Jazz Fest 2011 Keeps Its Groove
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Jazz Fest 2011 Keeps Its Groove

After 25 years, changes are afoot at the Toronto Jazz Festival. With a new mainstage location and some more mainstream programming, the big question is: can the Toronto Jazz Festival evolve and still retain its jazz soul?
The answer, based on this year’s showing: so far, so good.

New Home
The majority of patrons and artists happily took to the new mainstage venue at David Pecaut Square. It allows for more lounging than Nathan Phillips Square ever did, what with its abundant grass and the shade provided by neighbouring skyscrapers. There were a number of production gaps and public relations glitches at the opening night street party featuring Aretha Franklin, but after that crowd of 18,000 cleared, it was smooth sailing for the rest of the festival. Hopefully festival brass learned some lessons about crowd control and communication that night, and will do a better job managing future marquee events. It would serve the festival well if it could call David Pecaut Square its permanent home, even once the renovations at Nathan Phillips Square are complete.
Big Name Artists
There are some festivals that call themselves jazz festivals and then seem to book talent that plays anything but jazz. Even while expanding their vision, the Toronto festival hasn’t forgotten its roots. Several artists that are at the top of the jazz charts graced this city’s stages last week; catch some of them in the photo gallery above.
They’ve Got the Funk
For the second year in a row, Philly-based neo-soul/hip-hop superstars The Roots rocked the fest. The tent at David Pecaut Square was filled to capacity and hundreds gathered on the lawn outside to listen. Bootsy Collins made his fest debut looking like a Mardi Gras reveller by way of Mars, pleasing an eclectic crowd of fans.
Local Talent
Perhaps the most gratifying thing about the fest every year is the opportunity it gives to shine a light on some of this city’s finest jazz musicians. Jim Galloway, The Canadian Jazz Quartet, Robi Botos, Andrew Scott, Rich Brown, The Heavyweights Brass Band, and countless others proved once again that Toronto really is a great jazz town all year round.