If the jazz purists who grumble about how there's no jazz during the TD Toronto Jazz Festival (and there are some every year) had been at the Kurt Elling show on Tuesday evening June 23 they'd have to eat their words. Elling is an uber hep cat with serious jazz cred and he and his quartet gave us a lesson on how it's done. The adorers at Koerner Hall got treated to vintage Elling – scatting and swooping his way through standards such as Come Fly With Me and Nature Boy – but also treating us to songs from his newly released album Passion World which included an absolutely killer cover of the U2 hit Where the Streets Have No Name, beautifully arranged by his guitarist John McLean. (More on that to come in the September issue of WholeNote.) To add jazz icing to the cake, that same night Christian McBride's big band was blowing the roof off the tent in Nathan Phillips Square.
That said, the no-jazz grumblers had fodder for their complaints as George Clinton headlined the big, funky opening concert on Friday night June 19. With Dumpstaphunk and Morris Day & The Time opening up the free evening of music, it was a massive dance party on Nathan Phillips Square. Boo hoo.
The iconic 70s horn band, Tower of Power, controlled the mainstage on Saturday night and an argument could be made as to whether they're jazzy or not; but the packed house of paying customers didn't care as they ate out of the hands of these soul masters. Veterans of the touring circuit, the musicians of ToP were energetic and tuneful and gracious as they nailed hits like You're Still a Young Man and What is Hip? (Answer: they are.)
The festival is only half over and there's plenty of MUSIC to come all over the city – Wednesday June 24 Michael Occhipinti reinvents Bruce Cockburn with his band at The Rex and legend Branford Marsalis plays the Jane Mallett Theare; Thursday brings the “Elegant Gyspy” Al Dimeola and on Friday it's family jam time June 26 with Snarky Puppy on the mainstage. Full lineup is at torontojazz.com.