After more than a quarter century of bringing jazz, blues and world music to the heart of the Beach, the 26th edition of the Beaches International Jazz Festival is due for some changes.
This year the main stage moves to Woodbine Park for two full weekends, book-ending street fest, one of the city’s longest musical block parties. Also returning is the Taste of Jazz, two days of food trucks and live music leading up to the main event.
The full schedule covers from Friday, July 18 to Sunday, July 27, kicking off with the first weekend of main stage shows at Woodbine Park.
Friday, July 18 kicks off the festival with Toronto funk crew KC Roberts and the Live Revolution, followed by Jamaican-born, Toronto-based Jay Douglas.
Saturday, July 19 kicks off with Andria Simone, The Ault Sisters and Amoy Levy, followed by longtime street fest favourite Dr. Draw’s high energy violin-based sound. Canadian bluesman Paul James is up next, followed by headliners Dumpstaphunk, led by Ivan Neville, son of Aaron Neville.
Sunday, July 20 will see Johannes Linstead lead off the day, followed by Soul Stew, Jordan Patterson and, closing off the opening weekend, Long Shen Dao, China’s first reggae band.
All three days will feature opening performances on the youth stage by Discovery Through the Arts Combos, featuring local young musicians. A full lineup of performers will also play the secondary Party Island Stage throughout the weekend.
The second annual Taste of Jazz will bring the best gourmet food trucks in town to Woodbine Park on Tuesday and Wednesday, July 22 and 23. Both evenings will feature music from Irene Torres and the Sugar Devils, and the Toronto All-Star Big Band.
The next night, street fest begins. Running from 6 to 11 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, July 24 to 26, the festival tradition will close down Queen Street East from Woodbine to Beech with dozens of bands rotating on 45 minute time slot, providing the soundtrack to a huge block party that attracts hundreds of thousands of music lovers every year.
Keep an ear out for local acts Sara B and the Booth Boyz, the Seagull All-Stars, Blue Room, and Gruvoria.
The main stage at Woodbine Park will come back to life on Friday, July 25 as well. Ron Littlejohn and the Funk Embassy will get the party started for Friday headliners and Ontario reggae legends Messenjah.
Saturday will see the Toronto Mass Choir, Barbra Lica, Who Stole the Cookies?, Oakland Stroke and Teeny Tucker keep the music pumping.
Sunday, July 27, closing day of the festival, will kick off with Hotfoot Orchestra, followed by Michelle Willson and the Evil Gal Festival Orchestra. Festival music director Bill King’s Rhythm Express will return, followed by the multi-lingual Shakura S’Aida. Rising stars Trampled Under Foot will close out the main stage with the only Canadian appearance on their current tour.
The Latin Square side stage also offers a full lineup of performers over the course of the weekend.
Also on deck this year are multiple workshops and the annual Beaches Jazz Fun Run, benefiting Rotary International, the Toronto East General Hospital Foundation and the Canadian Running Series.
All concerts are free. For the full schedule and information on workshops and the run, see beachesjazz.com.