Sunday, June 30, 2013

Jazz Fest round up

"It's always been a dream of mine to play the Toronto Jazz Festival and tonight I am one step closer to that dream"  joked renaissance man Steve Martin as he ushered in his show with the Steep Canyon Rangers on Saturday night and of course the jokes kept coming. He said that people think he is a "Hollywood Dilettante getting on the Bluegrass Gravy Train"...hmm was that a Rob Ford Reference? Also that people wondered "why music and why now Steve?" he answered - wait a minute you're my band...:)

The consummate stand up absurdist comedian, movie star, writer, and one heck of a banjo player also felt he had to confess that he tuned his banjo electronically and now there was far less danger from radiation....for the people at the back of the tent, not so much for those at the front. Also he could check his email...

All kidding aside he has a stellar - Grammy award winning band. He himself admitted to walking away with a  Grammy...until he was told he had won dum bump. For the second night in a row the sound was also decent..the previous night I enjoyed Boz Scaggs! By the way the Slocan Ramblers did a stellar opening set for Steve Martin - the audience loved them - who knew there were so many bluegrass fans?

Thursday night I enjoyed Gregory Porter - who is outstanding - my minor quibble was as usual - the sound was too loud - do I really need to be wearing earplugs in the Enwave Theatre - with piano, acoustic bass, drums and sax? It was a real love in for the audience - in fact there was a couple next to me who had come all the way from London England to see him as his show was sold out there! I hope to hear him again with clear sound - you should be able to hear the vocals with a singer of his talent....

Tomorrow I'm likely heading back to the Jazz Bistro to hear Micah Barnes again - possibly my best experience at the festival this year.

Monday, June 24, 2013

MIcah Barnes at the Jazz Bistro

I haven't taken in much jazz yet during the Toronto Downtown Jazz Festival so I decided to treat myself in high style and visit the Jazz Bistro - that gorgeous space on the former Senator site for their Sunday brunch show.

It was so wonderful to see Micah Barnes in performance with a trio that included his brother Daniel Barnes on drums. I took a workshop with Micah a while back and if you read that blog post you will know I  think he's the cat's meow! His two sets talked about that ever popular topic love - new love, infatuation and then the wrinkles of love...I had never seen Micah perform before and he is utterly delightful - sweet, sly, funny and wise.

To add the cherry on top - the fabulous Jackie Richardson sat in for a few numbers in the second set. I enjoyed myself so much I'm going back next Sunday. 12:30 show time in case you're interested.

I can't tell you how much the workshop meant to me - still thinking of taking some more private sessions. I encourage all performers to take one - check out the Singer's Playground website.

The Jazz Bistro has a lot of great stuff going on - last night the featured artist was Ranee Lee and they are also hosting Molly Johnson and Roberta Gambarini  - will try to make that one too.

Luminato was also going on last week and I took in the free performance of "Dance, Lhasa, Dance" at David Pecaut Square. A great cast of musicians, singers and dancers paid wonderful tribute to songstress and composer Lhasa - taken from us too soon. Our friend Joyce from Vancouver who is at the Chan Centre at UBC has booked them for the upcoming season. Wow.

We also took in the Atom Egoyan directed Chinese Opera at the Macmillan Theatre. Fascinating.

On Thursday I am excited to say I will be going to hear Gregory Porter at the Enwave Theatre.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Ailsa McCreary's CD release

Ailsa McCreary

Hi all, just a reminder my dear friend Ailsa is having her CD release at the Jazz Bistro tonight - the newly
renovated Senator space. First set at 8:30. Her first CD (!) is entitled "When Evening is Nigh"...Woo hoo! It features such wonderful musicians as Adrean Farrugia, Mark Kieswetter, Ross McIntyre, etc. etc. Should be a great evening!

Second item of note, I got to hear one of my idols in jazz writing at Jazz FM last week. Marc Myers was here from New York and gave a great lecture on the evolution of jazz through big band, bebop, cool jazz and the West Coast sound, pop jazz to fusion. If you weren't one of the lucky people to be there - pick up a copy of his book - it's fascinating! Please be sure to check out his award winning blog - featured on the Jazz FM website - Marc Myers "Jazzwax". He has interviewed the Who's Who of jazz and has an incredible breadth of knowledge about jazz and pop music.

On other cultural notes - if you haven't heard of it be sure to check out a great little film "The Angel's Share" - a tale of redemption, love, suspense and most of all that great Scottish sense of humour...although I admit even though I have grown up around Belfast accents - sometimes I needed subtitles! It's the tale of 4 hopeless cases doing community service for their run - ins with the law. In particular - one young man Robbie is expecting a baby with his girlfriend and looking for a way to turn his life around. With the help of a sympathetic counsellor he discovers that he has a special talent - he is a whiskey savant! How can he harness this special power to transform? That's where the caper part comes in featuring a priceless cask of a previously unknown vintage.

One of the fun things for us was seeing one of the distilleries they featured was one of the few places we visited - Glengoyne! Please go and see this Cannes Jury Prize winner from director Ken Loach.