A veteran photojournalist on the Toronto arts and entertainment scene, Julian Bynoe is a Toronto-based cartoonist, artist and arts blogger. From 1996 to 2014, he was the arts/entertainment editor for the street publication The Outreach Connection, and has had articles featured in Realms Magazine, among others.
Tributes for Oscar Peterson and jazz festival cofounder and Radio Deluxe’s return make part of the 2015 Toronto Jazz Festival
Left-right: Al Di Meola’s Elegant Gypsy & More Electric Tour; Canadian saxophonist Christine Jensen and her Jazz Orchestra, accompanied by trumpeter sister Ingrid Jensen and rebel rock/reggae survivor Garland Jeffreys joins the 2015 Toronto Jazz Festival line-up.
Toronto Jazz Festival 2015 Preview
With the absence of former Toronto Jazz Festival Artistic Director and cofounder Jim Galloway, who died last December after a lengthy illness; you can feel the noticeable legacy he’s embellished to which he will get a more than well-overdue tribute at this festival, along with an all-star celebration marking what would have been Canadian piano great Oscar Peterson’s 90th birthday, the return of John Pizzarelli’s popular Radio Deluxe radio show and a whole slew of talent consisting of 1,500 artists coming for the ten-day summer music fête June 18 to 29, now in its 29th year.
Announced at the JAZZ-FM 91 radio station on April 14, Artistic Director Josh Grossman read out with great enthusiasm the official lineup – and withholding a couple of surprises (more on that later) – to the 40 locations around Toronto that will host local and international acts big and small, free and ticketed starting with the Festival Hub a.k.a. City Hall’s Nathan Phillip Square (100 Queen Street West) with the brass-and-bass ensemble Tower of Power (June 20), the Count Basie Orchestra (June 21) marking 80 years since its foundation, master soul crooner Al Jarreau (June 22), bassist Christian McBride and his Big Band (June 23), funky Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Booker T. Jones (June 24), guitar virtuoso Al Di Meola’s Elegant Gypsy & More Electric Tour (June 25), jazz fusion sensations Snarky Puppy (June 26) back by popular demand from last year and new rock/R&B guitar god Gary Clark Jr.(June 27).
Among the Toronto Star Stage events at City Hall will be the daily free Lunchtime Series June 20 to 27 will include Christine Jensen Jazz Orchestra including her big sister Ingrid on trumpet, the Ian McDougall Quintet and the aforementioned Jim Galloway tribute and the 6:30 p.m. Afterwork Series June 19 to 27 with details to be announced; the Koerner Hall (273 Bloor Street West) concert series brings in vocalese legend Kurt Elling (June 23), the return of NPR’s Radio Deluxe show with hosts John Pizzarelli and wife Jessica Molasky with their quartet and special guest local heroine Alex Pangman for a taping broadcast June 24 and super-hot young British jazz lion pianist Jamie Cullum to close out the festival June 29.
St. Lawrence Centre’s Jane Mallet Theatre brings in five nights of the brightest jazz stars with festival preview opener of previously-mentioned Oscar Peterson 90th Birthday Celebration on June 18 with his surviving quartet members Ulf Wakenius and Alvin Queen joining Robi Botos and Christian McBride playing Peterson’s greatest works with his daughter Celine narrating along to personal and historic photos of her father; the Grammy-winning Robert Glasper Trio (June 23); celebrated saxophonist Branford Marsalis (June 24); the superstar quartet of Dave Holland, Lionel Loueke, Chris Potter and Eric Harland (June 25) and veteran saxman Charles Lloyd featuring Gerald Clayton, Joe Sanders and Kendrick Scott (June 26).
