Entertainment: Beaches Jazz Festival and more

The 23rd annual Beaches International Jazz Festival will be offering great music at a number of different venues this summer, including Woodbine Park, Kew Gardens Bandshell, stages set up along the Boardwalk, as well as the popular street venues when Queen Street is closed to car traffic and transformed into one long jumping entertainment mall.
The Beaches International Jazz Festival has grown in popularity since Lido Chilelli kicked it off in 1989. Recently the Festival has expanded to include the weekend of July 15 to 17 at Woodbine Park. The weekend kicks off at 6 p.m. Friday when The Mighty Pope steps onto the TD Main Stage. The Mighty Pope burst onto the Canadian music scene in the 1970s with his sultry voice, enticing stage presence, and mix of soul, R&B, and disco sound. He will be joined for this performance by Gergus Hambleton and Elisa Gould.

Carole Pope

Carole Pope (no relation) follows at 7:30 p.m. As the lead singer of Rough Trade, Carole Pope blazed her own musical trail. She has won three Juno Awards, as well as a Genie Award. Her song High School Confidential broke new ground when it debuted on the charts, and Pope continues to break new ground in this, her fifth decade in pop music
At 9 p.m. Luis Mario Ochoa & Cimarrón take the stage to finish the night. This Cuban-born bandleader Has been a popular Toronto performer since he came to Canada in 1990.
Saturday kicks off with Anne Lindsay at noon. Lindsay’s celtic-rooted fiddle playing incorporates jazz influences to create a mix of styles that won her Violinist of the Year at the 2007 National Jazz Awards.
At 1:30 Diana Braithwaite and Chris Whitely bring their mix of the dynamic blues singing and multi-instrumental talent that has recorded three CDs.
The Yoel Diaz Quartet follow at 3:30 with some more great Cuban-inspired music from this jazz prodigy. Then at 5:30 Raoul & The Big Time Big Band, the 2007 NOW Magazine’s Best Blues Artist, bring their sound to the stage. Planet Earth, one of Toronto’s vanguards of funk revival perform at 7, and rounding off the evening will be Big Sam’s Funky Nation starting at 8:30. This driving urban funk band features contagious dance sounds from world-class musicians
On Sunday, July 17 Yiannis Kapoulas, a versatile instrumentalist, and unique world music artist takes the stage at noon to start the day’s entertainment, followed at 1:30 by Terry Gillespie. Gillespie studied the blues in his native Michigan, moved to Ottawa in 1968, and has been been cranking it out ever since. At 3, Kal David & the Real Deal joins the Chicago blues stylings of David with soul singer Lauri Bono.
Then at 5 p.m. legendary Canadian idol Andy Kim wraps up the weekend’s entertainment. Just 16 when he recorded How’d We Ever Get This Way, this award-winning singer songwriter continues to wow fans with his seventh studio recording Happen Again.
While you’re in Woodbine Park this weekend be sure to wander over to the New Generation Stage to catch up and coming acts like Quincy Bullen Band, Vanessa Marie Carter, Countermeasure, Michael Schatte Band, JP Saxe Band, Larra Skye, Emmerson Street Rhythm Band and The HeavyWeight Brass Band.
Then go over to The Youth Stage to hear young jazz and blues artists such as Generation (Jazz), Jazz in the City Workshop Combos, Elevated Grounds and GTA Honour Combos. These are all young jazz musicians, some making their performance debut. Show them some support now; you’ll soon be paying  big ticket prices to hear them!

The ever-popular StreetFest portion of the Beaches International Jazz Festival begins Thursday, July 21 when Queen Street is closed to vehicular traffic from Woodbine to Beech, from 7 to 11 p.m. and musicians perform at almost every street corner along Queen, while thousands of music lovers stroll the crowded street. For three nights you can take in the wide variety of performances from such bands as Dr. Draw, the Blackboard Blues Band, Dr. Nick & the Roller Coasters, Sambacana, Puente Del Diablo, Seagull All Stars, Mississauga Big Band, the Brian Rose Little Big Band, Fathead, Shrimp Daddy & The Sharpshooters, and Cache to name but a few. Many stores will remain open for shopping during the evening, and there will be many street vendors. Be sure to purchase Beaches International Jazz Festival merchandise since proceeds go towards support of Toronto East General Hospital.

