TD Toronto Jazz Festival, Days 1-3: June 23-25, 2011
For a bit of blues, the Mainstage concert featured Stax! With guitarist Steve Cropper, bassist Donald "Duck" Dunn and singer Eddie Floydall part of the legendary Stax label during its soul music heyday. A key point during this journey down memory lane was when Floyd brought another Stax alum, Eric Mercury, onstage to sing "Knock On Wood" and "Soul Man." "Soul Man" could have benefited from a full horn section for more depth and its familiar sound.
Sunday, June 26, 2011
If a theme had to picked for Sunday evening it would have to have been world music, but in the general sense of the word, with each act different in style and substance. The most iconic performer was pianist Randy Weston who, at 85, continues to perform and educate about the origins of music and the history of jazz. The Glenn Gould Studio was a fitting venue for this intimate solo performance, with Weston making discussing his experiences with the late Ray Bryant.
Emphasizing his African heritage with the theme of movement to other lands, Weston selected Duke Ellington's "Caravan," a jazz standard composed by Puerto Rican-born trombonist Juan Tizolestablishing, as Weston explained, a link to the Caribbean and, ultimately, to Africa. His Ellington theme continued with "Chromatic Love Affair" and "Perdido," aach selection possessing its unique interpretation around the melody.
Moving through the historical journey, Weston also showcased Fats Waller and Thelonious Monk. Offering interesting tidbits of information, Weston talked about how African music is as old as Africa, how its definition of harmony emphasized the connection of souls with the universe, and how music stems from the Creator. He also referred to Thomas Wiggins (1849-1908), a visually impaired pianist who could play anything that he heard.
Weston also played some of his own compositions, including "Berkshire Blues" and a beautiful rendition of the lyrical "Little Niles." The performance ended on a distinctive contemplative tone, as attendees left inspired and relaxed after this unique opportunity to witness a jazz legend.
Moving onto the Mainstage Concert, Dubmatix kicked things off with a good dose of predominantly reggae and dub. The group then gave way to the 13-piece collective and two-time Grammy Award-winning Spanish Harlem Orchestra. Quite a few local Latin jazz musicians were in the house to enjoy a show, which included material from the group's recent CD, Viva la Tradicón (Concord, 2010), such as the cha-cha-laced "Como Baila Mi Mulata," and "La Salsa Dura," a perfect example of how the band combines strong horn lines for its two trumpeters, two trombonist and one baritone saxophonist/flautist, together with its three vocalists.
For this performance, vocalist Herman Olivera the lead singer of the Eddie Palmieri Orchestrareplaced Ray De La Paz, who could not make the gig, and fit right in, featured on Celia Cruz's classic "Ahora Si." In the middle of the set, to the orchestra gave the vocalists a rest with Oscar Hernandez's "Rumba Urbana," also providing a solo spot for the pianist/bandleader. Mitch Frohmana sax and flute veteran of 25 years with the great Tito Puentewas very impressive in the horn section and as a soloist. Some cool salsa moves were also seen on the makeshift dance floor, and the audience was on its feet for the climactic ending, with veteran Toronto percussionist Luis Orbegosowho has played and recorded with many artists including the Spanish Harlem Orchestrajoining the group onstage.
Photo Credit Marek Lazarski