Toronto Jazz '09 Festival Journal: 'Round About Midday to 'Round About Midnight

Raul d'Gama Rose By

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T.D. Canada Trust Toronto Jazz Festival

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

June 26-July 5, 2009

To begin at the beginning: close encounters in a war against the abolition of free will by methodical conditioning and the servitude made acceptable by regular doses of chemically-induced progress and happiness from:

  1. canned food,

  2. vitamins, and

  3. the business side of music and writing (including appropriate shelving and categorization such as: "File under jazz").

Jazz media is dying—who's next? (June 22)

I await my media accreditation for the 2009 Toronto Jazz Festival. I was late this year. Probably ruminating about the lack of appreciation of a sensational, not-so-new tenor saxophonist, JD Allen. His record, Shine (Sunnyside Records) should put paid to any and all notions that this music came from Mozart and not Buddy Bolden, 'Trane, Ornette, Ellington, Mingus, Powell, Herbie Nichols et al. But in my existential angst, I digress...

The mail arrives. I have a note to come pick up my pass at the Toronto Jazz Festival 2009 Media Centre. I also have mail from John Norris—his latest broadcast—Sackville Recordings Newsletter, June 2009 Edition. The news is grimmer than I thought. Norris postulates as he informs us of the virtual demise of the "jazz magazine" in North America. Metronome, Jazz Monthly, The Jazz Review (USA), Matrix and Storyville are no longer in publication. Leslie Johnson is dead and, as a result, Mississippi Rag is dead too. Across the pond, in the United Kingdom, Jazz Journal is dead and buried too. Worse still, Toronto's Coda has suspended publication. (Now I know why Andrew Scott, its Editor, and Mark Barnes, the magazine's publisher, have stopped answering my emails or calls. Gone also is the frequency of Cadence, down from "sure thing" to "whenever." Italy's Musica Jazz—gone too! (It appears that since this was first written, Jazz Journal and Jazz Review have since merged and will resume publication).

But Northern Europe seems to be a different story. (Could it be the consumption of vast amounts "strudel," or maybe just the mark that Bechet, "Klook" and Dexter left behind... I wonder?) No. In Germany and Sweden, Jazz Podium and Orkester Journalen have survived. So did Big Willie Smith and I Am Legend have something to do with it?

Stuff and nonsense, says Norris. He puts the demise of the print magazines down to

  1. the digital revolution and the fact that there is

  2. no longer one kind of music known as "jazz!"

Good ole John Norris, the Model T of our brave new Jazz Age. Now listen here, John, whether you like it or not, this year, too, Toronto is going to feast on this idiom of jazz among other musical metaphors and idiomatic phrases—for almost two straight weeks, whether it is played stride or swinging, bopping or with a walking bass. Jazz. But maybe not—"jass" is an experience through music played in the key of life (borrowed that from Steveland Morris, just in case there are raised eyebrows out there). So Strike One for the Heart of Freedom... From 'round about midday to 'round about midnight!

In praise of a Famous Ghost (June 23)

Media Accreditation arrives. Elated, but much reading matter sometimes finds me choking on a poor diet of Stan Kenton, Pops Whiteman... too many "Viva Salazar's" in my past. Not enough Zutty, until I quit Trinity... Balls to anyone who utters the word "genre" going forward.

So Anna Tom approves me to cover the Festival. I have a question almost immediately: "Where is Eliane Elias?" No confirmation yet from her publicist, I am told by the delightful, yet unsmiling Amber... She appears concerned for me.

Ghost images... To begin with a singular meditation... afterwards, like 'Trane, I Wait and Pray... most importantly—even though he would scoff at this—for my dear friend and one of my mentors—no not Francois Villon this time, but Boris Vian. It is the 50th Anniversary of his death today. Boris the Terrible, who destroyed most rational thought as he sailed on an ocean of sound through the '30s and '40s. Boris the Magnificent... So perhaps something in his honor, though it be in English, and what better to do than whirl around a jazz festival with the likes of Sonny Rollins, Dave Holland, Branford Marsalis, Charlie Hunter, Roberto Occhipinti, et al...

A Brasilian Fairytale (June 24)

I have had this recurring dream for several days now. I am sure that it has to do with the 2009 Toronto Jazz Festival. Here's how it goes: I am lying on Ipanema beach. My throat is parched from the deeply gratifying summer sun. I drift in and out of consciousness...


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