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The top 5 shows to see at the Toronto Jazz Festival 2014

Posted by Jacob Thompson / June 18, 2014

toronto jazz festivalThe Toronto Jazz Festival is the next summer music fest in line for Toronto, running June 19th-28th. This year`s star studded line-up is filled with over 350 artists playing at 50 different venues including Nathan Phillips Square, The Rex, Kool Haus, and Roy Thomson Hall.

The festival operates under a pay-per-show format with some bars charging cover while larger acts operate through Ticketmaster or their respective venue`s website. This is the festival`s 27th year, with alumnus including Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Sonny Rollins, Ray Charles, and Aretha Franklin.

Here are my picks for 5 must-see shows at the 2014 TD Toronto Jazz Festival.

Earth, Wind and Fire / Tuesday June 24 / Sony Centre / 8PM
The group that has spanned four decades and over forty members is the unofficial headliner of the Jazz Fest this year. Known for their colorful performances and combination of 70s funk, r&b, and jazz, Earth, Wind, and Fire are widely thought of as one of the most influential bands of the 20th century. Their impressive horn section demands attention while Phillip Bailey`s infectious falsetto has inspired people to sing out of tune for decades.

Snarky Puppy / Monday June 23 / The Horseshoe Tavern / 10pm
This Brooklyn based, Texan born fusion band has gained quite a following in its ten years of existence. Snarky Puppy use a variety of instrumentation from guitars, keyboards, horns, and drums to form a sound often described as world music but definitely born of a jazz backbone. Their notoriety for rich and complex soundscapes have attracted the attention of collaborators such as Justin Timberlake, Erykah Badu, and Snoop Dogg.

Bobby McFerrin / Friday June 27 / Nathan Phillips Square - Toronto Star Stage / 8pm
The genius behind Big Mouth Billy Bass`s hit single comes to Toronto as part of his spirityouall tour. McFerrin`s brand of performance usually includes an interactive portion as well as some acapellas - McFerrin is able to manipulate his voice to create a polyphonic sound, often by beating his chest simultaneously. This, coupled with his incredible vocal range and musical intellect make him one of the more unique acts this year.

Keith Jarrett / Wednesday June 25 / Roy Thomson Hall / 8pm
This former Miles Davis collaborator has carved out a very long and illustrious career for himself on the piano, leaving his mark on a variety of different projects. This year, Jarrett will play a solo piano set in the historical and classy confines of Roy Thomson Hall. However, word is, the man prefers a quiet arena so if you don`t like coughs and murmurs interrupting your experience this may be the show for you.

Big Sam`s Funky Nation & Galactic / Monday June 23 / Nathan Phillips Square - Star Stage / 8pm
These New Orleans staples play a jammy type of a jazz that inspires images of Bourbon Street. Big Sam`s Funky Nation is centered around trombone player "Big Sam" Williams who not only plays a mean trombone but is also a recurring character on HBO`s Treme as himself. Like Big Sam, Galactic plays a mix of funk and jazz with loads of energy and stage presence. In recent years, Galactic has experimented with new styles such as hip-hop to infuse with their classic New Orleans style.

What did I miss? Add your Jazz Festival picks to the comments below.

The Toronto Jazz Festival runs from June 19-28 2014. Writing by Jacob Thompson. Photo via Snarky Puppy on Facebook.



Brendan B / June 18, 2014 at 12:19 pm
No love for Gregory Porter? Not only is he a recent Grammy winner for Best Vocal Jazz album, he actually deserved to win. Serious player.
Webster replying to a comment from Brendan B / June 18, 2014 at 02:05 pm
I want to underscore Brendan's point. Gregory Porter is seriously good live; his recordings do not do him, nor his band, justice.

Thanks for the list, BlogTO. I'm very excited to finally see McFerrin live.
Joe Q. / June 18, 2014 at 04:04 pm
About Keith Jarrett: "word is, the man prefers a quiet arena" -- the understatement of the century.

Jarrett is a brilliant musician but has a reputation for interrupting his own songs to publicly rebuke those fidget or take pictures during a performance. God help you if you cough. He is known to walk off the stage if conditions do not meet his needs. (He once forced organizers of an Italian jazz festival to turn off all stage lights for an evening show because he had seen someone take a cell-phone picture of him as he came onto the stage. His trio played the whole set in the dark.)

He's a brilliant musician, but good luck to those who choose to attend his concert in person.
Grampa / June 18, 2014 at 05:43 pm
I was at the Keith Jarret trio concert at the Four Seasons Centre a couple years ago. Although he didn't say much, he was very polite and did not express any ire toward the audience, despite some coughers. The trio played a very lengthy encore, which was great.

I think the whole reputation about him demanding silence from the audience is exaggerated. Italian audiences are notoriously loud and rude, so the whole thing about the concert in the dark (which is true) shouldn't be a strike against the man (who is indeed brilliant).
Toronto Jim / June 18, 2014 at 10:14 pm
I am pretty sure it is Galactic and Big Sam.
Go to this it is going to be one of the best shows at the Jazzfest this year but their are a ton of other acts that are great this year. 5 is just scrapping the cream off the top.
You could have had 20 and their would be more to add.
Toronto Jim replying to a comment from Toronto Jim / June 18, 2014 at 10:21 pm
Nice video of Big Sam just watched it.
From the French Quarter Festival one of the best events New Orleans has and free as well.
Musica / June 18, 2014 at 10:59 pm
Brad Mehldau and Mark Guiliana aka Mehliana should be awesome. Also, Snarky Puppy is all sold out.
David / June 19, 2014 at 09:13 am
good list BlogTO. Gregory Porter just blew the roof off the Manitoba Theatre Centre last night. after the show, he came out and signed CD's and mingled with us common folk. i highly suggest people make him their 6th must see show.
tammy terrific / June 19, 2014 at 11:01 am
Remember when the Jazz fest used to offer us at least a couple good FREE concerts per year?

The government/ our taxes give the jazz fest money as does which ever is the current corporate sponsor.

Shouldn't the city at least get something other than added congestion?
Toronto Jim replying to a comment from tammy terrific / June 19, 2014 at 05:27 pm
Any show at the tent at Nathan Phillips Square is basically free from outside the tent. Just thought I would throw that out their. Just get their early enough with your own seat and you get a pretty good view for free.
Jason Jones replying to a comment from Toronto Jim / June 20, 2014 at 12:53 pm
As an expat from NOLA, I can promise you, ain't nobody too much better than Galactic and Big Sam.
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