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 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Three Lauras and More

The TD Jazz Festival June 19 to 28 2014 lineup announcement has been, in my opinion, the most memorable in years — Keith Jarrett, Bobby McFerrin, Norma Winstone, to name a few of the acts booked. Expect much more in HalfTones, mid-May, and in our June coverage.

Jazz Bistro: Meanwhile I’m also excited about the upcoming May schedule at Jazz Bistro, but need to start by telling you that I work part time for the club, so you should take that into consideration in weighing the words that follow!

1908-InTheClubsThat being said, what’s not to like? Highlights include a CD release for the Mike Murley Trio followed by two nights with the Mike Murley Septet (May 22 to 24). Another night I’m really thrilled about is Tuesday May 13, the Three Lauras, which is the debut of a trio of Marks, Fernandez and Hubert, all Toronto-based singers named Laura. All three are often classified as jazz but each Laura is completely different and uniquely awesome; they will be backed by a group of local all-stars: Mark Kieswetter, piano; Duncan Hopkins, bass; Kevin Turcotte, trumpet and Chris Gale, tenor saxophone.

And then there’s Maureen Kennedy’s three-night stand (May 29 to 31 at 9pm) for which she will be joined by Steve Wallace on bass, and special guests from Vancouver: saxophonist Cory Weeds and guitarist Bill Coon, who plays the first and third night while local guitar great Reg Schwager takes the second.

“I had the pleasure of singing with Cory Weeds and Bill Coon when Cory booked me for two nights at The Cellar a few years back. They have a history as players that Reg and Steve Wallace also share and for my three nights at Jazz Bistro I have the good fortune of tapping into all those special musical relationships” says Kennedy.

Kennedy’s fans adore the purity of her 100 percent natural, golden, honey-like instrument, which is merely the surface of her art. Making every lyric sparkle with conviction, Kennedy’s music is the result of a deep love of songs, and indeed she knows more tunes than almost anyone on our jazz scene.

When it comes to her eclectic repertoire, being a media librarian and researcher for the CBC has proven very handy for Kennedy.

“I think there are a few things about me that contribute to my ability to uncover rare tunes,” she says. “First of all, I notice them.  When I watch a movie or listen to a record my ear picks them out.  I remember staying up late one night watching a movie on Turner Classic Movies starring Jane Powell called Small Town Girl.  It featured an early guest appearance of Nat King Cole singing in a nightclub.  He sang this haunting song called “My Flaming Heart.”  I was half asleep but once he started singing that song my ears pricked up and I took a mental note.  The next day I looked up the tune in the CBC sheet music collection and it was there!”

Other songs Kennedy has rescued from obscurity include Jimmy Van Heusen’s and Johnny Burke’s “Humpty Dumpty Heart” on her debut album This is Always and Billy Strayhorn’s “My Little Brown Book” on her most recent, Out of the Shadows, produced by Ted Ono and gorgeously captured by sound engineer Ron Searles. This album sounds like it was recorded in 1957.

The Tranzac: If you’re looking to hear something new, be at the Tranzac Club on Thursday May 22 at 10pm. On that evening, visiting from Victoria, B.C. will be Olivier Clements and Dissonant Histories. A recent graduate of Humber College’s jazz program, Clements is highly skilled multi-instrumentalist, composer and arranger; his latest project features two flugelhorns, two trombones, bass clarinet, rhodes, bass and drums, fusing elements of jazz, hip-hop, indie folk and classical music. What’s it all about?

“I wanted to find a middle ground between these disparate, chaotic, and clashing musical influences,” says  Clements. “The music in Dissonant Histories isn’t trying to fuse or blend all these different influences together, but rather to reconcile them.” It takes a brave creator to draw from these varied musical colours and inspirations, and a truly talented one to make it work. If you miss the Tranzac gig, check out Oliver Clements in a quartet setting at the Emmet Ray on Monday, May 26 at 7pm.

Fauth is back! Amazing news to report about Julian Fauth, who is back singing up a storm after a period of illness that left him unable to entertain. Skillfully playing barrelhouse blues and singing in a style that borders on whispering, the Juno-winning singer-songwriter will win you over within the first song you hear. It’s no wonder that so many venues wish to book him, for Fauth is a force of nature. He’s easy to find, with four weekly house gigs: Tuesdays from 6 to 9pm at Sauce on the Danforth, Wednesdays from 9pm to midnight at Gate 403, and every Saturday and Sunday at Axis Gallery and Grill from 12 to 3pm.

