sunwing party plane

Sunwing is now famous for an influencer flight but the owner has roots in Toronto's jazz scene

Sunwing has been all over the news this past week for a raucous flight of influencers taking a trip from Montreal to Cancun but the story behind the owner of the Canadian travel company has roots in Toronto's jazz scene.

Colin Hunter is the founder, owner and chairman of the board of Sunwing Travel Group, one of the largest leisure travel companies in North America.

Together with his wife Joan Hunter and the founding general manager Sybil Walker, Colin Hunter gave Toronto a new venue to listen to live music back in 2013.

Jazz Bistro near Yonge and Dundas has built a reputation over the last eight years as the place to experience jazz in Toronto in a lavish supper club environment. It's an elegant experience unlike any other jazz venue in the city.

It's also where Colin Hunter can still be heard crooning classics such as "Come Fly With Me," "Call Me Irresponsible" and "I've Got You Under My Skin."

"My early favourites were Tony Bennett and Frank Sinatra, and the first song I recall loving was 'Because of You,' and I was about 13 years old," Hunter told blogTO. 

"When I was in university in India, I used to sing in the Entertainment District of [Mumbai] a few nights a month."

Hunter says he always loved singing, from karaoke for fun to a surprise serenade for his wife while vacationing on a luxury cruise. 

When he met pianist Joe Sealy at a mutual friend's wedding, it was the beginning of a long-standing musical partnership.

The two have been working together for more gigs than they can count, recording a dozen albums which can be heard as on-board entertainment on Sunwing flights.

Hunter has also toured internationally and prides himself on working with the best musicians in the business, most frequently with Sealy and the members of his quartet: Paul Novotny on bass, Daniel Barnes on drums and Alison Young on saxophone.

The inspiration behind Jazz Bistro is an opulent Montreal club called House of Jazz, where Hunter used to frequently perform until it closed in 2020.

When it came to designing the Jazz Bistro space, Hunter just "wrote the cheques" as his wife Joan oversaw construction, renovation and the branding of the massive 3-storey space. 

Inside there's a colour scheme of black and red with gold accents that gives Jazz Bistro its dark, cozy atmosphere. 

Recently, before the latest lockdown, new General Manager Ted Haberer introduced some new programming choices including late-night weekend jam sessions where the next generation of musicians are invited to congregate in style.

As for Hunter, he still performs regularly on stage at the venue, although his next performance will need to wait until live music is permitted in the province again.

Lead photo by

Ori Dagan of Colin Hunter performing with the Joe Sealy Quartet

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