Music

Beaches International Jazz Festival: Best Bets

July is all about free jazz and blues in the city's east end.

Dumpstaphunk's Ian Neville. Photo by Tracey Nolan.

Dumpstaphunk's Ian Neville. Photo by Tracey Nolan.

    • July 11–13
    • July 18–27
  • FREE

The Waterfront Blues Festival (July 11–13), now in its 10th year, has recently “merged” with the wildly popular Beaches Jazz Festival (July 18–27), making the second half of July all-music-all-the-time in the Beach. Woodbine Park is the hub for both of these festivals, with things being rounded out by the Beaches Jazz Festival’s StreetFest along Queen Street East. Those looking for jazz will likely be disappointed by StreetFest—what you will get, though, is a fun Taste of the Danforth vibe and some epic people-watching. It’ll also be ground zero for Toronto’s well-heeled Baby Boomer set, so if you’re anxious to bust out your favourite Hawaiian shirt, now’s your chance. But if you aren’t into dancing to “Play That Funky Music White Boy” played on a pan flute, get yourself directly to one of the Beach’s fine patios, and check out one of our top picks for the Waterfront Blues Festival and Beaches Jazz Festival.


Irene Torres and the Sugar Devils

When: Friday, July 11, 7:00 p.m.
Where: Waterfront Blues Festival, Woodbine Park

While the Waterfront Blues Festival boasts several Juno nominees and a Grammy nominee among its artists, we think that emerging artists Irene Torres and the Sugar Devils are the ones to watch. Irene Torres is a really compelling “front man” who always has a bunch of top–notch musicians backing her up. Come for the tunes and stay for the sunset in Woodbine Park—it’s a great way to get your weekend started.


Greg Nagy Band

When: Sunday, July 13th, 2 p.m.
Where: Waterfront Blues Festival, Woodbine Park

Greg Nagy’s brand of “personalized blues” is infectious. Once a member of blues and soul club band Root Doctor, Nagy struck out on his own in 2009—and the Flint, Michigan, musician’s gritty guitar work and soulful vocals have won him countless fans as a solo artist.


KC Roberts

When: Friday, July 18, 7 p.m.
Where: Beaches International Jazz Festival, Woodbine Park Main Stage

Our number-one pick for Beaches StreetFest last year is kicking the Beaches Fest off on the Main Stage this year. You can also catch them cranking out their soulful covers and funky originals in front of My Place in the Beach (2066 Queen Street East) during StreetFest (July 24–26).


Dumpstaphunk

When: Saturday, July 19, 9:30 p.m.
Where: Beaches International Jazz Festival, Woodbine Park Main Stage

Led by Ivan Neville (the famed Aaron Neville’s son), the members of Dumpstaphunk always brings the crowds when they play in their hometown of New Orleans—but Woodbine Park will also be a great place to watch them turn it up and tear it up. If you see only one show this year, this should be it.


Brownman Electryc Trio

When: July 24–26; three sets from 7–11 p.m. nightly
Where: StreetFest, Arts on Queen (2198 Queen Street East)

Brownman was born in Trinidad, educated in New York, and now makes his home in Toronto. Former trumpet player for Guru’s Jazzmatazz—and well-versed in genres from acid jazz to salsa—Brownman never fails to put his own unique spin on the repertoire.


Downtown Dixieland Jazz Band

When: July 24–26; three sets from 7–11 p.m. nightly
Where: StreetFest, Coles (2169 Queen Street East)

If you’re a fan of old-school traditional jazz done right, you’ll want to check out the Downtown Dixieland Jazz Band—the souring trumpet of Al Cox alone is worth the trip.


Rob Christian

When: July 24–26; three sets from 7–11 p.m. nightly
Where: StreetFest, Starbucks Coffee (2253 Queen Street East)

This local “kid” has been making people stop and take notice for years during StreetFest from the same spot on Queen Street East. The patio on Starbucks might be one of the best seats at the fest to take in his homegrown fusion of pop, jazz, R&B, and soul.


What else is happening:

Today In Music