25 Must-See (free!) Shows at the TD Toronto Jazz Festival

We already know the opening weekend of the TD Toronto Jazz Festival is going to be nothing short of spectacular, but the party doesn’t stop once Monday hits. Did you know there will be over 175 free shows in the Bloor-Yorkville area? The annual ten-day event is housing four stages in our neighbourhood along with thirteen venues total. We’ve rounded up 25 of the must-see performances so you can prioritize your days and nights accordingly!

  1. Shad Presents — hip-hop meets jazz! Curated by Shad, a special evening exploring the relationship between jazz and hip-hop. With special guests Oddisee & Good Compny, Elaquent and Melanie Charles.
  2. Hot 8 Brass Band – representing a new generation of the New Orleans brass band tradition.
  3. Dot Bangerz Brass – this high-energy Toronto brass band featuring three MCs brings together a variety of musical traditions.
  4. Larnell Lewis — this Toronto native is one of Canada’s top drummers. When not touring with three-time Grammy Award winning band Snarky Puppy he’s playing with some of the biggest names in jazz, pop, gospel and more.
  5. LOONY — quietly building a reputation since her first EP release in 2016, this local alternative R&B artist is poised to solidify her place in the local – and international – R&B scene.
  6. Hobby Horse—this trio from Italy plays a wildly unpredictable mix of styles – slam poetry, techno, psychedelic bossanova, prog rock, hip-hop and chamber music…all with excitement and energy.
  7. 50th Anniversary of the Legendary Downchild Blues Band – the iconic Canadian blues band celebrates its 50th year with special guests including Dan Aykroyd, Paul Shaffer, David Wilcox, Gene Taylor and Erja Lyytinen. Some of the best blues and soul being made!
  8. Nubya Garcia — this London-based saxophonist and composer is earning international acclaim for her writing and playing; at home she is a leading force in the vital and diverse south London (UK) jazz scene. Catch her Toronto debut!
  9. Milla Thyme — bassist, MC, composer Milla Thyme is an emerging hip-hop artist, based in Montreal, with roots in Toronto. His sets are guaranteed to feature great flow, funky music and lots of high-energy. This is part of the Emerging Artist Platform – daily at 5:30 pm on the TD Mainstage on Cumberland Street.
  10. Bywater – with outstanding vocals from Meghan Parnell, great horns, a powerful rhythm section, and original writing, it’s easy to understand why Bywater was selected as winners of the 2018 Toronto Blues Society Talent Search.
  11. Melissa Aldana — Catch the Toronto debut of this Chilean, New York-based saxophonist and composer who has earned an outstanding international reputation for her approach to her instrument and composing. She’ll be performing music from her recently released album, inspired by Frida Kahlo.
  12. Cecile Doo-Kingue — this powerhouse Montreal-based guitarist and singer-songwriter blends afro-roots, blues and soul for a unique blues-based sound.
  13. Shuffle Demons — Toronto stalwarts, known for their hit song Spadina Bus, celebrate their 35th year of international touring with a special hometown show.
  14. Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio — This is 100% Hammond B3-based soul and groove goodness. Catch the Toronto debut of these Seattle musicians.
  15. Gospel Sunday — The TD Toronto Jazz Festival goes to church with two high-energy gospel shows: the Toronto Mass Choir with special guest Renee Rowe and then the Queen of Gospel, Shirley Caesar.
  16. Laila Biali — Singer, pianist, composer, radio host and 2019 JUNO Award winner Laila Biali is on a tear. Hear the trio that is making waves, along with special guest trumpeter – and Harry Connick Jr. Big Band alumnus – William Sperandei.
  17. Joel Visentin’s Boogaloo Squad — more outstanding B3-based music, this time from right here at home. Joel Visentin’s Boogaloo Squad has been building a following for their excellent takes on classic soul music and their own groovy originals. They’ll be playing some of the music from their debut album. 
  18. Heavyweights Brass Band with Special Guest Jay Douglas — two Festival favourites once again team up for an outstanding set of music. The Heavyweights put a Toronto spin on the New Orleans brass band tradition; Jamaica-born vocalist Jay Douglas has been making an impact on the Toronto R&B, soul and reggae scenes for over 50 years.
  19. Sydanie & Kelson Fredricks with the Dirty B-Sides — catch the next generation of Toronto hip-hop musicians. Sydanie has already caught the attention of major media outlets; the Dirty B-Sides are the go-to backing track for local and visiting hip-hop and R&B artists. This is part of the Emerging Artist Platform – daily at 5:30 pm on the TD Mainstage on Cumberland Street.
  20. saajtak – expect the unexpected with this Detroit-based quartet. Jazz, electronica, punk, improvisation…their Toronto debut is sure to impress. This is part of the Emerging Artist Platform – daily at 5:30 pm on the TD Mainstage on Cumberland Street.
  21. Festa Brasileira – Rio comes to Toronto! Kicking off with a samba parade, artists from different corners of one of the world’s richest musical centres come together on stage for one big party – and some very special musical surprises.
  22. Kris Davis – Canadian pianist Kris Davis has earned an international reputation for her creative approach to music-making. Catch her in a very special solo piano performance in a beautiful church acoustic. Bring a sense of adventure – she will no doubt take you on a musical journey.
  23. Payadora Tango Ensemble – jazz is, at its root, dance music, so let’s celebrate dance music from Argentina! This outstanding Toronto quartet was a sleeper hit of the 2018 Festival, so, we’re glad to have them back again this year on a bigger stage.
  24. OKAN – in six short years, the Cuban-born leaders of OKAN have made an enormous impact on the Toronto music scene. With OKAN, Magdelys Savigne and Elizabeth Rodriguez seek to honour the roots of Cuban Music with a modern and fresh touch…and it’s always a party.
  25. Moneka Arabic Jazz – leader Ahmed Moneka’s story is as intriguing as his music. Facing threats in his home of Baghdad following a screening in Toronto of one of his films, he decided to stay in Toronto, where he’s become an important part of the local music scene. Moneka Arabic Jazz combines the jazz tradition with Arabic maqam and African grooves. This is truly world music and an apt musical representation of the diversity of Toronto.

Click here for further details and to view the entire event schedule.


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