Some other great news: new venues are opening up across the city, but this can only continue if people go out to support the music. Check out the Local Gest at 424 Parliament Street, formerly the Ben Wicks. Fashioned a bit after Ten Feet Tall’s series from a few years back, each Sunday afternoon features live jazz, sometimes instrumental and sometimes vocal, accompanied by excellent cuisine. From 4:30 to 7:30pm, the listings this month are: Sheree Marshall on May 4, yours truly on Mother’s Day, Laura Hubert on May 18 and the Henry Heillig Trio on May 25. 

Ori Dagan is a Toronto-based jazz vocalist, voice actor and entertainment journalist. He can be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Lingering Legacies

intheclubs gary-bensonThe jazz community mourns the loss of guitarist Gary Benson, who last month peacefully succumbed to Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease, a rare and incurable degenerative neurological disorder. In his accomplished 75 years, Benson was deeply respected as a musician, composer and educator, as well as for his amiable personality and sense of humour. Over 300 mourners attended the funeral, including many members of Toronto’s jazz community. In recent years Benson performed regularly with the Canadian Jazz Quartet, a group he formed in the late 1980s.

Speaking at Benson’s memorial service on March 19, his cherished friend and musical associate for over a half-century, Don Vickery, said:

“Gary started the original Canadian Jazz Quartet in 1987 with Gerry Hoelke on bass, Gordie Fleming on accordion and me on drums. The great Bob Price later became our bass player, and Frank Wright joined the group to establish our current sound over 20 years ago. Duncan Hopkins has been our bass player since B.P. passed away in 2002. In 2006, we found a home at Quotes, where we were the resident band for nearly seven years, backing up international jazz players during the Toronto Jazz Festival every year – and every week, featuring all the best musicians in Toronto.”

“That’s where the CJQ really came to prominence, and during that time, recorded two more successful CDs and were featured in two global live-to-air broadcasts on JAZZ.FM91. Gary loved the gig and everyone loved Gary. When Quotes was sold, we moved to KAMA where we are to this day. And we were lucky enough to have Gary with us there until the last few months. We miss him as our friend, as our leader and as a wonderful talent. We will never forget him and I know we are all better people, and better musicians, for having him in our lives.”

The Canadian Jazz Quartet continues to perform every Thursday from 5 to 8pm at KAMA on King St. W., featuring guest guitarists and as always, a featured weekly guest horn player. Consult our In the Clubs jazz listings for further details.

Walk With Jordan: On the evening of Thursday, April 24, I hope there will be a full house at the intimate Musideum (401 Richmond Street West) for what promises to be a night of heartfelt music for a worthy cause. Starting at 7pm, vocalist Vivia Kay and her band Blacksparrow will present “Send Love South: A Fundraiser for the Walk with Jordan Scholarship Foundation,” in memory of Jordan Davis, a 17-year-old Jacksonville, Florida teen who was fatally shot for listening to loud music.

For those unfamiliar with the tragedy, during the American Thanksgiving weekend of 2012, Jordan Davis was in an SUV with three of his friends, listening to hip-hop while parked outside of a convenience store. Forty-seven-year-old Michael Dunn, parked adjacently, asked them to turn down that “thug music” and when they refused, he fired indiscriminately and shot at the SUV, killing Davis. The Florida jury convicted Dunn of three counts of second-degree attempted murder but the jury was deadlocked on the murder charge.

intheclubs vivia-kay-alternateVivia Kay had never met Jordan Davis, but being a Florida native herself, followed his trial closely.

“Growing up around the societal and systemic racism that breeds these kinds of violent crimes, I followed both the Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis trials with a great deal of interest. Particularly after the Jordan Davis trial, I felt enraged and horrified — Jordan Davis was murdered because he was listening to music,” says Kay.

“Growing up in the small-town South, driving around and listening to music was what I did, what we all did on a weekend night. I read that Jordan Davis’ last words were “turn it up.” That’s exactly what I would have done as a teenager. I wouldn’t have been targeted by a racist like Davis’ killer, because I’m not black. But I wouldn’t have turned down my music, either. That’s why Jordan Davis’ murder resonated with me on such a personal level. And it’s why I’m doing the Send Love South benefit.”

