blues, reminiscent of timeless singers like Bessie and Billie. She has a way with a lyric and simply put, when she sings, it’s hard not to listen. Hazelton also plays the snare drum in the Hogtown Syncopators, and does so with a sense of swing sublime.

The rest of the rhythm section is guitarist Jay Danley, who also sings and contributes original material to the group, James Thomson on bass, and Richard Whiteman on piano. Each of them brings something different to the band, but what they have in common is  a passion for the music that is infectious.

And then there is violinist/clarinetist/saxophonist/vocalist Drew Jurecka. It is difficult not to be in awe of this versatile virtuoso, who was classically trained at the Cleveland Institute of Music. He has played the Hollywood Bowl with Diana Krall, Shirley Horn and Dianne Reeves; he spent five years on the road with Jeff Healey and now tours regularly as part of Jill Barber’s band. In addition to his busy recording and performance schedule, Jurecka is a faculty member at Humber College where he has helped to develop a unique jazz strings program that includes technique classes, ensembles and private lessons.

“I played violin from a very young age, studying the Suzuki method, and then playing classically through my undergrad,” Jurecka recalls. “I also played flute, then clarinet, then saxophone in my middle school and high school band. I studied the saxophone with two great private teachers: Andy Ballantyne and Alex Dean. Both of them introduced me to jazz music and taught me how to appreciate and approach playing it. Somehow it never occurred to me to play jazz on the violin until midway through my undergraduate degree at the Cleveland Institute, when someone introduced me to the music of Django Reinhardt (and his amazing violinist colleague Stéphane Grappelli). Playing jazz on the violin quickly became a passion, then a drive. I learned to apply the stuff I had been playing around with on the sax to the violin, and now here we are.”

While most of the time Jurecka performs on the violin, in the Hogtown Syncopators he stretches out on his other instruments and sings in a heart-melting Louis Armstrong-influenced manner. It’s not that he growls like Satchmo, but rather respects the melody while improvising ever so subtly in a hornlike way, all the while swinging you to good health.

As a sideman he has played, written or arranged on more than 150 records, including several JUNO-winning and Grammy-nominated albums, film and television soundtracks. What about his own recording?

“I’ve long been pressured by lots of friends and supporters to put out a solo disc.  I’ve never had a strong drive to record “my own” project. I love playing music, arranging, producing and doing all of the things that I’m fortunate enough to do, and I feel pretty artistically satisfied.However, I do have a couple of days booked at Canterbury Studios in October with Mark Kieswetter and Clark Johnston. I’m excited to finally record a record as a leader.” Cheers to this news! It will be very interesting to hear the choices Jurecka makes as a leader. For a sneak preview, see him along with Kieswetter on piano and Dave Young on bass at the Home Smith Bar on Saturday October 11 from 7:30 to 10:30pm.

The Unsinkable Terry Wilkins

BBB-JazzITC2Another musician who can easily be described as versatile is bassist Terry Wilkins. The veteran Toronto-based musician, composer, bandleader, arranger, producer and teacher is a native of Sydney, Australia. He has been working here for over 40 years, but has kept a trace of an accent.

“I moved to Toronto on March 14, 1971. I arrived with a band – we were called Flying Circus and we came to Toronto to wait out the negotiations for a record deal with Capitol U.S. We stayed here for a few months and played bars and high school dances. We decided we liked Toronto, so after returning to Australia for one more nine-week national tour, we returned to Toronto, got our Capitol deal and I am still here.”

Since the days of that country-rock band, he has worked with an impressively diverse group of artists including Lighthouse, Big Sugar, Rough Trade and David Wilcox, as well as backing up visiting artists such as Dr. John, Eddie (Cleanhead) Vinson, Maria Muldaur and John Hammond.

These days Wilkins is very excited about his recently formed band, The Sinners Choir (there is no apostrophe, I checked) which is a funny name for a powerhouse trio. Halfway between roots and rock ‘n’ roll, this unique cross-generational formation of three sideman who sing in harmony, in addition to playing bass, guitar and drums, rocks in every sense of the word.

“Four years ago, I got the call from Brian Cober of The Nationals to go play a Sunday night at Grossmans. I had done many of these over the years since their dear bassist, Paul, passed away.

“In this case, Brian informed me that he would be in Israel but he was sending in a young guitarist-singer named Adam Beer-Colacino. I had not heard of him. He was about 20 years old. We talked about what we were going to start with. From the literal first note we played together we had an innate understanding of how to intersect. Last November we added Adam Warner on drums after having had many gigs over those years with various drummers. Adam’s writing and singing made him an invaluable addition. As a bonus, the very first time we ventured to sing a three-part, we made the sound we currently make. No strenuous rehearsal or detailed planning. It just worked.”

