Tuesday, June 19, 2012

2012 Toronto Jazz Festival Picks

  Nellie McKay

Whether it be folk, blues, or jazz, over the years music festivals have been broadening their spectrum to include artists that perhaps may have not been included under the original mandate of the festival. The Toronto Jazz Festival has not been alone in that respect. My experience with the festival in past years has been minimal but the few times I'd actually seen artists playing during the festival [keys-bass-drums groove trio The New Deal in 2004 and gospel/soul legend Aretha Franklin last year ] they were both not jazz artists. Purists may scoff but then festivals are expensive and they need to draw in an audience somehow so I don't blame the Toronto Jazz Festival for being more inclusive of the acts that it will accept. In the end, I think it's win-win for everyone.

The jazz purists will probably hate my following list, but this is rather geared more toward non-purists like me who would want to explore what the Toronto Jazz Festival has to offer. Here's what has piqued my interest:

June 22
Janelle Monae (Toronto Star Stage at Nathan Phillips Square, 8 pm) - Kansas City-born pompadoured female r n b, soul artist who I first saw live opening for The Arcade Fire at Olympic Island in Toronto in August 2010. As a vocalist and performer she comes across as a combination of James Brown, Prince and Michael Jackson. Her debut album The ArchAndroid, released in 2010 was a critical success.
Video: Janelle Monáe - Faster (Live on Later with Jools Holland)

The Shuffle Demons (Shops at Don Mills, 8 pm) - Toronto jazz-fusion, sax-heavy group who had a surprise Top-40 hit in Canada with their single "Spadina Bus" . Since 1986 the band have released 5 full-lengths, had broken up in 1997 then reformed in 2004 and released a Greatest Hits album that coincided with a reunion tour that year and are continuing to tour until this day.
Video: The Shuffle Demons - "Out of My House, Roach" (music video)

My Favorite Robot (The Hoxton, 10 pm) - "My Favorite Robot is the trio of Jared Simms, James Teej, and Voytek Korab, three Canadian DJ/producers who in a space of a few short years have become a central part of the global electronic music scene."(via)
Video: My Favorite Robot @ BPM

June 23
Destroyer (Opera House, 9 pm) - Project of Vancouver-based singer songwriter Dan Bejar known for is enigmatic vocals and his melodic sensibility. Prolific in his own right with Destroyer and know for his contributions with Vancouver supergroup The New Pornographers.
Video: Destroyer - "Savage Night at the Opera" (music video)

Meech (The Hoxton, 10 pm) - "Meech is a DJ/Producer from Toronto, Canada. He has performed throughout North America & Europe, consistently winning fans with his diverse musical style.... Meech is set to release with American imprint Fool's Gold and is set to remix for the Parisian label Ed Banger Records."

Bettye Lavette (Toronto Star Stage at Nathan Phillips Square, 8 pm) - American soul artist who'd remained in obscurity until she achieved wider success in 2005 with her Joe Henry produced full-length I've Got My Own Hell To Pay released through -ANTI. In 2007 she released another full-length, also released through -ANTI, entitled The Scene Of The Crime where the band Drive-By Truckers acted as her backing band.
Video: Bettye Lavette - "Talking Old Soldiers" (music video)

Get The Blessing (Outdoor Stage at Nathan Phillips Square, 5 pm) - Bristol, UK based jazz rock quartet who "...were formed when Jim Barr (bass) and Clive Deamer (drums), the rhythm section from the trip hop group Portishead, teamed upwith Jake McMurchie (saxophone) and Pete Judge (trumpet) over their mutual appreciation of Ornette Coleman." (via)
Video: Get The Blessing - "OCDC" (music video)

June 24
The Bad Plus (Toronto Star Stage at Nathan Phillips Square, 8 pm) - American Midwestern-bred drums-bass-drums trio mixing jazz, rock and pop formed in 2000 and have released 7 full-lengths to date, 2010's Never Stop being the most recent. The band have also recorded covers of songs by artists ranging from Nirvana, David Bowie, Neil Young, Pixies, Ornette Coleman, and Radiohead.
Video: The Bad Plus - "Karma Police" (Radiohead cover)

June 25
Robert Glasper Experiment Featuring Bilal (Enwave Theatre - Harbourfront Centre, 7 pm) - "Glasper's music can be described as "experiments with space, rhythm and chord textures", creating a vast array of sound. He has said that he tries to make the music flow in a way more like a hip-hop beat, trying to always leave the music open for someone to rap over." (via) Philly native Bilal is a neo-soul, r n b vocalist who has released 3 full-lengths to date since 2001 his most recent being 2010's Airtight's Revenge.
Video: Robert Glasper - Always Shine (Feat. Lupe Fiasco And Bilal) - David Letterman 2-29-12