The artists are donating their time and Musideum owner Donald Quan has generously waived much of his usual fee for the space, so beyond the small rental fee every penny of show proceeds will be donated to the Walk with Jordan Scholarship Fund, a scholarship set up by Jordan Davis’ parents in his memory. The Scholarship Fund aims to support students from the Florida/Georgia border region in pursuing a college or university education, which as someone who struggled to pay for university also resonates deeply with Vivia Kay, who recently earned a PhD in ethnomusicology at York University. With a performance background in classical singing as well as jazz vocals, her dissertation examines Southern Gospel music and the culture that surrounds it. On April 24, Kay’s band Blacksparrow will feature Mark Kieswetter on Musideum’s Bechstein piano and bassist Jordan O’Connor.

“The music that we are presenting is a selection of gospel, jazz and rock songs along with two originals I’ve written for the occasion. Mark and I have been rehearsing and working together on the arrangements, and I am really excited about them. The music will be centred around laments regarding injustice and evil in the world as well as hopes for justice and better times. I think it will be an emotional and cathartic evening, but it isn’t going to be an entirely mournful one. I believe that love and hope are radical acts in today’s world, and that is the ultimate message of the show.”

For those unable to attend, there is an opportunity to contribute to the cause by visiting the foundation’s website: walkwithjordan.org.

Ori Dagan is a Toronto-based jazz vocalist, voice actor and entertainment journalist. He can be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

WELCOME RETURNS

Lisa Particelli’s commitment to what she does week after week since January of 2005 is inspiring to anyone who has ever hosted a jazz jam. In her newsletter, the creator and host of the Wednesday night Girls Night Out (where gentlemen are welcome too) at Chalkers thanks her audience for supporting live music and living musicians.

“Live music improves the quality of our lives,” she writes. “Whether we choose to simply listen or to participate in the creation of live music, we wire our brains to pay attention, we create social connections and best of all, we truly experience the full range of human emotion.”

With that in mind, before I get to an exciting story at Chalkers, I’d like to single out a group that WholeNote readers might remember from our 2011 summer double issue cover story (and if you haven’t read it yet — no worries, it’s googleable).

TheWholeNote-June2011-FullFinal(Cropped) Page 01Heavyweights: In just a few years, the Heavyweights Brass Band has fused traditional and contemporary jazz into a sound all its own. Their first album introduced listeners to a group both light-hearted and hard-working: Christopher Butcher (trombone); Paul Metcalfe (saxophone); Jon Challoner (trumpet); Lowell Whitty (drums); and Rob Teehan (sousaphone). Don't Bring Me Down certainly brought these five young guys way up, with festival appearances across the country and a sold-out show at Koerner Hall with Grammy-winning percussionist Giovanni Hidalgo. Now the group releases Brasstronomical, their sophomore release on the new Lulaworld label, which features several surprises, including the addition of a sixth member.

“Our original trumpet player Jon Challoner was back and forth between Toronto and NYC to study at Juilliard,” says Heavyweight trombonist, composer, arranger Christopher Butcher. “We had long-time friend and fellow former Winnipegger John Pittman filling in for Challoner while he was away. Then we had a couple big gigs where we could fly Challoner up and we decided to ask both trumpets to join us. One more trumpet makes a huge difference and they really complement each other while making our sound bigger, thicker, more intricate and well, heavier. I would say all those adjectives could be used to describe Brasstronomical. It sounds bigger and is bolder than our first record. We also experimented with some production techniques. Paul brought the baritone saxophone into our arsenal and there are points where you may even hear two Christopher Butchers.”

The group is increasingly innovative, but firmly steeped in the jazz tradition. Brasstronomical features guest appearances by Giovanni Hidalgo and Jane Bunnett. Just what did the band learn from performing with these masters?

“Working with two international artists on the level of Giovanni Hidalgo and Jane Bunnett has been a dream come true,” asserts Butcher. “Our concert at the Royal Conservatory’s Koerner Hall was the highlight of our career. There aren’t words to describe how it feels to share the stage with the pre-eminent percussionist of all time. Someone who has played with not only jazz legends Dizzy Gillespie and Art Blakey but with Tito Puente, Paul Simon, Phish and D’Angelo brought something out of our music and pushed us to new heights. When he agreed to play on our record and be part of Brasstronomical we were elated! Jane is a national treasure and a true inspiration to all of us in the group. She has constantly taken chances throughout her career and her playing is similar, it always sounds fresh. She is likely the most important musician after Dizzy Gillespie in fusing elements from Afro-Cuban music with jazz. This cultural collaboration is really interesting to us.”

