The TD Canada Trust Toronto Jazz Festival kicked off on June 23 with singer Molly Johnson on the main stage at Nathan Phillips Square. It was a packed house, along with two buildings that at times felt like they were peering over our shoulders, looking in.
Attired in a pink dress, Johnson hit the stage to thunderous applause and settled in for a night of music and laughter, provided by Johnson herself with her short explanations and ad libs between each song. By the time she got to "Melody" from Another Day (Marquis, 2002), the band had the crowd into it. Mark McLean on brushes played solidly throughout, not only on this song but the entire show. Backed by Mike Downes on bass, Andrew Craig on piano/Fender Rhodes and Colleen Allen on flute, sax and background vocals, the music was brighter than the projected green, red and blue light show in the background.
Johnson told the audience of her days in France and hanging out in Avignon, France. To her delight and ours, she recounted the tale of an Amish girl loving every minute of it, and how her pianist wrote some of the songs for her new album (which she confided is taking time but will be done soon). These songs sounded fresh and exciting and, judging by the applause and jubilation from the audience, the new album will be worth the wait.
From songs off her debut album to Another Day and ten songs from her forthcoming album, Johnson and her band, with special guest/guitarist Craig Rossbest known for his contributions to the Lenny Kravitz Bandput on a spectacular show. It was a great way to start off this year's Jazz Festival in Toronto. From "My Oh My" to new songs written by Marc Jordan and Steve McKinnon to "Diamond in My Hand," with each band member taking a turn in the spotlight, Johnson and her band made the room spin. The fans on the ceiling were still, the chandeliers shone and the two towers peered over us, looking in and probably loving every minute of itthe audience did.
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