Double your pleasure with two Canadian jazz greats!

Canadians have enjoyed a lovely relationship with Cuba for decades. It was our private island getaway, where we mingled with East Germans and Soviets drinking our Cuba Libres and listening to local musicians playing rhumbas and salsas for our dancim-johnsonng pleasure. After 1991 musicians from Cuba experienced a bit more freedom, and in 1993 Jane Bunnett, Canadian flutist* and soprano sax player, released Spirits of Havana, an album combining Canadian and Cuban musicians. In celebration of the 25th anniversary of Spirits of Havana, Jane Bunnett will be performing with some of the original musicians from the album at Nathan Phillips Square on Thursday June 30th for TD Toronto Jazz Fest. If you are new to Afro-Cuban jazz, get ready for the awakening of each and every part of your body. It’s impossible not to feel those rhythms pulsing through you!
And sharing the double bill (at $35/reserved seat – this show is a steal!!!), is the Canadian Jazz songstress, Molly Johnson. Molly Johnson’s interpretations of jazz j-bunnettstandards captivates us with her smoky impassioned vocals. Her latest release celebrates the music of Billie Holiday, one of Molly’s inspirations. Among many other recognitions, Ms. Johnson is an Officer of the Order of Canada for her international contributions to the arts and philanthropy and a Juno award winner. She is a Canadian icon that is not to be missed!
With two Canadian jazz greats sharing the bill, one can only hope that there will be some sharing of the stage guaranteed to take our collective breath away!
Click here for more details about the show:
Watch this space for more previews, reviews and photos of the TD Toronto Jazz Festival!
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Grace Potter turns on the light (and everything else!)

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Grace Potter performed at TD Toronto Jazz Festival tonight at Nathan Phillips Square and you should definitely regret not having made it to the show. The crowd was lighter than I’ve seen for many headliners. Lots of space at the sides inside and if you were on the other side of the fence you would have had a great view of a hot show!

It pains me to describe a woman first by a physical attribute, but Grace Potter is smokin’ hot on stage! She exudes sexuality from her glittery dress to the boots she kicked off half-way through her set to her wide open flirting with one and all. Her alluring stage presence is fully backed up by the music. This woman is an entertainer on stage and the music is truly the heart of it all.

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photo © Eric Fefferman

Grace Potter’s style is a little bit country, a little bit rock and roll, and all heart and soul. The beauty of a festival is that you always have a mixed audience of fans and music explorers ready for a taste of something new. After the first few notes, Grace invited everyone to get on their feet, and the audience mostly obliged, but by the end of the night the tent was full of new fans dancing their devotion to the powerhouse on the stage.

As any newly solo artist knows, the fans want to hear some favourites, and when Grace let us know it was time to remove some clothing (her boots) and invited the crowd to cuddle up to the stage she launched into Medicine (“She got the medicine that everybody needs”) and won over the whole audience. From that point on we were at her mercy.

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photo © Stasia Marunchak

Grace Potter plays the audience with the same expert hands that she plays her Wurlitzer and her signature Gibson Flying V. From wooing us with some Neil Young and telling us “I always wished I was Canadian, never more than right now!” to throwing in tastes of Prince, Black Sabbath and
Bill Withers (Lean on Me), she knew how to reel us in. And we happily let her.

By show’s end, no one needed encouragement to be on their feet. Grace Potter had wooed us, wowed us and then broke our hearts a little as she exited the stage.

-Stasia Marunchak

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Will Grace Potter show us the light as she steps out without the Nocturnals?

Will Grace Potter show us the light as she steps out without the Nocturnals?
If her Bonnaroo performance this year is any indication, we are in for a glitzier, pop and rock driven show compared to her more rootsy past. After a decade with the Nocturnals, Grace Potter is breaking out on her own and exploring new musical landscapes. The big question is whether her fans will make the transition with her. She may have stepped away from her hippie queen persona, but she brought her voice and energy with her so it looks like those that can handle a bit of change are in for a treat on Monday night!
Grace Potter released Midnight, her first album without the Ngp_midnight_cover-770x770octurnals, last August. You can catch her show at the Toronto Star Stage at Nathan Phillips Square on Monday, June 27th at the TD Toronto Jazz Festival.
-Stasia Marunchak
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2016 Toronto Jazz Festival 30th Anniversary. June 24-July3

TJFestLogoWhatever flavor of jazz you enjoy, find it at the TD Toronto Jazz Festival this summer, running from June 24 – July 3, 2016, as more than 1,500 musicians perform in over 350 concerts. Discover a new artist, explore different genres and attend a live concert surrounded by thousands as the city’s largest music festival takes over for 10 incredible days of non-stop activity. Experience music the way you want it!