Watering holes the old Horseshoe Tavern (370 Queen Street West) will have the Mike Stern Trio (June 22), cult reggae poet-musician statesman Garland Jeffreys (June 25) and 1950s soul survivors Sonny Knight & The Lakers (June 26) and new kid on the block Jazz Bistro (251 Victoria Street) brings on the late-night 12-3 a.m. jam sessions of the festival (June 19-20, 23 and 25-27) as well as acts Juno-winning Renee Rosnes Quartet (June 18-20), Fred Hersch Trio (June 21), Drew Jerecka’s Gypsy Swing Quartet (June 22), Phil Dwyer Trio (June 23), guitarist Sinal Aberto (June 24), vocal trio Duchess (June 25) and the Freddy Cole Quartet (June 26-27).
A much jazzier roster than in last couple of years of the festival, this is a pretty good setup and although the kickoff act to open the official free opening night concert June 19 has yet to be announced (I think I have a pretty good idea who it might be, but I’ll keep to myself – for the time being), this could be one of its best in quite a while.
Ubu and the Truth Commission (Handspring Puppet Company/Canadian Stage)
Berkeley Street Theatre, 26 Berkeley Street
Wednesday, April 14; 8:15 p.m.
Part 2 of a 3-part series
Restorative justice is a complicated beast to tackle when a society (re)joins the league of respectable nations in trying to right whatever wrongs were committed during darker times and the why on the lingering ghosts continuing to haunt its collective memory. Even two decades after the fall of apartheid in South Africa and a quarter-century since Nelson Mandela’s release that instigated it all, the nation still struggles with this that even the playwright for Handspring Puppet Company’s 1997 Ubu and the Truth Commission, which recently played at Canadian Stage’s Spotlight series; Jane Taylor has stated herself as “the consequences of which (the Truth and Reconciliation Commission) will take years to unravel. For all its pervasive weight, however, it infiltrates our culture asymmetrically [and] unevenly across multiple sectors.”
From the team that brought the fantastic adaptation of War Horse to life onstage, director William Kentridge forges a bit of street theatre, puppetry, animation and archival footage about the central character Pa Ubu (Dawid Minnaar), an buffoonish authority figure who prospered under the old regime along with his Cerberus-like dogs and compliant Niles the Crocodile creatures, suddenly finds himself under threat from the new era that looks to find closure which he fears he’ll be charged for crimes against humanity for all the bloodshed made upon township rioters and anti-apartheid activists during the 1970s and ‘80s.
That doesn’t stop his wife Ma Ubu (Busi Zokufa) from speculating that his activities involved infidelity – considering all the guilt weighing his conscience down and drowning it with booze and ritual showers to cleanse his nightly sins – until she finds out the real truth that disturb her even more; punctuated with real-life testimonies of the victims of apartheid who talk of corpses of their loved ones and the confessing perpetrators who committed them, as a buzzard looks on waiting to dine on the old wounds of the guilty and innocent.
Ubu’s dark, political humour digs deep of the Big Brother state that dominated South African politics for the latter part of the 20th century with some unsettling but necessary results it invokes in a fast and crazy pace easy to understand and absorb, while trying to reconcile these acts of pure evil that makes ones gut ache with pain and laughter all at once.
The acting duo of Manaar and Zokufa play it out wonderfully like a Punch and Judy-like couple battling out their own marital woes and shameful secrets with puppeteers Gabriel Marchand, Mongi Mthombeni and Mandiseli Maseti providing comic relief to Manaar’s wicked deeds. Kentridge’s direction, set designs and crude animation segments are definite highlights helped by the buoyancy of Warrick Sony and Brendan Jury’s meld of dramatics and South African township jive, Adrian Kohler’s inventive puppet and costume designs and stark lighting of Wesley France.
Ubu and the Truth Commission searches that elusive pursuit of justice that must also swallow uncomfortable acceptations like amnesty for those who completely or partial didn’t come clean for the sake of national harmony, that can at least find solace through such an exemplary and exceptional play in order to return back to humanity and self-forgiveness within in a luminous and engrossing manner.
NEXT: Part 3 – Dominion. Spotlight South Africa continues through April 25. For tickets/information, call 416-368-3110 or visit canadianstage.com.
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