The Brasstronomical CD release concert takes place at Lula Lounge on Thursday March 6.

1906 jazzintheclubs1Back to Chalkers Pub and Lisa Particelli, who is excited to be presenting NYC-based jazz master Sheila Jordan for the second time. Jordan has called herself a late bloomer; inspired by Charlie “Bird” Parker, she sang throughout her teens but recorded her first album at the age of 32. It wasn’t until she was 58 that she quit her day job. An underground sensation, she continued to record throughout the 1970s and 80s and today has over 25 albums to her credit. Since the 1990s, Jordan’s career has really picked up and she has toured this earth many times over. Now 85, this sweet and brilliant little woman is a wonder of the jazz world.

The two evening concerts at Chalkers will find Jordan in fine musical company: Don Thompson on piano and Neil Swainson on bass.

“I have worked with Don and Neil before and it’s a real joy to be able to sing with them again.  Don is a fantastic accompanist, and being a lover of the bass I am thrilled to be singing with Neil.  Great guys who put their heart and soul into the music. How lucky can I get?”

Recently named a Jazz Master by the National Endowment of the Arts for her contributions as a performer and educator, Jordan has been teaching jazz since the 1970s. She will be giving a Sunday afternoon vocal jazz workshop for singers of all levels; there are limited spots to participate but ample seating for auditors.

“I was first able to observe Sheila teach during an Art  of Jazz workshop and was impressed at her warmth and insights as she carefully listened to each student participate,” recalls Particelli. “She handled every singer with warmth, gentle care and keen observations coupled with super advice. This woman’s wisdom, heart, positive attitude, great ears and genuine passion to spread the message of jazz is contagious. Sheila sings from the heart, and she teaches from there, too.”

Don’t be surprised if Jordan drops by the Wednesday night jazz jam at Chalkers on March 19 — she sings GNO’s praises:

“I am so happy that Lisa’s jam session is still happening,” says Jordan. “I believe that jam sessions are the most important part of the jazz tradition. Singers can learn all these wonderful tunes from their teachers but if you don’t have a place to try out what you’ve learned and a place to take chances what does it all mean? We need places to try out tunes; even if we fall on our faces we can pick ourselves up and start all over again like the song says! With jam sessions like this one, all of this is possible. We need more Lisa Particellis on the jazz scene.”

Sheila Jordan appears at Chalkers Friday March 21, 7-10pm, Saturday March 22, 6-9pm and the workshop is Sunday March 23 from 2-6pm. Tickets are available at TicketWeb.ca.

Ori Dagan is a Toronto-based jazz vocalist, voice actor and entertainment journalist. He can be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Musical Devotion

jazz in the clubs 1 - hot fuzzSILVER ANNIVERSARY: Browsing through The WholeNote always allows for countless opportunities to discover new music and new musicians – new to the reader, that is. Occasionally, the same thing happens to me when I write this column. The Hot Five Jazzmakers are hardly newcomers to the Toronto scene – this month they celebrate 25 years of Saturday matinee performances at C’est What? – but hopefully they are new to some of you as well. This band specializes in traditional jazz of the 1920s and 30s, boasting an impressive 600 tunes in their repertoire, from forgotten gems to familiar ones. Many of these rhythmically infectious, charmingly sentimental tunes might make you dance against your will.

 

The Hot Five Jazzmakers is led by trombonist Brian Towers, a brainy Brit who moved to Canada to pursue a career in international banking some 35 years ago. Working with dollars for several decades, the figures in his heart were clearly musical ones all along.

“I had made a subconscious decision that I was not targeting the presidency of the bank as a career goal,” he laughs. Besides which, “playing jazz in good company, after a hard week at the office, is like recharging one’s batteries.”

Towers developed his passion for New Orleans style ensemble playing studying the work of bone players such as Kid Ory, Honoré Dutrey and Wilbur De Paris, to name a few, and was deeply inspired by the late Kid Bastien. His passion extended far beyond the bandstand as a founding member of the now defunct Classic Jazz Society of Toronto, and he also wrote the “View from Canada” column for the Mississippi Rag until it ceased publication. Towers is married to the very talented Janet Shaw, who functions like the jewel in the crown of this band, not only with her superb musicianship on various reed instruments, but also with her delightfully smoky vocals. (Check out their YouTube videos!)  Like her husband, Shaw is recently retired after a career in the pharmaceutical industry; she is now self-employed with her own consulting company.

