The 2012 Toronto Jazz Festival opens this Friday, June 22, with 1,500 musicians performing more than 350 concerts over 10 days. CBC Music asked artistic director Josh Grossman to sketch out an overview.
I'm especially excited this year about the balance between seasoned veterans (musicians who have shaped jazz of the past several decades) and emerging artists (the musicians who are taking jazz in new directions). You're just as likely this year to see artists like Esperanza Spalding, the Bad Plus, Robert Glasper or Kurt Rosenwinkel on our main stages as you are to see more familiar faces like Roy Hargrove, Natalie Cole, George Benson and John Pizzarelli.
For me, what sets us apart is the outstanding local jazz scene. The Greater Toronto Area is home to at least four outstanding post-secondary jazz programs, and the musicians who teach there and play on the scene are some of the best in Canada, if not North America. During the festival, you can see these amazing musicians leading bands of their own, but also performing alongside the acclaimed international artists who come to town.
The Incubator at The Music Gallery, a series specifically designed to push musical boundaries, and encourage creativity, experimentation and collaboration. The five-concert series is a great way to discover musicians from home and abroad who are playing some of the most interesting music around.
Also, all the outstanding local and Canadian musicians performing at the festival deserve much more attention.
Come for the festival, stay for other cultural activities
As someone who works in the arts, I find that the diversity and quality of cultural activity happening throughout the year in Toronto is amazing. I don't get to as much as I'd like, but it's always inspiring to read the listings of what's happening around town each week. As a nature lover (and a new dad), I love the variety of green spaces (and playgrounds) available throughout the city – Leslie Spit, the Riverdale Farm, and even our local Phin Park make up an important part of our outdoor activity.
From the memory banks
One of the more moving moments I experienced was in 2009, the year before I started as artistic director, when the festival brought together Rob McConnell and the Boss Brass for one more free show under the tent. The Boss Brass was a staple for me growing up – I would be sure to catch their show each year at the festival as a student even before deciding to pursue jazz at university. So to see them on stage – and to hear the familiar arrangements – one last time was quite an experience.
• CBC Music's 2012 festival guide
• SPF '12: Summer preview of jazz and world music festivals
on Jun 22, 2012