July 2005

Workshops and Talkback
Workshop LoungeToronto
Report by Joyce Corbett with photo by Roger Humbert
This was the first year the Toronto Downtown Jazz Festival organized workshops and discussions to give festival-goers an insight into the music, a chance to meet some of the artists, and to ask them questions. There were two series. One was the Ken Page Memorial Trust Workshop Series hosted by Hal Hill. Hal is well-known to Toronto jazz fans and musicians through his life-long involvement with jazz as a broadcaster, record–store owner, festival organizer and more. The other series was Talkback, hosted by Jazz.FM91.

Rick Lazar

The workshops and Talkback took place at Nathan Phillips Square in the “Workshop Lounge”. A comfortable little spot with a bar, chairs, couches and shelter from the sun.

Rick Lazar’s “Having Fun with Riddum” on Friday, June 24 was the first of the Workshop series. Rick is a well-known percussionist and the leader of Samba Squad and Montuno Police. He also teaches percussion at York University and Latin ensemble at Humber College. For this workshop, he passed out plastic tubes of various colours and drumsticks to the participants. Those with red tubes were assigned one pattern to play, the purples another and so on. Everyone had great fun while learning something about what it takes to play percussion, how everyone’s percussion part fits together, how you must listen to where everyone else’s part fits in, yet not be swayed from your own and the underlying pulse that unifies all. And we were lucky to have a young bongo player from Mexico participate and solo over our beat.

On Saturday, when Rick Lazar played the 4:00 p.m. show with Montuno Police, he asked the audience to sing the same rhythmic phrase the participants sang in the workshop. Some of us felt a special connection.

During the festival there were interviews with people involved in various ways in the jazz world such as Workshop host Hal Hill himself, long-time broadcaster and jazz cruise organizer Ted O’Reilly, president and CEO of Jazz.FM91 Ross Porter, Larry Clothier (Roy Hargrove’s manager) plus discussions with and demonstrations by musicians such as trumpeter/composer/teacher John MacLeod, trumpeter/bandleader Nick Ali, pianist Thompson Egbo-Egbo, taiko drummer Kyoshi Nagata, saxophonist Mike Murley and bassist Victor Bateman.

What made some of the talks particularly interesting was their relevance to the evening’s feature performance. For example, vocalist and teacher Trish Colter talked about singing and what to listen for before Friday’s Real Divas show. Before Carlos del Junco and Dr. John’s show on Sunday, blues singer and guitarist Rita Chiarelli talked about her discovery of the blues and her trip to New Orleans to see Dr. John.

These two series seem to have been a success with the public, and I hope they will become a part of each year’s festival.

We welcome your comments and feedback
Joyce Corbett
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Roger Humbert
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