Toronto Jazz Festival 2015

10 must-see shows at the Toronto Jazz Festival 2015

The 28th annual Toronto Jazz Festival kicks off with a rat-a-tat today, bringing hundreds of jazz, blues, funk, world and fusion performers to 54 venues in and around the city until June 29th. This year's fest offers a solid amount of free public programming in addition to paid concerts.

Here are my top picks for shows at this year's Toronto Jazz Fest.

George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic / Friday June 19 / Nathan Phillips Square / 9PM / Free
Depending on how old you are, this is either the man who revolutionized funk or the guy who Snoop Dogg ripped off. He's been creating hits since the 70s, is one of the most sampled artists of all time and always puts on a good show. We need the funk.

Count Basie Orchestra / Sunday June 21 / Nathan Phillips Square / 8:30PM / Advance $43.50
One of the most renowned big bands of all time, the Count Basie Orchestra is a musical experience we don't usually get to witness in Toronto. Get transported back to the heyday of swing with the tight sounds of some of America's best jazz musicians.

Branford Marsalis / Wednesday June 24 / St. Lawrence Centre / 8:00PM / Advance $65.50
It ain't a jazz fest unless there's a Marsalis in the mix. If classic New Orleans jazz is your thing, come to this show and you'll be bragging about seeing the Branford Marsalis Quartet for years to come.

The Boxcar Boys / Wednesday June 24 / The Painted Lady / 8:00PM / $5.00 cover
This Toronto-based fusion of gypsy, old-style jazz, klezmer and folk music is fun, intimate and quirky. Come to The Painted Lady wearing your finest Dixieland era outfit and enter a simpler time.

Booker T. Jones / Wednesday June 24 / Nathan Phillips Square / 8:30PM / Advance $34.00
Booker T is one of the greats, and revolutionizing blues and soul music will forever be his legacy. Here to perform songs from his most recent album Sound The Alarm (and no doubt classics like Green Onions), Booker T is proud to present some of contemporary R&B's most gifted young voices, including opener Shakura S'aida.

Christine Jensen Jazz Orchestra / Thursday June 25 / Nathan Phillips Square / 12:30PM / Free
Montreal-based jazz composer and saxophonist Christine Jensen is joined by her sister Ingrid in this free lunchtime performance that is sure to be the highlight of your workday. Described as one of Canada's most compelling composers, her orchestra showcases a classic and complex jazz style that sounds full of lively improvisation while being smooth and introspective.

Lula All Stars / Thursday June 25 / Shops at Don Mills / 7:00PM / Free
Toronto's Lula Lounge is host to many a salsa dance party, and this free show features the best musicians to have graced that stage. This multicultural salsa big band performs original, all-Canadian salsa compositions for a high-energy crowd.

Malika Tirolien / Friday June 26 / Nathan Phillips Square / 6:30PM / Free
One of the top picks from last year's fest, Guadeloupean singer-songwriter Malika Tirolien is back, this time with members of her highly acclaimed Montreal group Groundfood and artist collective Kalmunity. Known for their collaborative style and improvisational jazz-funk hip-hop fusion sound, I'm not sure what's going to happen, but I do know it's going to be awesome.

Raoul and the Big Time / Saturday June 27 / Nathan Phillips Square / 6:30PM / Free
Raoul brought the history of the blues to Theatre Passe Muraille last fall for his concert-theatre hybrid Life, Death and the Blues. His playful homage to the greats results in a Canadian version of American blues. This show is a good bet for families, swing dancers and lovebirds alike.

Gary Clark Jr. / Saturday June 27 / Nathan Phillips Square / 8:30PM / Advance $59.50
Grammy award winning blues singer and guitarist Gary Clark Jr., originally from Austin Texas, is touring extensively this summer, much to the delight of big crowds everywhere.

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

Writing by Evelyn Shaller-Auslander / Photo by Beaver on the Beats via Flickr.

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