June 26
Frisell Plays Lennon featuring Bill Frisell, Greg Leisz, Tony Scherr, and Kenny Wollesen (Enwave Theatre - Harbourfront Centre, 7 pm) - "In September 2011, Frisell released All We Are Saying, a full-length offering of his interpretations of John Lennon's music. Frisell's quintet includes violinist Jenny Scheinman, pedal steel and acoustic guitarist Greg Leisz, bassist Tony Scherr, and drummer Kenny Wollesen." (via)
Video: - Bill Frisell - "Julia" (Beatles cover)

June 27
Ziggy Marley (Phoenix Concert Theatre, 9 pm) - Following in the footsteps of his father, legendary reggae artist Bob Marley, Ziggy has been prolific in his own right over the last two decades releasing albums both with his siblings as Ziggy Marley and The Melody Makers as well as a solo artist. His most recent album is 2011's Wild and Free produced by Don Was.
Video: Ziggy Marley - "Look who's dancing" (music video)

June 28
British Jazz Showcasae: "Made in the UK" (The Rex Jazz & Blues Bar, 3pm) - Billed as a British / UK showcase it's more accurately a Scottish showcase, with all three acts originating from Scotland. Featuring guitar / organ / drums / electronics trio Breach Trio, guitar / trombone / drums outfit NeWt, and world class piper, saxophonist, and whistle player Fraser Fitfield who's a contemporary composer and musician with roots in traditional Scottish folk music.
Video: Breach Trio - There it is at Glasgow Jazz Festival
Video: Out of the Box - NeWt with Silke Eberhard
Video: Signs Of Life | Fraser Fifield & Graeme Stephen

June 29
Keys N Krates (The Hoxton, 10 pm) - "...combine live instrumentation, turntablism and live sampling to remix existing pop music and samples from MGMT to Jay-Z right before your eyes. Pushing the envelope beyond the ideals of laptop-centric remix culture, this unique trio changes the game by bringing an explosive live analog presence to their sought-after sound and performance. " (via)
Video: Keys N Krates - "Unforgettable" Drake Remix

June 30
Becca Stevens Band (Horseshoe Tavern, 10:30 pm) - Band fronted by New York based jazz, pop,folk artist and guitarist Becca Stevens. Performing originals and in the past has performed covers from a diverse range of artists including The Smiths, Animal Collective and Usher.
Video: Becca Stevens Band - "There Is A Light That Never Goes Out" (The Smiths cover)

Nellie McKay (Horseshoe Tavern, midnight) - American singer-songwriter and pianist who made a splash back in 2004 with her debut album (double length) Get Away From Me and has released 5 albums to date. Her lyrics have generally been playful and her music has spanned genres ranging from jazz, rap, disco, and funk.
Video: Nellie McKay - "Mother of Pearl" and "If I Had You"

July 1
Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars (Toronto Star Stage at Nathan Phillips Square, 8 pm) - It's an intriguing story how this group's members were all refugees of a Guinean refugee camp, having fleed their country's capital of Freetown when civil war broke out in 1991. The group was founded by musician Reuben Koroma, a refugee from Sierra Leone's capital city, and with his wife, Sister Grace, they joined up with other musicians they knew from back home to provide relief to their fellow refugees through music. The members of the band returned home to Freetown years later to continue to play as a group and record their music and the band's story was captured in the 2002 documentary, "The Refugee All Stars". The band released their debut album Living Like A Refugee in 2006 with their followup Rise and Shine in 2010. The band's most recent album Radio Salone was released earlier this year.
Video: Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars - Goat Smoke Pipe (Live on KEXP)

Idioteque (The Rex Jazz & Blues Bar, 10:30 pm) - Although many of us were disappointed that Radiohead's show at Downsview Park recently had to be cancelled (due to a tragic accident), could a Radiohead tribute band band be the next best thing. From what I've read, Idioteque are Toronto’s top Radiohead tribute band, and comprised of some of Toronto’s top young jazz musicians performing note-for-note reproductions of songs taken from Radiohead’s eight studio albums. (note: also check out The Music of Radiohead w/ Josh Grossman's Toronto Jazz Orchestra playing the same venue preceding Idioteque at 7:30 pm)
Video: Idioteque - "Bodysnatchers" (Radiohead cover) (live at The Piston on October 27, 2011)

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