Now in its 23rd year, the Beaches Jazz Festival has a lot going for it. Two weekends of free shows in the heart of a great Toronto neighbourhood is definitely something worth celebrating.
That said, If you’re a die-hard jazz fan you will likely be disappointed by the mainstage programming. How headlining acts like Carole Pope and Andy Kim fit in at a jazz festival is a real head-scratcher. Don’t worry about the mainstage, though—the best way to really enjoy the Beaches Jazz Festival might be to put on your walking shoes and just wander Queen Street during the Street Fest to sample a bunch of different music, which is, happily, mostly local.
Our top five picks for the Woodbine Stage this weekend and the Mainstage at Kew Gardens and celebrated Street Fest next weekend offer a little something for everybody, kind of like the festival itself. Get your sunblock, buy yourself an iced latte, and let’s go!
Best New ArtistQuincy Bullen Band
Bullen is still a youngster, but he’s been playing for years with his dad, local mainstay Eddie Bullen. Quincy has got great chops, the ability to drift effortlessly from bebop to funk, and endless promise.
New Generation Stage at Woodbine Park, Friday, July 15 at 6 p.m. and Streetfest, Thursday, July 21, and Saturday, July 23, at 7 p.m.–11 p.m., 1910 Queen Street East (in front of the Red Moose Bar & Grill).
Best Chance to DanceThe Heavyweight Brass Band
These guys killed at their two Toronto Jazz Festival appearances this year and just opened for New Orleans funk legends Galactic. If you want to have a good time this weekend, they will not disappoint with their brass band versions of songs like “Just the Two of Us” and, yes, Justin Bieber’s “Baby.”
New Generation Stage at Woodbine Park, Sunday, July 17, at 4 p.m.
The Heavyweights Brass Band.
Best Post-Brunch ConcertMarc Jordan & Amy Sky
Two of this city’s finest and best-known singer-songwriters, Jordan & Sky will surely deliver a number of well-worn ballads and originals that will leave you feeling soothed and thoughtful.
Kew Gardens Stage, Saturday, July 23, at 12:30 p.m.
Best Jazz ArtistJake Wilkinson
Not only is Jake Wilkinson one of the finest trumpet players working today, he is an outstanding songwriter. You might catch him here with frequent collaborators Lee Wallace or Andrew Scott on guitar, or with a larger group. He might be performing jazz ballads or his own material. One thing is for sure with Jake Wilkinson: you never quite know what you’re going to get.
Streetfest, Thursday, July 21, to Saturday, July 23, from 7 p.m.–11 p.m., 1930 Queen Street East (in front of Ends).
Best New FeatureBig Band Stage on the Boardwalk
Launched this season, the Big Band Stage, near the boardwalk in Kew Gardens, is a celebration of the ’30s, ’40s, and ’50s era. There will be appearances from the Jazz Mechanics, Swing Shift Big Band, and others, as well as swing-dance demonstrations and lessons, all with Lake Ontario right beside you.
Friday, July 22, to Sunday, July 21.
Click here for full programming details.
Photos by Tracey Nolan.