The streets of Yorkville will soon be echoing with the sounds of jazz — gospel, soul and R&B, too — as the 32nd TD Toronto Jazz Festival returns to the upscale Toronto neighbourhood for the second time, starting Friday night.
The festival’s opening weekend features free performances by gospel artist CeCe Winans, R&B-soul singer Macy Gray and Bruce Springteen’s E Street Band saxophonist Jake Clemons (son of Clarence). There’s a total of 180 performances (165 are free) at 21 different venues at the festival which wraps up July 1.
Festival artistic director Josh Grossman said the move uptown last year from the previous downtown location of Nathan Phillips Square enabled organizers to expand their programming.
“So at Nathan Phillips Square, we were sort of restricted by various logistical challenges and restrictions,” he added.
“(In Yorkville), we started with a blank slate. Everyone was on the same page. Everyone understood this was a beneficial festival to have in their neighbourhood,” said Grossman. “We were able to program two outdoor stages (one at the Village of Yorkville Park and the other at Yorkville and Bellair on opening weekend before moving to Hazelton and Scollard for the rest of the festival), multiple indoor venues, between noon and 9:30 p.m. every day.
“So we had 10 shows a day in Yorkville whereas in the past at Nathan Phillips we’d have three. So suddenly we could program a lot more music, a greater variety of music, a greater variety of acts. So, it really opened up a lot of possibilities for us programming-wise.”
Among the highlights of ticketed shows are R&B-soul-pop and now jazz crooner Seal (June 23, Sony Centre), bluegrass artist Alison Krauss (June 25, Sony Centre), soul singer Bettye LaVette (June 25 at Koerner Hall in the Telus Centre for Performance) and veteran jazz keyboardist Herbie Hancock (June 29, Sony Centre).
While the majority of those artists might not say jazz to the casual listener, Grossman said the festival incorporates “jazz, jazz-influenced, and jazz-influencing music.”
Also new this year on June 22, Friday Night Live at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM), will see the museum transformed into a jazz club “through the ages,” according to Grossman.
For the festival’s entire schedule visit http://www.torontojazz.com.