5 months ago

Volume 26 Issue 8 - July and August 2021

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  • Events
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  • Jazz
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  • Reviews
  • Summer
  • Music
Last print issue for Volume 26. Back mid-September with Vol 27 no 1. And what a sixteen-month year it's been. Thanks for sticking around. Inside: looking back at what we are hoping is behind us, and ahead to what the summer has to offer; also inside, DISCoveries: 100 reviews to read, and a bunch of new tracks uploaded to the listening room. On stands, commencing Wednesday June 30.

Araz Salek TURNING

Araz Salek TURNING POINTS Poetry Jazz Café LO’s contribution to Arts in the Parks, is creating a video series, filming music performances coupled with artist interviews in parks across the city, similar to its successful project last year, viewable on its website and YouTube channel. LO will also produce several smallscale outdoor summer concerts around the city, and will present small groups (“nimble ensembles”) to smaller Ontario towns, details TBA. LO’s biggest news this year so far, however, is the launch of its Labyrinth ensemble (LE), a dream of LO’s founding artistic director Araz Salek. After an open call and a series of auditions, it has just released its roster of 14 musicians plus a lead singer, with expertise among them in close to 20 instruments in more than a dozen specialty areas. Reflecting one of LO’s core mandates, over the course of this summer individual ensemble members will receive online modal music instruction on their instruments, finetuning their understanding and performance chops in LE’s particular modal repertoire. LE’s planned November 2021 premiere concert at the Aga Khan Museum will likely feature works from vocalist Lamia Yared’s specialty area. Lamia Yared Tempering the dread So the view from my window (as teacher, musician, member of the public) is a mixed one. Online music learning has not been smooth sailing for me, made more difficult by on-again, off-again provincial and municipal educational openings and closings. Even my most dedicated student, who has taken weekly suling (West Javanese ring flute) lessons right through the pandemic, was forced to reschedule and then cancel his summer online lessons, due to unpredictable day-job closures and hours impossible to predict. As a musician: theatres claim they are ready for summer outside openings, yet as of press time the provincial government has “restrictions” in place until July 21, but with no corresponding detailed guidelines on compliance. Most live theatre venues, by their own calculations, need roughly 75 percent capacity to make productions financially feasible, impossible under current regulations. Most will also do whatever they must to comply with conditions along the road to recovery. So, when will a roadmap come? From my window I can see and hear a multitude of signs underscoring our unquenchable human need to congregate for a purpose. After being out of work for closing in on a year and a half, distanced from colleagues and workplaces, I worry though, about the ability, as Sean Williams described it, to be public again. How do we make our lives as artists and audiences whole again? May this summer bring some answers to that! Andrew Timar is a Toronto musician and music writer. Looking back at a NOT-SO-SWEET sixteen months COLIN STORY To say that these past sixteen months have been exceptional is, at this point, a cliché. Even calling it a cliché has become a cliché! And yet, it’s hard not to feel as though this summer represents a major turning point – and, hopefully, a bookend – in the experience of the pandemic, at least in Toronto. Case rates are down, vaccine rates are up, and businesses are reopening, albeit at reduced capacity. Live music is still not back, though it is slowly reappearing; as of the writing of this article, there is a pilot project in development that allows musicians to play on the ad hoc CaféTO patios in three wards (Davenport, Beaches-East York, and Toronto-Danforth). It is only a matter of time, however, before we see the return of live music, both outdoors and in; by September, I expect to be back to the normal format of my column, looking ahead to club offerings for each coming month. Thus, in the spirit of celebrating the beginning of the end of lockdown life, it seems like a propitious time to revisit and reflect upon some of the issues, movements, and community responses that have informed the Southern Ontario jazz (and jazzadjacent) scene throughout the pandemic. Venue Closures and Re-openings It has been immediately reassuring, as lockdown restrictions are gradually lifted, to see (and hear) Toronto’s long-shuttered venues welcoming patrons back for dining and drinks, albeit only outdoors. While it may still be some time until we get to hear music indoors in Ontario, a number of clubs have patios open. Some have even cautiously started programming live music outdoors. At Kensington Market’s Poetry Jazz Café, a spacious, stylish back patio is host to the likes of trumpeter Rudy Ray, vocalist/bassist Quincy Bullen, and other notable young Toronto musicians. (Programming at Poetry tends to focus on groove-oriented jazz, with both vocalists and instrumentalists in the bandleader chair.) At The Rex, Toronto’s perennial favourite for straight-ahead modern jazz, an expanded outdoor patio is in place for the culinary side of their business, but at The Rex the music 20 | July and August 2021