These days you can see and hear The Sinners Choir on most Tuesday nights at 10pm at The Cameron House, a venue which is very dear to Wilkins.

“I have played there right back in time and over the intervening 33 years I have nearly always had one connection or another that kept me playing there, whether it was seminal Queen Street band V featuring Mojah, Lorraine Segato and Billy Bryans and myself, through to the early days of Big Sugar and its early associations with Molly Johnson, and on to standing on the bar with Jake and the Blue Midnights –right up to now with my work there with The Sinners Choir. I love The Cameron and I am so delighted that Anne Marie’s son Cosmo and Mike McKeown had taken the spirit of The Cameron and pulled it into the 21st century keeping all the best and adding in their take. May it last another 100 years.”

Ori Dagan is a Toronto-based jazz musician and educator who can best be reached at oridagan.comand I am so delighted that Anne Marie’s son Cosmo and Mike McKeown had taken the spirit of The Cameron and pulled it into the 21st century keeping all the best and adding in their take. May it last another 100 years.

Ori Dagan is a Toronto-based jazz musician and educator who can best be reached at www.oridagan.com

In The Clubs

 

bbb - jazz in the clubsSeptember signals summertime’s end but musicians are out there to warm your heart this month, as always. It’s really exciting to see some new, weekly jam sessions happening around town, several of which are organized, promoted and hosted by hugely talented young artists like saxophonist Emily Steinwall, who will be entering her 2nd year at Humber College this month. The house band consists of fellow Humber heavies Youngchan Na on guitar, Hayden Farrar on bass and Louis Baranyi-Irvine on drums. The jams run every Sunday from 4 to 7pm except for the second week of the month – so September 7, 21 and 28 at Relish on the Danforth. I caught up with Steinwall to find out a bit more about the who, the where, the how and the why behind the sessions.

What or who inspired you to start running a weekly jam session?

There is another weekly jam session in the west end run by Nick Morgan that I attend as often as possible at the Annette studios. I always have a great time at the Annette jam, and it was a big part of the inspiration to start one up in the east end. I think this type of traditional jam session is so beneficial for musicians who want to play jazz because it gives them a chance to play with new people and hear other players on the scene, and apart from the Annette jam there aren’t many other things like this happening in Toronto. I realized that there was a lack of places for people to get out and jam, though there was a huge demand for it, so I started one up at my house around the end of May … within a few weeks, too many people were coming out and I had to find a bigger venue, which is when I asked Relish. 

What makes Relish an ideal spot for this event?

Relish is a great fit for this type of jam session because it is minutes away from the subway line, already has the required equipment set up and offers cheap drinks for the musicians who come to play ($5 pints of Ontario craft beer are offered to all jammers). The people who work there are very friendly and relaxed, which gives the jam a fun and easy-going vibe.

What do musicians need to know if they are planning to come to the jam?

Rhythm section instruments will be provided, as well as microphones for the vocalists, but horn players need to bring their own instruments. Musicians who are planning to come and play should know material coming out of the Great American Songbook and other standard material – something that many people will know how to play without having to read a chart. The material played is coming straight out of the jazz/swing tradition. There are a few basic etiquette things that people should understand about jam sessions: first of all, if there are many people who want to play, don’t hog the bandstand. This means taking a tasteful amount of choruses, not having more than two horn players on one tune and only playing one or two before letting the next group get up. Give everyone a chance to play!

Secondly, be open to all levels of players and do not be a jerk. This jam is for everyone to have fun and share their joy for music, and there is no room for egos. Don’t call tunes that are obscure/heavily arranged and expect everyone to know them. Come in with an open mind and be ready to play anything … in this type of situation, simpler is better! There is no cover, but there is a tip jar for the members of the house band to get paid with. A $5 to $10 donation is recommended for people coming to play.

Here’s wishing Emily Steinwall the best of luck with this session – you’ll be seeing yours truly there often!

bbb - jazz in the clubs2Another new jam session on Tuesday evenings takes place on Bloor near Ossington at Blakbird (without a letter ‘c’) which is the downstairs of Pero Lounge. The host, Kalya Ramu, is a fantastic vocalist in her senior year at Humber. She is joined by a stellar group of young musicians: Nick Tateishi on guitar, Ewen Farncombe on keys, Connor Walsh on bass and Ian Wright on drums. May these new jams live long and prosper, creating countless memorable moments of music!

Speaking of which, Lisa Particelli, founder and host of GNO Jazz Jam, just celebrated 500 weeks of singing! This jam has travelled around the city, from Cabbagetown to the Beaches, and for years now its home has been at Chalkers Pub on Marlee Avenue. As of a few months back, in addition to Wednesday nights at Chalkers, you can find the GNO East Jam between 2 and 5pm on the last Sunday of every month at Morgans on the Danforth, with guest pianist Mark Kieswetter. All are welcome to sing with the accompaniment of this very talented musician.