“I can safely say that having a musical partnership with one’s spouse is a huge benefit to the band’s development” Tower says. Janet and I have very similar tastes in jazz and we have always developed our arrangements and repertoire 24/7 ... Also, traditional New Orleans jazz in the ensemble choruses is, for me, like a conversation. The counterpoint and polyphony is so much easier, when there is a close personal relationship between the individuals. Financially there are big benefits too. On tour we save the promoters a room!” Reflecting on a quarter century of gigs at C’est What?, Towers begins by reminiscing:

“It was February 11, 1989 and we were on trial. We had already had 12 months together playing in Guelph – were we good enough to attract support and audiences in downtown Toronto? Would it work and would we be allowed regular Saturday matinees? Thankfully, they liked us. Their speciality was traditional ales and beers and meals and traditional jazz seemed like a good mix to them. Management bravely allowed us to begin regular Saturday matinees on Saturday March 11, 1989. In those very early days our playing area was on the direct route between the kitchen and the dining area. We had to avoid clashes with waiters travelling at high speed, carrying heavily laden trays!”

Due to an excellent sound system and friendly management, they were able to tape record every session. “While occasionally depressing, it was a wonderful way of improving the band sound and dynamics. I have dozens of cassette tapes from those days which I cannot bear to throw away!”

Since 1989, The Hot Five Jazzmakers have produced 16 recordings – several of them captured live at C’est What? – which can be purchased directly off the stage. Along with Towers on trombone and Shaw on reeds and vocals, the band’s members are Jamie Macpherson on banjo, Andrej Saradin on trumpet, Reide Kaiser on piano and Gary Scriven on drums and washboard. Yup, washboard! Join the group in celebrating their silver anniversary milestone at C’est What on Saturday, February 8 from 3 to 6pm.

jazz in the clubs 2 - linda ippolitoFRITES WITH SALSA: A valued player on stage and in every level of court in Ontario, Linda Ippolito is a classical pianist, litigation lawyer, alternative dispute resolution practitioner and teacher.  “I actually see them as one world, not as separate but integrated fields” she says, “music and law braided together on separate ends of the scale.”

A PhD candidate at Osgoode Hall Law School of York University, Ippolito’s doctoral studies focus on the intersection between collaborative music making and group negotiation, conflict resolution and transformation.

“My interest in the potential of one field to inform the other inspired my doctoral study,” Ippolito explains. “The study explored the question of whether or not we could shift the learning and skills development in conflict resolution away from our dominant culture mindset – one that focuses primarily on “war” and “game” metaphors – through the use of a music-based metaphor for negotiation and problem-solving – namely, the musical ensemble. Basically encouraging conflict resolution practitioners to not only “think like lawyers” but to look at problem solving from a more creative and collaborative perspective and to “think like musicians.”

Ippolito the performer is not only as intelligent and deeply nuanced as one might expect from the above paragraph, but also tasty and playful; her return engagement to the Jazz Bistro, is titled “Frites with Salsa”:

“The program features music by three of my favourite 20th century composers: The “frites” are the French selections by Poulenc, a group of his Improvisations and his Trois Novellettes. I adore Poulenc – his jazz-like ‘quoting’ of himself and others. The “salsa” is Ginastera’s  Creole Dances and Three Argentinian Dances – so multi-layered, polytonal and rhythmically vibrant. In the middle there is Albéniz’s “Evocation,” the first piece in his Iberia Suite, a piece I have never gotten a chance to play until now - and I cannot wait to hear it on the Red Pops Steinway which I regard as one of the finest instruments in the city.”

“Her music may be classically rooted, but the skillful way she weaves these intimate programs together speaks to a jazz heart,” says Sybil Walker, who books the talent at Jazz Bistro. “As in all great cabaret evenings, you always leave knowing a little more than you did when you arrived.”

Ippolito’s “Frites and Salsa” performance takes place at Jazz Bistro on Tuesday, February 18, with sets at 7:30pm and 9pm.

Ori Dagan is a Toronto-based jazz vocalist, voice actor and entertainment journalist. He can be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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