FREEEE Viiiiirrrrrrrrttttttttuuuuuaaaaaaaal SSuuuuummmmmmmmmmmmmmmmeeeeerrrrrrrr Muuuuussssssssiiiiiccccc CCaaaaaaaammmmmmmmppp A mmmmmmmmuuuuussssssssiiiiiccccc ssssssssttttttttuuuuuddeeeeennnnttttttttssssssss ffrrrrrrrroooooooommmmmmmm SSiiiiisssssssstttttttteeeeemmmmmmmmaaaaaaaa ffoooooooorrrrrrrr aaaaaaaatttttttt: Doooooooonnnnaaaaaaaatttttttteeeee ttttttttoooooooorrrrrrrroooooooonnnnttttttttoooooooo...cccccaaaaaaaa/ cccccaaaaaaaammmmmmmmppp wwwwwwwww...ssssssssiiiiisssssssstttttttteeeeemmmmmmmmaaaaaaaa- The Emmet Ray happens indoors and spills out to the patio. Rex regulars can but hope. Even as some venues return, others have been lost. The pandemic has hit the service industry hard, and – especially for venues without food programs that could be easily adapted to a takeaway format – closures were all but inevitable. 120 Diner, N’Awlins and Alleycatz have all been shuttered; others, including The Emmet Ray, have maintained themselves by converting their existing space to a bottle shop and focusing on delivery-friendly food options. Virtual Concerts and Social Media Early in the course of the pandemic, virtual concerts were the name of the game, from living-room livestreams undertaken by individual musicians to professionally produced, pre-recorded performances offered by major festivals. This year, as we near the end of what will very likely be our last major lockdown, the number of purely virtual concerts seems to be tapering, which in my view is a hopeful sign. In the United States, where mass vaccination efforts took place earlier and with greater speed than here in Canada, live concerts have already been taking place for some time; scroll through your favourite American jazz musician’s social media and you’ll be likely to see posts about outdoor festival concerts, indoor club appearances and, increasingly, advertisements for tours happening later this year and early in 2022. Even in Canada, where, at the time of this article’s composition, close to seven million of us have been fully vaccinated, it is becoming more common to see maskless musicians in studios, concert halls and other indoor recording scenarios. Reactions to virtual concerts have been mixed. This time last year, I interviewed Kodi Hutchinson, artistic producer of JazzYYC and organizer of the Canadian Online Jazz Festival, and Molly Johnson, artistic director of the Kensington Market Jazz Festival. Both were in the midst of preparations for their respective festivals, which were broadcast entirely online last year. During our interview, Hutchinson told me that the COJF was, in part, a fact-finding mission, with the goal of gathering data about audiences’ online music-viewing habits. The larger aim, he said, was to help concert presenters be better online, and to be prepared for a future in which livestreaming options at major jazz festivals were more of a norm. From the performer perspective, few musicians seem to genuinely love livestreaming, compared to the real thing; in a piece that I wrote for this magazine’s December issue, the consensus seemed to be that livestreaming, absent an audience, is a poor substitute for the real thing. The prospect of remote audiences being able to livestream shows with an audience, however, remains interesting, and it remains to be seen how (and if) concert presenters will incorporate livestreams into their future events. Equity and Reckoning in Academia In September of last year, I wrote about the enduring whiteness of Canadian post-secondary jazz education, the calls for changes in leadership, staffing and curricula at a number of Canadian jazz programs, and about the committee to address anti-racism, equity, diversity and inclusion issues (AREDI) at U of T. The Rex Now on the cusp of a new academic year, both the U of T jazz program and its parent institution, the Faculty of Music, are in the midst of ongoing major issues. More than 800 students, faculty and alumni have signed an open letter to the school, asking administration to address “historical and ongoing misogyny and systemic inequalities.” Amongst the stories being shared, common complaints include the suppression and silencing of survivors’ voices, a reticence to act on reports of genderbased harassment and sexual assault, and a culture of denial when dealing with charges against faculty members and students. Within the jazz program, similar issues are at play. Tara Kannangara and Jacqueline Teh, both sessional faculty members and members of the coalition #thisisartschool, have been part of efforts to address systemic issues within the department. On June 11, both released a joint open letter detailing their experience working within the department and the Faculty of Music. In the letter, Kannangara and Teh describe feelings of “psychological abuse and discrimination” in their dealings with U of T Jazz and the Faculty of Music, including being subject to “a level of problematic behaviour and intense scrutiny” in a masterclass they presented. I have viewed both letters, and the overall impression they convey is of an institution that is more concerned with maintaining the status quo than with making deeper systemic change. As the prospect of a “normal” September looms, the choices made at U of T are liable to have far-reaching consequences in the coming years, for better or for worse. Colin Story is a jazz guitarist, writer and teacher based in Toronto. He can be reached at on Instagram and on Twitter. ppprrrrrrrroooooooogrrrrrrrraaaaaaaammmmmmmmssssssss aaaaaaaacccccrrrrrrrroooooooossssssssssssssss CCaaaaaaaannnnaaaaaaaaddaaaaaaaa... 2 0 2 1 July and August 2021 | 21

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