I’m always happy to let readers know about new venues for live music. While these days there are only a few actual jazz clubs in the metropolitan of Toronto, hotels and restaurants that have opened up their weekends for live entertainment are always a welcome addition. The charm of Yorkville’s Toni Bulloni includes the food, service and atmosphere. There are only a few dozen seats at this intimate restaurant so the space easily becomes a cabaret. Saturday nights at 9pm and Sunday evenings at 6pm you can find entertainment by duos like Sam Broverman and Mark Kieswetter on September 6, Jordana Talsky and Mark Kieswetter on September 21, Genevieve Marentette and Mark Kieswetter on September 27, myself and Mark Kieswetter on October 4 and so on. Come and find out why Kieswetter’s a walking masterclass in accompanying jazz singers!

Of the non-Kieswetter dates, one gig of note is that of the duo performing on Saturday, September 14: Pam Hyatt and Peter Hill.

Hyatt is a gifted actress and singer, a comedienne par excellence, and one hell of a cabaret act. From the gorgeous tenderness of “Something Cool” to the sheer insanity that takes place on “Easy Street,” it’s inspiring that this lady recently released her first recording, Pamalot at age 76 years young! Peter Hill is famous for accompanying thousands of Girls Night Out singers at Lisa Particelli’s GNO Jazz Jam and maintains a busy schedule as accompanist and leader. Their collaboration is well-captured on Hyatt’s aforementioned debut album. For dinner reservations at Toni Bulloni’s call 416-967-7676.

Elsewhere in Toronto, the weekend of mid-September is a good one! The Rex alone features four fabulous shows on September 13: Danny Marks sings all kinds of blues at noon, Laura Hubert sings blues, jazz and western swing at 3:30pm, Justin Bacchus sings soul and R&B at 7pm and then for dessert, jazz fusion with Vito Rezza at 9:45pm. If you miss Rezza’s group, a great opportunity to catch them is the following weekend, September 18, 19 and 20 at Jazz Bistro, with Cat Conner’s CD Release Sunday September 21 at 7pm.

Thanks for reading, and an even greater thanks for getting out there and listening!

Ori Dagan is a Toronto-based jazz vocalist, voice actor and entertainment journalist. He can be contacted at jazz@thewholenote.com.

 

Toronto Jazz Top Ten

I was considering giving up on a career in jazz music, but on a summer night in 2005 at the Montreal Jazz Festival, when I sat in at the Hyatt Hotel and sang “Sweet Georgia Brown” in three varied tempos as a nod to Anita O’Day, I changed my mind. That night I realized how important jam sessions are as an opportunity for musicians to create music in the true spirit of jazz: without rehearsal, to an appreciative audience of jazz enthusiasts. Just got word that Novotel has sponsored the Ottawa Jazz Festival jam session and I am really hoping that in these parts and beyond, we get the official jam sessions back too! 

1909 InTheClubs

TOP TEN TORONTO JAZZ FESTIVAL TIPS:

1) Award-winning, world-renowned artist for her innovative brilliance on saxophone and flute, and jazz ambassador for her work around the world, Jane Bunnett has changed the lives of many Cuban musicians by exposing their talents to North American audiences. On her latest project, “Maqueque,” Bunnett has assembled an exciting sextet featuring the finest young female musicians in Cuba. Joining her are drummer Yissy Garcia, percussionist Dayme, Yusa on tres guitar and fretless bass, pianist Danae and Magdelys on batas and congas. Like a trusted chef in a five-star restaurant, it is inevitable that Bunnett and these young ladies will cook up a storm on opening night, June 19 at 8pm at Lula Lounge.

2) A coveted Toronto treasure, she plays all over the city and has many adoring fans, from her days in the JUNO-winning rock act Leslie Spit Treeo to her reincarnation as a singer of blues, jazz and western swing. Laura Hubert’s honesty, which delves deeply into both comedy and tragedy, is that of an actor who became a singer by accident. With a unique voice that is a bit of a surprise coming out of such a petite lady, she is capable of growling, crooning, swinging hard and moaning low. Discover Laura Hubert at the festival either on opening night, June 19 at Grossman’s at 10pm, or on June 28, 3:30pm at the Rex.

3) Here’s hoping American vocalist Dianne Reeves has a sold-out show at the festival Main Stage on Tuesday, June 24 at 8pm, and here’s hoping you’ll catch her opening act, the Brandi Disterheft Quartet. A force to be reckoned with as a bassist, composer, bandleader and recording artist, the Vancouver-born musician has released three excellent albums: her JUNO-winning Debut, slightly poppier, even catchier Second Side and the very satisfying Gratitude from last year. It’s always exciting to see where Disterheft is going next, both in the short term sense of each solo and the long term sense of her next record. She currently lives in New York City where she maintains a busy schedule as sideman when not touring. Cheers to Brandi!