On Saturday, July 23, on the OLG Stage in Kew Gardens the first of the day’s concerts begins at 11 a.m. when The Iroko Project takes the stage. The Iroko Project is a Afro-Cuban rooted jazz band that has cultivated a loyal following from their rich dynamic performances.
Following them is the husband and wife singer-songwriting team of Marc Jordan and Amy Sky. Jordan has established his reputation as one of Canada’s premier songwriters, having penned numerous songs for Rod Stewart (Rhythm of my Heart), Cher, Natalie Cole and Bette Midler. He appeared in Score:A Hockey Musical, and is part of the band Lunch at Allen’s. Amy Sky’s two albums are both Juno-nominated and she has appeared in her own CTV special Songs of the Heart.
Pavlo is a young guitarist who has mastered a fusion of Latin flare and traditional Greek music. His soundtracks and CDs have been nominated for several Juno awards, and he has built a loyal following.
The Duke Robillard Band follows with their brand of blues that has earned them nominations for Canadian Maple Blues and Grammys, as well as back-up duty for Bob Dylan and Tom Waits.
Rounding up the afternoon’s entertainment is Lisa Haley and the Zydecats who bring the uplifting sounds of Zydeco, Cajun, Louisiana Bayou, French Celtic, R&B and Jazz to the stage. Haley has contributed music to several popular movie soundtracks (Waterboy) and has worked with such greats as Randy Newman and Lyle Lovett.
Sunday morning’s concerts begin with Beach guitarist Lucian Gray. This young musician is currently studying at the renowned Berklee School of Music, and has assembled a band of young up and coming musicians for this gig.
Following Gray is The Boxcar Boys, another group of young musicians who have been gathering a loyal following with their blend of New Orleans jazz and Klezmer sounds. They will be playing selections from their newly-re leased CD Don’t Be Blue.
Rockit 88 is the name of Beaches Jazz Festival’s artistic director Bill King’s latest band. Pared down from his legendary Saturday Nite Fish Fry, Rockit 88 has won Maple Blues Awards and Juno nominations for their CD Sweet Sugar Cane.
The Lionel Young Band features the dazzling talents of Lionel Young who plays guitar and violin as well as carries the lead vocals. Their CD As The Sun Goes Down featured a contemporary twist on traditional blues classics. They are hard at work on a second CD which they will no doubt be testing on their fans.
Rounding out the Sunday concert in Kew Gardens is Red Baraat, “the epitome of a global band.” Red Baraat features a mix of North Indian Bhangra rhythms, funk, Latin and jazz delivered through “blistering performances.” Their CDs Chaal Baby was released to critical success, and fans are eagerly awaiting the 2012 release of Shruggy Ji.

A new feature of the Beaches International Jazz Festival are the Latin Square Concerts to be held at the foot of Lee Avenue beside the Leuty Lifeguard Station. The music kicks off at 2 p.m. on Friday (July 22) with Un Poco Latino, followed by Conjunto La Ca Lú, and La Sonora Habanera. Saturday sees La Tipica Hispana take the stage at noon followed by Los Salsomanos, El Swing de Azuris and Son Aché. Then on Sunday the New Tradition Percussion Workshop starts things off, followed by CaneFire, Miko Sobeira, and Salsokita.

If you are a fan of big band swing then you’ll want to head down to the boardwalk across from the Leuty to catch acts performing on The Big Band Stage. The George Lake Big Band performs Friday at 3 p.m. Saturday sees Bee’s Knees Dance begin at noon, followed by The George Lake Big Band, The Big Smoke Big Band and The Swing Shift Band. Sunday, beginning at noon as well is Bee’s Knees Dance again, followed by The Jazz Mechanics, and The Swing Shift Band.

