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- Introducing APPARATUS: Inspiritus Press, Feb. 2017. by Stanley Fefferman
- Laurence Hutchman TWO MAPS OF EMERY: reviewed by Stanley Fefferman
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Blue Rodeo / Terra Lightfoot, Molson Ampitheatre, Toronto ON Canada 8/20/16
Joe Jackson was welcomed with open arms at the TD Toronto Jazz Festival Main-stage
Series closer at Nathan Phillips Square last night. Playing to the first packed house I’ve
seen under the tent, Jackson took the stage alone with his piano to warm us up for the
show. He let us know right away that those that came for the nostalgia would not be
disappointed by opening with It’s Different for the Girls, from his 1979 album, I’m the Man.
On Home Town, from Jackson’s 1986 release, Big World, we heard a voice in fine form. I
happened to be sitting next to one of the original recording engineers on this track and he
could not stop grinning! Talking about the festival, Jackson quipped, “Too bad we don’t do
any jazz. I am a jazz fan if that counts.” While his sound is decidedly pop driven, his
career has spanned so many genres, it really is impossible to pigeonhole him to one
Amongst the catalog overview (nineteen studio albums!), the title track from his latest
release, Fast Forward, fit in seamlessly. On the surface his work, particularly before the
band joins him on stage, is pretty straight up and easy to access. But upon a deeper
listening you discover layers of sound giving rhythm and texture to his music. While not
truly jazz, that complexity of sound is the place where we can most easily connect Joe
Jackson’s offerings to the spirit of a jazz festival.
British singer-songwriter Joe Jackson has a career spanning 45 years, with most of us meeting him on his 1979 hit song, Is She Really Going Out With Him? or 1982’s Stepping Out. Over the years Jackson has explored pop, jazz and classical musical styles.
Currently touring his new album of original music, Fast Forward, Joe Jackson graces the
Nathan Philips Square stage at the TD Toronto Jazz Festival on Sunday, July 2nd.
The album was recorded in four different cities Amsterdam, Berlin, New Orleans and New
York featuring different musicians in each city including Bill Frisell (guitar) and Stanton
Joe Jackson’s unmistakable vocals should prove nostalgic for many of us, and perhaps
we’ll find a new favourite to associate with him the next time we hear his name.
For more details on the July 2nd show:
Watch this space for more TD Toronto Jazz Festival reviews!
When city councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam enthusiastically introduced Michael Franti, the
crowd burst up, cheering and applauding before he’d even hit the stairs to the stage! No
encouragement needed for this audience to be on their feet and ready to dance. The
difference between Michael Franti and any other performer is that his audience enters the venue already at his mercy. Before he utters a word or strums a note, all in attendance
are on board and ready for the ride. Michael Franti tells the audience, “Jump!” and they
jump. He says, “Wave your hands!” and every hand in the place goes up. He says,
“Clap!” and, you guessed it, they clap. And they love every minute of it!
For the second tune, Sound of Sunshine, over a dozen huge yellow balloons are
launched from the stage and into the crowd. If you weren’t already smiling, this was the
moment the joy overtook you. This was also the point in the evening when Michael Franti
invited the first of many children to join him on stage throughout the night. It has the
potential to get a bit hokey, but when you witness the delight of the young ones you begin
to hear Franti’s message of peace and acceptance and love, and to see it manifest right
before your eyes.
Next Franti exits the stage to skip through the tent and out to the folks outside the tent,
singing and dancing with everyone in his path before climbing onto a small stage right in
front of the soundboard. From this point on at least half of the show will take place here,
with fans being invited up to dance with the man who came to unite us all with his music.
Cherine Anderson, Kingston, Jamaica singer/songwriter and actress, was in town for her
niece’s graduation, and to our delight, Michael Franti surprised her and the audience by
inviting her onstage to sing and rap with him. She added a special dimension to an
already spectacular show.
The positivity of Michael Franti cannot be understated. He sings, “One day, one day, all
will say, that it’s good to be alive today.” He sings of love and asks us to hug someone
near us and instructs us to not leave anyone out. He asks us to dance with anyone
nearby. For those that normally like to be on the sidelines, in this space it feels odd not to
participate. Franti inspires us to lose our fears and to be our authentic selves. He treats
music as a sacrament and we take it without reservation.
While he may not fit comfortably into the jazz genre, Michael Franti was a perfect choice
or the weekend of the biggest Pride celebrations in the city. He preaches equality, a
strong antihate, antigun message, and about the freedom to be yourself and find your
own path to peace. And since he married a Canadian, I’ll forgive the Festival for giving an
American top billing on Canada Day.
– Stasia Muranchak
The night started off with the incomparable Molly Johnson on the stage. When the
average person thinks of jazz, Molly’s brand of simple grooving vocals and
instrumentation is what comes to mind. Johnson’s haunting smoky voice is from another
world and the lyrics come alive on her tongue and effortlessly flow over her audience. She
mesmerizes us with smoky butterscotch tones on Billie Holiday’s Don’t Explain, sweet yet
a little dark and sad. In yellow chiffon with flowers in her hair, she channeled Billie
Holiday, but she is definitely her own woman on stage and not afraid to let us know it.
A proud Canadian and Torontonian, Molly Johnson entertains us with her slightly caustic
banter between songs. “I’m a Canadian we don’t have staff. I’m a jazz musician, I pick up
my own dog shit!” She’s like the funny friend at the dinner party, not quite standup
comedy, but she keeps you on your toes. Her place is definitely on the stage, but a part of
you wishes you were hanging out together in an old jazz club. All that’s missing are stale
pretzels, a dirty martini and a smoky haze.
Next, Molly’s grade school chum, Jane Bunnett took the stage with her husband, trumpet
player Larry Cramer and longtime collaborator Hilario Duran on piano, alongside some
fantastic musicians from Bunnett’s all female sextet, Maqueque. Bunnett is celebrating
the 25th anniversary of her groundbreaking album Spirits of Havana which showcased
Cuba’s dynamic contributions to world music.
As easy as it is to listen to Molly Johnson’s crooning, Bunnett requires us to step outside
what we know of jazz and of latin beats and really listen to what is happening on stage.
There is a chaos in the unrelenting afrocuban percussion mixed with the improvisational
jazz riffs of the soprano sax, flute and piano, often reminiscent of Thelonius Monk’s style.
It takes effort to listen and to process, but the rewards are immense when you can find
Sadly, aside from a few souls in the wings that couldn’t help but dance, the audience last
night was pretty staid and seemingly unmoved by the driving beats. They enjoyed the
show in their own way, but I can’t help but think that if everyone had gotten on their feet
and really felt the rhythms, the energy under that tent would have exploded.
We enjoyed a lot of Toronto talent on the stage last night and on this day when we
celebrate our country, we have many more reasons to feel pride in being Canadian.