A Look Back at

Sebastian Cook
A delicious dozen from ’07

I couldn’t in good musical conscience leave any of these shows off my “Best of 2007” list. I hope everyone reading this list enjoyed what was truly a spectacular year in the clubs and festivals for music in Toronto as much as I did.

1. Tinariwen @ The Mod Club, Toronto ( Nov. 20)
Even with only five members — three guitars, bass and djembe — Tinariwen electrified a sold-out Mod Club with their hauntingly ecstatic desert blues. These Tuareg rebels showed why they are considered one of the greatest experiences in world music today, and destined for legend. Seeing such a diverse, non-world music crowd pack a non world-music venue for a world-music show on a Tuesday night? Priceless.
> LMR report

2. Serena Ryder with Treassa Levasseur @ Hugh’s Room, Toronto (Mar. 8)
Never before has the very first note of a performance captured my attention quite like Serena Ryder, a once-in-a-generation voice, talent and charisma whose music spans four generations. Treassa Levasseur’s delightfully quirky songs were the perfect table-setter.
> LMR report

3. Amazones @ Lula Lounge, Toronto ( Sep. 23)
This powerhouse of female percussion from Guinea was the revelation of the 2007 Small World Music Festival. Lula Lounge rocked, stomped and swayed to their incredibly hypnotic rhythms all night long.

4. Pee Wee Ellis with Jason Wilson, Jay Douglas & Friends @ Hugh’s Room, Toronto (Aug 24)
James Brown’s most well-known arranger, Van Morrison's musical director and tenor sax powerhouse Pee Wee Ellis was the guest of honour for an amazingly rangeful night. It went from the reggae of Tabarruk, to Ellis’ brainy, brawny funk, then Wilson leading some stunningly reminiscent versions of Morrison classics and finally to Douglas’ JBesque soul belting. The genuine joy on the faces of the musicians at the end of the night said it all.
> LMR report

5. Bryan Vargas & Ya Esta! Canada! @ Trane Studio, Toronto (Mar. 23)
After a night to get acquainted the night before, the New York-based guitarist and his drummer Matt Baranello got down and tight with old friend Sundar Viswanathan and new friend Brownman. This new septet laid down an astonishing display of pan-Latin jazz/funk — Puerto Rican, Cuban, Colombian and Brazilian with that NYC spirit.

6. Soweto Gospel Choir @ Hummingbird Centre, Toronto (Feb. 27)
Most every single one of the approximately 25 of these men and women can sing, dance and drum without missing a beat. Practically every single one of the female soloists sent a chill of inspiration down my spine. Hearing this Choir made me appreciate anew just how vital music is to South Africa’s soul.
> LMR report

7. Folklore Urbano @ Lula Lounge, Toronto (Jan. 12)
Pablo Mayor and his 11-piece NYC cumbia-jazz explosion Folklore Urbano put on the first great Lula show of 2007, helped by local horn connection Brownman (trumpet), Marcus Ali (bari sax) and Bernardo Padron (tenor sax). It was truly impressive to witness music so clearly challenging to play yet so enjoyable to hear.
> LMR report

8. Kevin Breit with Harry Manx In Good We Trust CD release @ Hugh’s Room, Toronto (Apr. 13)
The banter between the young maestro Breit and the sage hippie Manx was so natural I could almost see a joint being passed between them. The music was just as second nature. With Manx the “Mysticsippi” on his custom-made sitar and Breit working electric and acoustic guitars like a guitarist, keyboardist and drummer all in one, these two create a new roots sound all their own.
> LMR report

9. Sundar’s Induswest Project Hope & Infinity CD release @ Trane Studio, Toronto (May 11)
Finally, after almost two years, we gathered one of the best pound-for-pound jazz ensembles in Canada to celebrate Toronto-based saxophonist Sundar Viswanathan’s masterpiece of jazz and Indian classical fusion. The house was packed with a happy and impressively diverse vibe that in the words of DJ Goldfinger made Trane feel like it was New York City.
> LMR report

10. Fortuna Prisco Duo @ Lula Lounge, Toronto (Jun. 12)
I had the honour of presenting the very first Canadian club show of New York’s “Rapping Reverend” Father Stan Fortuna. Joined by New Jersey guitarist Peter Prisco, Father Stan showed why he plays music in the name of a higher calling. His vocal prowess is equally as stunning.

11. Ernest Ranglin @ Harbourfront Centre, Toronto (Aug. 5)
A gorgeous summer Sunday afternoon at Harbourfront was the perfect setting for the Jamaican guitar legend, backed by Toronto’s Jason Wilson and an all-star band. He put the “roots” back in “roots rock reggae” — such snappily funky, effortless playing.

12. Rob Brown Trio @ Trane Studio, Toronto (Jun. 4)
The legendary bassist William Parker was what had me most excited about seeing the NYC alto saxophonist and this trio that Ron Gaskin of Rough Idea brought to Trane Studio on a steamy Monday night. I left having been most floored by the inventive and charismatic drummer Gerald Cleaver.

We welcome your comments and feedback
Sebastian Cook
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