TORONTO—Celebrating 20 years in existence, the Beaches International Jazz Festival has been in full swing in Toronto since July 19.
With over 50 bands drawing crowds of more than a million, StreetFest, a highlight of the festival, closed off its three-day run in high spirits on Saturday.
Featuring an eclectic and vibrant blend of musical styles, from Dixieland jazz to gypsy sounds, blues, funk and even native Ecuadorian-style music, StreetFest boogied in tune to multicultural Toronto.
“It’s a lot of fun. You feed off the energy. People really are here for the music”, said Rick McKhool, violinist for award-winning Canadian band Sultans of Strings. Playing their second year at the festival, the band features world music with a Gypsy-jazz-flamenco flavour.
The crowds seemed to love every minute of StreetFest, which was held along a closed two-kilometre stretch of Queen Street East. The energy level was high as large groups of people surrounded each band, clapping and dancing in the hot summer night.
The eight-day jazz fest entertained with both old and new.
A crowd-pleaser with its classic Dixieland style, the Downtown Jazz Band was the first band to ever perform at the festival at its opening in 1989. Composed of veteran musicians — the bass player is 91 years old — the group has returned every year since.
“It’s hardly ever rained,” said singer Myrna Van Weerdenburg whose husband Nick is the lead saxophone and clarinet player.
Other noted acts include Juno-award winning band Fathead, self styled as a “smokin’ blues and R&B band,” jazz bands including the Mississauga Big Band and the Toronto All-Star Big Band, and versatile soloists such as Jason Wilson and Mae Cromwell.
The Beaches International Jazz Festival runs from July 19-27 in Toronto. For more info, see: http://www.beachesjazz.com/index.html.