TD Toronto Jazz Festival 2015

Alain Londes By

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TD Toronto Jazz Festival
Various locations
Toronto, Canada
June 18-29, 2015

With festival season in full swing, it's always an opportunity to see what the state of jazz is and to hopefully discover something new. The challenge is of course that there are always many choices and one might be guided by personal choice and on a whim as to what to see. This year's Toronto Jazz Festival had a rich collection of performers from different styles and fortunately will not be mistaken for a general music festival.

June 18th started almost exclusively with a 90th birthday celebration of sorts for the beloved Oscar Peterson featuring the Oscar Peterson Quartet with Alvin Queen on drums and Robi Botos on piano with special guest Christian McBride on bass. McBride has been very busy recently. He began hosting "Jazz Night in America" for NPR last Fall and as a result continues to showcase and educate the public about the wonderful tapistry of jazz.

The festival usually has a kickoff party night to help set everything in motion and this year is no exception with artists such as George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic, Dumstaphunk, and Morris Day and The Time.

The annual popular central location was Nathan Philipps Square which presented some of the more visible acts under the festival umbrella. This year's roster included Tower of Power, Al Jarreau, The Legendary Count Basie Orchestra, Al Di Meola, and the instrumental fusion band Snarky Puppy. Al Di Meola brought his electric sound for the first time in years with his "Elegant Gypsy" tour. Snarky Puppy appeared on the last Friday of the festival and appealed to a younger audience for this sellout and standing-room only audience. It reminded somewhat the vibe that Medeski, Martin & Wood brought to this festival on previous occasions: excitment, energy, and a modern touch.

The Legendary Count Basie Orchestra

One would be mistaken to think that the Legendary Count Basie Orchestra represents a style that is no longer in vogue. The reality is that the engaging nature of the big band sound is as fun to listen to and to play as ever. Scotty Barnhart carries the leadership mantle of this legendary orchestra, a well oiled machine, by continuing to inspire audiences and musicians with the Basie Kansas City tradition. As most former members are no longer with us, exceptional musicians carry the torch. On the orchestra's 80th anniversary tour, one of many such highlights was to witness alto saxophonist Vincent Herring ripping it up on the fast tempo of Ernie Wilkin's "Basie Power." Carmen Bradford eased things off with "Honey Suckle Rose" and "I got a right to sing the blues." "Blues In Hoss' Flat" by Frank Foster was played in perfect timing and dynamics. These and the staples such as "Lill' Darlin,'" "Moten Swing," and "April In Paris." provided the continuity in the great Basie sound for future generations. It's hard not wanting to play these tunes as a true swinging jazz musician.

Christian McBride Big Band


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