The TD Music Workshop and Lecture Series was popular last year with many attending. This year sees the return of Heather Bambrick’s Vocal Jazz Bootcamp, July 18 from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Mennonite New Life Centre, 1774 Queen St. E. Also on Monday evening Joaquin Nunez Hidalgo will conduct a Latin Percussion Workshop, same location in the lower level. On July 18, in the church hall of Corpus Christi Church, 1810 Queen St. E. there will be a Latin Dance workshop conducted by Betty Colón.
Doug Pipher will conduct a workshop called All You Ever Wanted to Know About The Saxophone July 19 at the Mennonite New Life Centre lower level. In the sanctuary Steve McNie will be running a workshop on that newly popular instrument-of-the-people, the ukulele.
On Wednesday July 20 the Mennonite New Life Centre will be the venue for the Second City Toronto Comedy Improv Workshop held by Artistic Director Kevin Frank. In the Church Hall of Corpus Christi Church Francisco and Elmarie of Touravail Dance will be conducting a workshop on Swing Dance.
All these workshops are free to attend, but require registration. To register email programs@beachesjazz.com.

So, as you can see, the Beaches International Jazz Festival has music for every taste, along with a chance to learn and participate in the festivities. Keep in mind that Queen Street will be closed to vehicular traffic the evenings of July 21 to 23 from approximately 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. There will be breaks in the mall crowd to allow cars to cross Queen at various cross streets. It is advised to take the TTC down to the event, or park in the large lots behind the Beaches Cinema. All the music performances are free.
For more information visit the website at www.beachesJazz.com. I hope to see you there.

Celebrate Canada Day (July 1) in Woodbine Park taking in the Red White & Vinyl Festival, sponsored by Brava and Vinyl 95.3FM. Starting at noon the Red White & Vinyl Festival will bring you stellar entertainment by some of Canada’s most recognized acts, including Dan Hill, Lighthouse, Andy Kim, Brass Transit, and Alannah Myles.
There will be a Family Fun Zone, a Disco Dance Party, and of course beginning just as the sun sets, Toronto’s largest fireworks display. And everything is free! For a complete schedule of events visit www.vinyl953.com.

John-Michael Erlendson gave his first performance at four months as the youngest member of The Sphere Clown Band. He continued his musical interests singing in the choir of Beaches Alternative School, and in the Wereld Kinderfestival in Holland.
Now, as a young man John-Michael Erlendson has formed Countermeasure A Cappella, Toronto’s newest vocal ensemble dedicated to “the creation and performance of innovative, diverse and sophisticated Canadian compositions.” Led by Aaron Jensen (Cadence), Countermeasure A Cappella brings a repertoire of eclectic, eccentric and challenging pieces ranging in style from jazz to pop to contemporary.
Countermeasure A Cappella will be making two appearances in the Beach area this summer. The first will be at Ten Feet Tall, 1381 Danforth (416-778-7333) on July 9  from 8 to 11 p.m. Then the group will be part of the Beaches International Jazz Festival July 16, 2:30 p.m., at Woodbine Park on the New Generation Stage. For more information contact Sphere Entertainment at 416-461-1844, or visit www.sphereentertainment.com.

Michael Hughes will be starring in his own one-man show Mickey & Judy as part of the Toronto 2011 Fringe Festival, at the Tarragon Theatre Extraspace, 30 Bridgman Ave.
Mickey & Judy is a hilarious, pseudo-memoir chronicling Hughes’ childhood obsession with musical theatre. Full of comical anecdotes about childhood crossdressing and channelling Judy Garland, Mickey & Judy features tunes from the tragic chanteuse’s songbook.
Hughes has recently appeared as the lead vocalist in the National Ballet of Canada’s West Side Story Suite, and was part of the David Foster & Friends North American Tour. His self-titled CD won a 2010 Toronto Independent Music Award (and was reviewed here).
Mickey & Judy runs July 8 through 17, at the Tarragon Theatre Extraspace. For times visit www.fringetoronto.com. Tickets are $11 in advance (see website) or $10 at the door.