4) On Sunday June 22 at 7pm, “Girls Night Out” jazz jam session host Lisa Particelli will present a group of GNOJAZZ all-stars and continue to raise money for her annual Humber College Scholarship. The award is given to a vocal jazz student who demonstrates exceptional ability and requires financial assistance with this crazy dream of singing jazz. Every Wednesday from 8pm to midnight singers of all levels are welcome to perform at this vocalist-friendly jazz jam, which can also be thought of as a jazz open mic, a truly rare and very prized opportunity not only for vocalists of all levels but really for anyone who would like to try singing with three incredible jazz musicians in a safe environment. In addition to the fundraiser, there’s a jazz festival jam session on June 25, as well as every Wednesday year-round.

5) Lovers of the clarinet, trumpet, or saxophone, go no further than KAMA on King, where Ken Peplowski, Harry Allen, Warren Vache and Houston Person, respectively, will be guesting with the Canadian Jazz Quartet on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday June 23, 24, 25 and 26 from 5 to 8pm. These days there are not many venues in this town where one can really go out and listen to this brand of instrumental, classic jazz. A rare opportunity to hear cream-of-the-crop New York players here in Hogtown, each of these concerts would be a great treat for any aspiring horn player! Tickets are $40 and are available at Ticketmaster – and a discount of 15 percent if you attend all four concerts.

6) For piano lovers, mellifluous Cuban-American Manuel Valera heads a trio at the Rex on June 20 and 21, and energetic B3 specialist Joey DeFrancesco plays the Horseshoe Tavern with his trio on July 25. Jazz Bistro features several solo piano shows of note, including Bill Mays on June 22, Gerald Clayton on June 23 and two shows per night by the Oliver Jones Trio on June 27 and June 28. Singer-pianists are a rare breed of awesome; the Bistro is expecting to sell out when London, England’s Ian Shaw performs on June 25, and the whole family can enjoy free lunchtime performances in Nathan Phillips Square led by two Canadian singer-pianists who are also exquisite songwriters: the Elizabeth Shepherd Quartet on June 23 and Laila Biali Trio on June 25; Shepherd also performs two intimate evening concerts at Musideum, 7 and 9pm on June 21.

7) String along! For guitar lovers, there are some excellent resident musicians such as the Fraser Melvin Band at Gate 403 on June 20, the Eric St. Laurent Trio at Painted Lady on June 26 and Mark Sepic at Relish on June 28; and several big tickets, including John Scofield on the Main Stage on June 26 and futurist Bill Frisell performing “Guitar in the Space Age” at the Jane Mallett Theatre on June 28. 

1909 InTheClubs28) Toronto native Beverly Taft is one of this city’s busiest jazz vocalists – she is performing four gigs at the festival: at Musideum with pianist Robi Botos on June 24 and in various ensembles at the Dominion on Queen; back to back on June 22 from 1 to 4pm with George Westerholm and the York Jazz Ensemble and 5 to 8pm with Sam Murata on violin, Tony Quarrington on guitar and special guest from Japan, pianist Yumi Nakata; and again at the Dominion on June 28 from 4 to 7pm singing bossa nova with Nathan Hiltz on guitar, Jordan O’Connor on bass and Chris Gale on tenor sax. Taft’s is a light instrument that is easy to listen to and her passion for performing this music is always evident. 

9) An exciting talent for her singing, songwriting and performance style, Maylee Todd defines genre in a sense, and though she is far from being a “jazz singer” the Toronto Jazz Festival has wisely booked her to perform at Shops on Don Mills. Comparisons to Björk and Kate Bush are likely, but here is an authentic voice of an exciting individual, not to be missed! I’m sad to miss this one myself (I’m playing at Paupers at precisely the same time!) but I will be visiting mayleetodd.com for future dates and following her on Twitter at @mayleetodd to find out where she will be next!

10) Now here’s a concept: live jazz performances at music stores! Leading up to the Jazz Festival, the 333 Yonge Street location of HMV will present three live performances at 6pm called “The HMV Underground”: the Mike Downes Trio, led by JUNO-winning bassist extraordinaire (June 16); Myriad3 (Chris Donnelly on piano, Dan Fortin on bass and Ernesto Cervini on drums, June 17); and the arresting voice of Eliana Cuevas (June 18). This is a wonderful opportunity to hear these artists up close and get an autographed copy of their recordings. What better way to get people back into the music stores?

Ori Dagan is a Toronto-based jazz vocalist, voice actor and entertainment journalist. He can be contacted at jazz@thewholenote.com.


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