HERE IS THE PROGRAM by Date.  http://torontojazz.com/concerts-day/2016-06-24

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Eric Fefferman ~ BLUES in Chicago ~ January 14-15, 2016

 

000_buddyguy1_webJanuary 15, 2016, Buddy Guy playing at his club LEGEND”S.

photo © Eric Fefferman

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Joanna Connor at  the Kingston Mines, January 15, 2016.

photo © Eric Fefferman

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Ellen Doty is good as GOLD: a CD review by Stanley Fefferman

goldEllen Doty sings like a whispering canary, in the hushed, intimate manner of Peggy Lee, if you go back that far, or the ethereal Margo Timmins of the 80’s band Cowboy Junkies. Ms.Doty is an original jazz vocalist and she also had a hand in writing the songs on her first full album. She opens the album with “Diamond From Cole”, a tune with a catchy big band though slightly four-square bounce, then settles into a more intimate, reflective, 40’s club mood with “Restless Heart,” “No Good Man,” and “Wait For Your Call.” Ellen projects a woman who is open, beguiled and beguiling, smart but always soft. I have listened to this album half a dozen times: when I just listen, it catches me; listening while I work, it hangs out with my mood like a golden glow. Ellen Doty is one sophisticated lady, originating in Calgary and currently touring the western provinces with an excellent nine-piece band. The title tune, “Gold,” is about a girl with ambition who won’t give up. Go girl, go.

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Bravos for The Ukrainian Art Song Project: Galicians I reviewed by Stasia Marunchak

November 2, 2014. Koerner Hall, Toronto.

PavoloHunka copyThanks to bass-baritone Pavlo Hunka, a Toronto audience had the opportunity of hearing the first public performance of a unique collection of Ukrainian Art Songs.  In the Ukrainian tradition, we are used to hearing choral arrangements with beautiful, rich harmonies. For an audience composed largely from the Ukrainian community, this concert of  Art Songs was a departure from what is usually heard in a celebration of our culture.

At a time in Ukrainian when culture has taken a backseat to politics, it was especially poignant to witness to the performance of art songs from the Galician region of Ukraine. Many of these songs have never been heard by more than a very small gathering. Much of Ukrainian cultural and religious pursuits were stifled throughout history with outright bans on the use of the language in all artistic endeavours. To say it was moving to hear this music brought to life for the first time would be an understatement.

Other UkranianLadyOne of the more touching aspects of the concert was the presence of the daughters of Stefania Turkevich, the first female Ukrainian composer. Pavlo Hunka, world-famous bass-baritone and the mastermind and driving force behind the Ukrainian Art Song Project, was visiting one of her daughters, for the purpose of collecting scores from another composer, when she offhandedly asked if he had heard of her mother. To his dismay, he hadn’t, but he has more than rectified that situation now.

However, it is the legacy of this concert and the entire Ukrainian Art Song Project that is the real story. The concert was moving and beautiful, with unique minimalist staging and a quartet of incredibly talented voices bringing the music to life. But the true dividends will come with the completion of the series and the publishing of over 1000 art songs by 26 composers available for free to all on their website www.ukrainianartsong.ca. Students, music educators, choir masters and music lovers alike will be able to access these previously unknown and unpublished scores. We were asked during the concert what Italian culture would be without Verdi or Vivaldi, German culture without Bach or Brahms, French culture without Bizet or Debussy, Russian culture without Rachmaninov or Tchaikovsky. I don’t think it had occurred to much of the audience that we were missing such a vital piece of our history. Our folk traditions are strong, but it is impossible to guess what we have lost with the suppression of so much of our classical roots.

Bravo to Pavlo Hunka and the Ukrainian Art Song Project for ensuring that future generations will have access such a vital part of Ukrainian musical heritage. Perhaps now is the time for all cultures to search their archives for lost and forgotten artists of all mediums and to guarantee their preservation.

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Five Stars for Soundstreams Four Seasons Reviewed by Stanley Fefferman

frehner copyThe first and brightest star is for Montreal composer Paul Frehner who makes amazing music out of imagining extremes of weather. In 2004 Frehner was inspired by reports of the Indian Ocean tsumani: a couple of years later, he produced Sanctuary, his reflection on an imaginary haven in a vast landscape that evolves over time. Last night we heard Frehner’s musical dream about a violinist caught in a gigantic summer dust-storm slowly moving across the Mojave Desert. The music had the excitement of an abstract expressionist canvas done impasto, where hot oil-colours are laid on the surface very thickly and spread by exhuberant strokes of a painting-knife, smoothly as a heat wave, thick and gritty as a sandstorm, evanescent as an evening breeze.

hopeMax Richter, the German-born English composer ‘re-imagined’ Vivaldi’s Four Seasons two years ago for violinist Daniel Hope: they are two more stars in this evening’s constellation. Richter’s score combines the vivacity and charm of Vivaldi but intrigues by arranging for Vivaldi’s overfamiliar themes to peek, slip and burst through a fabric of minimalist textures. Daniel Hope’s grasp of the music, which he conducted as soloist, was a brilliance of its own, and his playing dazzled but also touched deep emotions.

TSO principal clarinet Joaquin Valdepeñas seemed to be one with the music and the ensemble of local All-Star players as he conducted the Frehner and John Luther Adams’ White on White.  Together they complete the constellation of a Five Star evening in stellar Koerner Hall.

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