The Scarborough Players brings a little of the bawdy old west to the East End with its production of Norm Foster’s Jenny’s House of Joy, at the Scarborough Village Theatre, 3600 Kingston Rd., July 7-9, 14-16, 21-23.
Jenny’s House of Joy is a whorehouse in 1871 Baxter, Kansas. Business is usual until a young woman named Natalie shows up looking for work. Normally eager to hire new talent, Jenny is not sure if the young, well-educated and innocent Natalie is going to fit in with the other girls, and their clients. It turns out Natalie is not as naive as she appears. Jenny’s House of Joy presents feisty, sexy, intelligent professional women with a “vivacious and provocative” sense of humour.
Jenny’s House of Joy stars Anna Maria Lo Bianco, Shelley Mitchell, Alyssa Quart (as Jenny), Paula Wilkie, and Jessica Grosdanof (as Natalie). It is directed by Mark Nathanielsz. Norm Foster is one of Canada’s most produced playwrights having written such works as The Melville Boys, Self Help, and Ethan Claymore.
Tickets for Jenny’s House of Joy are $17 for adults, and $14 for seniors and students, and are available by calling the Box Office at 416-267-9292, or on line at www.theatrescarborough.com. (Quote the code JHJB for a $3 discount).
Jenny’s House of Joy runs every evening at 8 p.m., with a 2 p.m. matinée on July 17 and 23. There will also be a post-show cast talk-back session on July 17 and July 21. This play contains mature content.
For more information visit www.theatrescarborough.com

Beach actor, dancer, and singer, Jillian Rees-Brown, is excited to have joined the cast of the popular musical, Billy Elliot, as a member of the ensemble now that the show has been held over through the summer.
Rees-Brown has performed on stage in several roles over the years – Shirley Valentine, Sexy Laundry, Potato People, The Boy Who Could Sing Pictures, and the Toronto production of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Jillian has done film and television work, appearing in  Harlan County, The One that Got Away, and Blues Brothers 2000.
People in this area may recognize Jillian best as a member of Daughters of the Rock (www.daughtersoftherock.com), an a capella folk trio billed as “ambassadors of Newfoundland and Labrador culture.”
Billy Elliot The Musical, runs through Sept. 3, at the Canon Theatre, 244 Victoria Street. Tickets are $36 to $130, and are available by calling TicketKing at 416-872-1212, or online at www.mirvish.com. For more information on the play visit www.billyelliottoronto.com.

Clela Errington will be performing a set of her mellow mix of standards and original songs as part of the Songwriters Showcase at Feather’s Pub, 962 Kingston Rd. July 9. Clela will also be performing on her latest favourite instrument, the ukulele. I heard her recently at Ten Feet Tall, and she does a great job with it.
For more information call The Feather’s Pub at 416-694-0443, or visit www.clelaerrington.ca.

Toronto Fingerstyle Guitar holds the next bi-weekly open stages at Ten Feet Tall, 1381 Danforth Ave. July 5 and 19, beginning at 8 p.m. Join in this entertaining learning atmosphere of professionals and amateurs alike.
There is no cover and everyone is encouraged to bring their guitar. For more information call Dunstan Morey at 416-785-9903, or visit www.fingerstylyguitar.ca.

Grinder Coffee House, 126 Main, south of Gerrard, presents a summer line-up of acoustic musicians every Sunday from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. They are:
July 3 – Vide Geiger
July 10 – T.C. Folkpunk
July 17 – TBA
July 24 – Aaron Comeau
July 31 – The Cavaliers
On Thursdays, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. The Grinder presents jazz. On July 7 Blake Day performs. If you would like to stay updated you can join the FaceBook group at facebook.com/grindercoffee, or follow them on Twitter at twitter.com/grindercoffee.


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