My routine for most of this week was: 6am-12noon working at JAZZ.FM91. A quick business lunch followed by a three hour sail and then off to see jazz all night. (I’ll list my highlights of the TD Toronto Jazz Festival at the end of this entry.)
On Monday, after a quick sail with Andrea Ramolo, singer of Scarlett Jane (a torch-roots-pop band you really need to see live) I hit L’Okestre des Pas Perdu for a free show at Nathan Phillips Square. I arrived on my trusty ten-speed at 5pm, just in time to witness their perfect set of “Dr. Suess Marching Band Music”.
A quick pit-stop at The Rex to catch some Peripheral Vision (Michael Herring and Don Scott’s new project) and then to Winchester Kitchen for a remarkable show by Genevieve (Gigi) Marentette and pianist Mark Kieswetter. Gigi’s duet with crooner Sam Broverman was reminiscent of Louie and Keely, Steve and Edie….Gigi kept messing with lyrics, singing different songs over the same chord progression, while Sam played straight man and sallied forth…hilarious! The audience went banana cuckoo and I suddenly and deeply regretted not having my iPhone set to video. I don’t believe in taking more than a wee clip of a band when they play because I don’t think it’s fair to the musicians. You can’t capture the magic with a one iPhone shoot. At least I can’t. In this case though, I goofed! I can only hope they do more shows together soon.
For the second set Gigi and Mark were joined by bassist Ross MacIntyre, who collaborated with Kieswetter on the brilliant “Green Edge Sky, Green Edge Sun” recording. It was fun to watch Ross blow away Genevieve, who has just returned from eight months in Asia and hadn’t worked with him before. The Winchester reported that thanks to the TD Toronto Jazz Festival, they were busy every night they featured live music.
Wednesday I emceed a show that wasn’t technically part of the festival at The Flex Dance Theatre. Melody Gardot had sold the theatre out months earlier and put on a fantastic show that featured many songs from her latest recording, “The Absence”. Melody and I first met in 2008 while she was on a press junket for her debut recording and we immediately “got each other”. Four hours after I met her for the first time we were out sailing Lake Ontario laughing and playing all kinds of jazz and world music. I introduced her to Duke Ellington’s Afro Eurasian Eclipse, a recording from the early seventies. Since then we’ve vacationed together on a South Sea Island, hung out in LA and sailed many times here in Toronto. I’ll never forget taking Melody and Alex Pangman to Woodbine Racetrack – Melody picked about five winning horses in a row, based on just looking at them! She’s intense in all the best ways: I’ve seen her take four minutes to choose an apple at the grocery store. She gazes at them awhile and then slowly picks one lucky apple to purchase. Her stage show certainly reflects her attention to detail. The new band were all mind-blowingly talented – adding cello was a brilliant move – and everyone in the room ended up singing along with her, up on their feet. A blend of jazz and blues, world and classical…a unique sound and concert.
Wednesday I took Melody sailing all day and then beelined to see Gretchen Parlato and Esperanza Spalding at Nathan Phillips Square for a sold-out show at the Toronto Star Mainstage.
Friday, I emceed a show for The George Lake Big Band at Hugh’s Room. June Garber was thrown a going away party. She and her husband Bob split at the end of the summer and it was great to see the club was jam packed with her fans and friends.
Saturday, I took my new kick-ass friend Jessica sailing with her mom, sister and sister-in-law. Elaine Loring (who used to interview me when she worked for Global TV) joined us for an exciting, sunny day.
By five I was back at City Hall where I hosted my weekly radio show, “Jazz In The City” at JAZZ.MF91’s H.Q. at Nathan Phillips Square. After the show I beelined to The Distillery to see a bunch of bands, including another killer performance by Gigi Marentette.
Sunday I went back to The Distillery District to introduce The JAZZ.FM91 Youth Big Band at noon. I also got to see Tom Szczesniak Trio.
Great stuff in my favourite neighbourhood! It was Pride Day, Euro-Cup Day…also CHIN Bikini Pageant and Canada Day…so what did I do? I went sailing all day and night!
As I write this I am a bit of a lobster…sun burnt and ouchy…but I certainly have no complaints. I now know that I need more than a Sunsreen 30…lesson learned!
This week. I’m going to get a lot of writing done and not sail so much. So many projects require attention…new lyrics for Bonzai Suzuki, work on an internet project for the fall and my autobiography which is something I’ve worked on not-so- methodically for years. I have a couple jazz safaris on the weekend but the big kick is the benefit for The Unison Benevolent Fund (www.unisonfund.ca) at The Delta Chelsea Hotel’s Monarchs Pub. Robert Scott Trio will perform and there will be a ton of surprise guest singers and musicians who’ve been asked to come down. The show is Wednesday 8-12 and it’s a PWYC event, with tons of door prizes. Info at www.bullhorn.ca
THE BEST OF THE FEST
I saw over twenty acts this past week – but often just a few songs, then on my bike to race around town – and my top five are (BTW, Melody Gardot doesn’t count as she wasn’t technically part of the festival…but it certainly was one of my fave shows of the week):
5. The JAZZ.FM91 Youth Big Band (I’m so proud of those kids, and the MD Jules Estrin)
4.George Benson (dang, I missed Peter Appleyard at Koerner Hall that night because I forgot my tix at home and only discovered it at the last second but seeing some of Benson’s set was just fine!)
3. Don Francks at Dominion On Queen
2. Gretchen Parlato and Esperanza Spalding
1. Hiromi and The Bad Plus with Joshua Redmen