What’s Hot at the Toronto Jazz Festival June 22-24, 2012

Bettye Lavette, photo Toronto Jazz Festival
Bettye Lavette, photo Toronto Jazz Festival
Bettye Lavette, photo Toronto Jazz Festival
Bettye Lavette, photo Toronto Jazz Festival

The Toronto Jazz Festival opens for its 10-day run on Friday, June 22, 2012 with sizzling performances at its Toronto Star Stage at Nathan Phillips Square, as well as other jazz festival venues including the Distillery District and The Shops at Don Mills. Some of this weekend’s highlights includes performances, many of which are free, at the following venues:

Toronto Jazz Festival – Friday, June 22, 2012

Slip out of work and immediately slip into some cool vibes reminiscent of the Cotton Club, courtesy of the Brian Barlow Big Band who will be performing Duke Ellington classics at the Outdoor Stage at Nathan Phillips Square. This free concert starts at 5 p.m. on the opening day of the jazz festival and features a big brass sound of trumpet, trombone, saxophone and French horn in addition to piano, bass and drums.

If you’re uptown, you can check out a free concert by the Shuffle Demons at the Shops at Don Mills starting at 8 p.m. on Friday, June 22. The Demons have street band roots that led to a MuchMusic hit in the 80s, “Spadina Bus.”

Toronto Jazz Festival – Saturday, June 23, 2012

Bettye LaVette is sure to rock the house at the Toronto Star Stage at Nathan Phillips Square. Performing at 8 p.m., LaVette began her career in the sixties recording several R&B hits, performed on Broadway with Cab Calloway in Bubbling Brown Sugar, recorded I’ve Got My Own Hell To Raise, which was nominated for a Grammy award and more recently, performed Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come” with Jon Bon Jovi at the Obama Inaugural Celebration at Lincoln Memorial. Tickets for Bettye LaVette are $30 and can be purchased at Ticketmaster. The Big Sound opens.

Toronto Jazz Festival – Sunday, June 24, 2012

Jazz guitarist Mike Stern, photo Toronto Jazz Festival
Mike Stern, photo Toronto Jazz Festival

Tailor-made for jazz music, the Distillery District hosts several free performances during the Toronto Jazz Festival including the Boxcar Boys who perform at noon on Sunday at the Distillery District’s Main Stage. This New-Orleans-style band features members from Toronto who embrace Dixieland, old jazz and folk music and whose instruments include clarinet, trombone, sousaphone, fiddle and accordion.

With six Grammy nominations in tow, the jazz-fusion-influenced Mike Stern Band performs on Sunday evening at the Horseshoe Tavern at 9 p.m. Stern, played guitar with Blood, Sweat and Tears in the seventies then focused on jazz guitar and joined Miles Davis’s Band in 1981. His 2009 CD, Big Neighbourhood, was nominated for the Grammy award for Best Contemporary Jazz Album. Tickets are $24 at Ticketmaster.