With Phase 3 of Ontario’s reopening in full effect, restaurants and bars have opened up their spaces and very soon some local favorites will be filled with the mellow sounds of jazz.
Starting Tuesday, the digital collective JazzinToronto will host a four-day âcommunity celebrationâ with 10 concerts at nine venues, including the Rex Hotel Jazz & Blues Club, Jazz Bistro, Lula Lounge, Top O ‘the Senator and Emmet Ray. They call it a celebration, not a festival, and with just cause. What was to be a fully virtual event was able to expand to offer internal seating for a limited number of guests at most venues as Phase 3 started earlier than expected.
Organizers say the event is as much a celebration of the return of live music as it is a celebration of jazz.
âThe announcement of Phase 3 was a huge surprise to all of us,â said Founder and Co-Director Lina Welch. âMusicians and audiences alike have enjoyed being able to connect virtually during this difficult time. Especially now that more and more sites are reopening, we are excited to bring the community together. “
Venues quickly rotated to prepare for showtime, scrambling to set up kitchens and bars, recruit staff, and configure dining halls to meet provincial space and capacity guidelines.
âThey said we have 21 days. They don’t give us 21 days, âsays Andrew Kaiser, owner and operator of the Emmet Ray on College Street. âIt’s a big reopening and hopefully the last. We just want to make sure we’re careful.
South of College on Queen Street, Bob Ross of the Rex Hotel Jazz & Blues Club says the team “is trying to find a way to make it work. We can’t wait to get back to where we were, if not better. “
For the Rex, the emphasis remains, as it did during the pandemic, on musicians.
âWe were very concerned about the musicians and the way they get along; some were (already) in precarious situations before COVID, âsays Ross. “I take a deep breath of relief.”
Some of the participating musicians, including trumpeters Alexis Baro and Rebecca Hennessy, Juno-nominated singer Heather Bambrick, soprano saxophonist and flutist Jane Bunnett, singer Donovan Locke, guitarist Nathan Hiltz and saxophonist Jesse Ryan, will mark their return. on stage for the first time since before the start of the pandemic.
âIt’s a bit of a whole new world,â says Laura Hubert of the Laura Hubert Band. âI’ve performed on the Senate Balcony, porch style shows, the Kensington Virtual Jazz Festival, but this will be my first time on stage this year. Everyone is looking forward to it. Everyone is excited. I am double vaxxed. I’m ready to go. “
Hubert will play two sets at the Rex on Wednesday (one is part of JazzinToronto) and tackle them with the usual nervousness of performance.
“I have a very small fear that people won’t come, it’s always fear for an artist not to have an audience,” she says. âIt’s an experience, but we’re going to have fun. We’re going to see each other, we’re going to make music.
Ori Dagan, co-director of JazzinToronto, says site support was kept in mind throughout the planning.
The event is free, but the public is invited to make donations and the profits will be shared between the musicians and the participating venues. JazzinToronto also sought sponsorship and raised funds through a crowdfunding campaign.
âI realized that these places really need to be supported,â he says, noting some of the places that have closed in the wake of the pandemic, including 120 Diner on Church Street and N’Awlins Jazz Bar. & Grill on King Street. “These places struggled for a long timeâ¦ We thought it was important to bring them to light as well.”
JazzinToronto Live: a community celebration
Tuesday July 20
Caity Gyorgy at Jazz Bistro (251, rue Victoria), 6 p.m.
Alexis Baro at Lula Lounge (1585 Dundas St. W.), 9 p.m.
Wednesday July 21
Rebecca Hennessy at Tranzac (292 avenue Brunswick), 6 p.m.
Laura Hubert at the Rex Hotel (194 Queen Street West), 9 p.m.
Thursday July 22
Donovan Locke at DROM Taberna (458 Queen Street West), 5 p.m.
Nathan Hiltz at Motel Bar (1235 Queen Street West), 8 p.m.
Jesse Ryan at Emmet Ray (924 College Street), 11 p.m.
friday 23 july
Reg Schwager & Neil Swainson at the Senator (249 Victoria St.), 4 p.m.
Heather Bambrick & Jane Bunnett (Double Bill) at Koerner Hall (273 Bloor St. W.), 8 p.m.