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TD Toronto Jazz Festival, Days 4-10: June 27-July 3, 2011

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TD Toronto Jazz Festival 2011
Toronto, Canada
June 24-July 3, 2011

Monday, June 27, 2011

On Monday evening, fans had a few hard choices to make among the headliners. At Koerner Hall, award-winning Dee Dee Bridgewater
Dee Dee Bridgewater
Dee Dee Bridgewater
b.1950
vocalist
paid tribute to Lady Day, Billie Holiday
Billie Holiday
Billie Holiday
1915 - 1959
vocalist
.

Meanwhile at the Enwave Theatre, Kurt Elling
Kurt Elling
Kurt Elling
b.1967
vocalist
took to the stage before an equally enthusiastic audience. The sold-out crowd gave a standing ovation when Elling walked on the stage. Laurence Hobgood, who has collaborated with the singer for 17 years, was on the piano together with Eric Privert on bass and Pete Van Nostrand on drums.

Elling selected pieces from The Gate (Concord Records, 2011) where he revisits some well-known tunes that might otherwise have been placed temporarily on the shelf. Naturally they would have a jazz spin to them with the meaning of the lyrics leading the way. Getting everyone in the mood, Elling's swinging and groovy version of Joe Jackson's "Steppin' Out" also included a very brief scat solo.

The suave Elling, sporting a business casual suit, was genuinely comfortable on stage. He naturally moved the mic away or closer to his mouth to temper the volume just the way he wanted. Whether singing or speaking, the conversation was always with respect to the audience. His tasteful sense of humor was another bonus of a live show.

Elling sang the title track of his Grammy Award-winning Dedicated To You (Concord Records, 2009). Hobgood added a solo including a quick nod to the song "Cabaret." Proving that great singers understand all the rudiments of music including time, Elling, on "Samurai Cowboy"—where he added lyrics to bassist Marc Johnson
Marc Johnson
Marc Johnson
b.1953
bass
's "Samurai Hee Haw"—doubled-up on vocal percussion sounds in tandem with Van Nostrand.

Guitarist John McLean
John McLean
John McLean

guitar
came onstage later, to bring a rock element and a hard driving solo to The Beatles
The Beatles
The Beatles

band/orchestra
' "Norwegian Wood,." Elling quipped that songs can have the effect of "making the pain musical," when talking about life. Such was the case with a slow version of Earth, Wind & Fire
Earth, Wind & Fire
Earth, Wind & Fire

band/orchestra
's "After The Love Is Gone." The only standard of the evening was Hoagy Carmichael
Hoagy Carmichael
Hoagy Carmichael
1899 - 1981
piano
's "Skylark." Without being prompted, the audience snapped its fingers for Stevie Wonder
Stevie Wonder
Stevie Wonder
b.1950
keyboard
's "Golden Lady," with Elling rightly concluding, "Hey, that's a nice night. What do you think?" For effect, the background spotlight on Elling slowly faded out, signaling the end of the show with "Save Your Love For Me." Fortunately, the audience was treated to a second encore with Antonio Carlos Jobim
Antonio Carlos Jobim
Antonio Carlos Jobim
1927 - 1994
piano
's "Luisa," after Elling translated the Portuguese lyrics.

Over at the Mainstage Concert, a night of blues was dominated by the Robert Cray
Robert Cray
Robert Cray
b.1953
guitar, electric
. Playing selections from Cookin' In Mobile (Vanguard, 2010) such as "Sitting On Top Of The World," Jim Pugh
Jim Pugh
Jim Pugh
b.1950
trombone
drew particular attention after Cray introduced him numerous times over the evening.


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

For the evening portion of the programming, Vijay Iyer
Vijay Iyer
Vijay Iyer
b.1971
piano
walked onstage at the Glenn Gould Studio for a solo piano performance as part of the Grandmasters Series. The young, highly acclaimed pianist was the center of attention with interpretations of well-known tunes and his own compositions. He immediately put the audience into a quiet contemplative mood with the meditative "Heart Piece," that continued into "Epistrophy" in honor of one of Iyer's icons, Thelonious Monk
Thelonious Monk
Thelonious Monk
1917 - 1982
piano
. One moment he made use of Monk's slow percussive style, the next moment he got right into a hurried style, demonstrating his fast and technically adept hands. "Autoscopy," was one of the deepest and somewhat somber pieces of the evening, representing the definition of its title: an out of body experience where you leave your body and watch it from above. Iyer switched gears with his take on another modern idol, Michael Jackson
Michael Jackson
Michael Jackson
1958 - 2009
vocalist
, with "Human Nature. On Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington
1899 - 1974
piano
's classic "Black and Tan Fantasy," Iyer maintained the marching beat of this funeral procession while adding a measured degree of freedom. Vijay Iyer also brought in pieces by Andrew Hill
Andrew Hill
Andrew Hill
1937 - 2007
piano
, John Coltrane
John Coltrane
John Coltrane
1926 - 1967
saxophone
, and Sun Ra
Sun Ra
Sun Ra
1914 - 1993
keyboard
.

For something totally different, a large crowd converged on the Sony Centre for Return to Forever
Return to Forever
Return to Forever

band/orchestra
(RTF) IV, which was creating all the buzz leading up to its Tuesday night stop in Toronto. The jazz-fusion group did not disappoint; the show was exhilarating, with the whole auditorium vibrating, at times.

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