May 2006

Art of Jazz
Performance. Education. Cultivation.
May 17 – 21, 2006The Distillery Historic DistrictToronto
More than Concerts
by Joyce Corbett with photo by Roger Humbert
The title of the program reads "Art of Jazz. Performance. Education. Cultivation". On the back? “The Art of Jazz is a non-profit organization, dedicated to jazz education and performance.” The 2006 Art of Jazz Celebration is their inaugural 'festival'.

There is more to this jazz festival than concerts, there is a whole jazz culture being celebrated and nurtured. Most of the musicians who are a part of this festival are staying around for at least a few days, many for the entire five. The conditions are set for camaraderie, creativity and collaboration. It is a chance to renew old friendships and to form new ones.

The public has the opportunity to gain new insights into the music, seeing musicians in different contexts and playing with different people in different settings within a short space of time. To give just one example, Sheila Jordan is giving an educational clinic, performing a concert in the duo series with bass player Cameron Brown and singing with the Art of Jazz Orchestra for their debut performance on Sunday night.

Larry Cramer & Jane Bunnett
This year there are two tribute concerts, one honouring pianist / bassist / vibraphonist and jazz educator Don Thompson and one honouring pianist and jazz educator Barry Harris. This is the pattern planned for the future. Every year, two musicians will be invited and celebrated for their important contributions to the music as both musicians and educators. One will be Canadian and one will be from outside Canada.
Other paid concerts this year feature such well-known musicians as Dave Holland, Kenny Barron, Hank Jones, Rashied Ali, Sonny Fortune and more. There is an Afro-Cuban jazz and dance night, “Salsa Meets Jazz” and free concerts on the patios and in the courtyards of the historic, pedestrian-only part of Toronto known as the Distillery District. There is also a show and a hands-on music workshop for children.

The Distillery District is a wonderful environment for a music festival with its art galleries (oh yes, there is also photographer Brian Naimer’s jazz photography exhibit) and red-brick streets. It would be nice to see more art exhibits centred on jazz in the future, maybe some paintings as well as other photographers and some historical exhibits.

Something else that would be appreciated? On a more practical note, more reasonably-priced places to eat. Six dollar hotdogs and restaurants with entrees starting at $19 are a bit steep if you’re a music student or if you’re hanging out at the festival for a few days.

This year’s “festival” will conclude on Sunday night with the debut performance of the Art of Jazz Orchestra, the first step in making the vision of a Canadian National Jazz Orchestra become a reality. As one of the founding members of the Art of Jazz, Jane Bunnett says, there are at least five military bands supported by the Canadian government, why not a national jazz orchestra?

We welcome your comments and feedback
Joyce Corbett
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Roger Humbert
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The Live Music Report
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© The Live Music Report – 2006