25th Beaches Jazz Festival approaching

Zed Head's Neil Chapman, left, and the Fogman rock it out in front of Gabby's. The 24th Annual Beaches International Jazz Festival was once again a great success, showcasing great jazz, blues, and rock artists. The streetfest, which took place July 26-28, attracted a great number of visitors as up to 50 bands lined up the sidewalks on Queen Street from Woodbine to Beach.
File photo by Phil Lameira

The 25th edition of the Beaches International Jazz Festival is hitting the Beach in July, with performances stretched out across two parks and much of Queen Street East for 10 days.

The festival kicks off in Woodbine Park on Friday, July 19, to Sunday, July 21, with a mix of jazz, blues and world performers on the main stage. The afrobeat side stage will highlight African and Caribbean sounds.

For the first time, the festival is offering the Taste of Jazz Gourmet Food Truck Extravaganza. From 5 to 10 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday, July 23 and 24, Woodbine Park will host live music, a licensed beer and wine garden and food from a dozen food trucks.

The evenings of Thursday, July 25 to Saturday, July 27 will see Queen Street East, east of Woodbine Avenue, shut down to traffic as the Streetfest takes over from 7 to 11 p.m. each night. Dozens of singers, big bands and groups covering everything from Dixieland to fusion to world music will play three sets each, alternating with their nearest neighbours. Many performers will be familiar to return visitors, mixed in with some new blood. Traffic will be allowed to pass through on Waverley, Wineva and Lee to allow access for residents living south of Queen.

Saturday and Sunday, July 27 and 28 will see the main event go down in Kew Gardens

The Youth Stage, near the southwest end of the park, will feature some of the country’s best up and coming young jazz musicians from the Youth Jazz Canada program. Scheduled performers include Humber Community Music Grads, the Irene Harrett Quartet, the Matt Lagan Quartet, the Emily Steinwall Sextet, the 2013 National Youth Jazz Combo, the Youth Jazz Canada Combo, the Alex Dean/Kelly Jefferson Combo, Brian Dickinson and Nancy Walker, the Lorne Lofsky/Ted Quinlan Combo and the Kieran Overs/Neil Swainson Combo.

Meanwhile, the main stage acts cover a wide range of styles over the two days of concerts at the Alex Christie Bandshell.

Saturday’s performers include JP Saxe, a singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist from Toronto. He plays in a number of bands, covering everything from reggae to pop to the seven-piece jazz combo he leads. Selena Evangeline calls her style alternative R&B, covering everything from soul, R&B and funk to jazz and even rock. When not singing her own songs, Selena backs up Amanda Marshall. The Shuffle Demons should be well-known to many Toronto music fans across many genres. Almost three decades into their career, the quintet still offer wildly entertaining shows from some seriously talented musicians. Eric Lindell and the Sunliners play funky, soul-tinged blues and roots rock. The New Orleans-based singer/songwriter has been driving crowds to dance since the late 1990s. The Roberto Linares Brown Orchestra will bring some heat to the stage, with the Canadian bandleader’s desire to “take Toronto’s salsa scene to the next level.”

Sunday kicks off with Irene Torres and The Sugar Devils. The Toronto-based band mixes blues, rock, funk, jazz and R&B. Singer Torres brings together Drew Austin on drums, Josh Picheon guitar and vocals and past Streetfest favourite Rob Christian on sax, flute, keys and vocals. Guitarist Robert Michaels is up next, showcasing his six-string virtuosity. His style covers many genres, including flamenco, jazz and classical. The Iroko Project, featuring Jane Bunnett and Hilario Duran, will bring some Cuban flavour to the stage. Festival artistic director Bill King brings his Rhythm Express to the main stage on Sunday, with vocalist Gavin Hope of the Nylons on board. King is something of an establishment in Toronto’s music scene, and the pianist and composer has always brought the crowd to its feet in Kew Gardens. Sugar Ray and the BlueTones will close the festival. The five piece Chicago blues band have performed at clubs and festivals internationally.

For more details and to confirm the lineup, as well as for the full Streetfest lineup, visit beachesjazz.com. The Beaches International Jazz Festival is free to attend.

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