Wednesday, May 9th of Canadian Music Week featured its very first Jazz Night. In previous years jazz was incorporated into other events but never a set of its own. This lineup took place at Jazz Bistro on Victoria Street and was hosted and produced by singer/songwriter Ori Dagan, who was also performing a set. The atmosphere was relaxed and confident in the fact that the evening would be filled with a series of great performers. Each performer was backed by an incredibly talented house band that despite not rehearsing with all of them, nailed each song in their own way.
The first performer that went on of the evening was a 16 year old jazz prodigy from Vancouver named, Maya Rae. She oozed musical maturity in her voice and performance demeanor. The standards sung were true to jazz and yet still had a fresh feeling. The originals she wrote were thematically youthful, and fall into the category of easy listening. She seemed to be a gathering of inspirations new and old. She prefaced the evening with an interview on 91.1 JazzFM in the morning, thus showing she is young, and a forced to be reckoned with in the future of jazz. Overall, she was graceful and the performance was in good company for the evening.
Ori Dagan was the next to go on. His recent project is a Nat King Cole tribute album, in which each song was interpreted into swing more so than the crooning original. Dagan had the upmost charisma and worked the room with his performance. He was an ideal choice to both host and perform. He sprinkled in a few originals that were inspired by Nat King Cole but brought into a modern sphere. He played with acclaimed guitarist, Nathan Hiltz, for the duration of his set. His duet with Heather Bambrick was a scatting delight, and his incorporation of saxophonist, Alison Young, was truly a bluesy treat. Her playing chimed throughout the room with deep resonance. His final song, "Googleable" was a love song to Google in which made everyone in the audience smile with his humor and wit.
The third to go on was JUNO nominated jazz artist, voice actor, and educator, Heather Bambrick. She as well was very charismatic in her performance. Her delivery was confident and sophisticated and her voice was simply lovely. Her voiced is nuanced in such a way that is undeniably jazz. She was pleasant to listen to and performed both covers and originals of great inspiration. Her voice swept the listener in a blissful state and her optimism came through in her demeanor. Her new music video is now out for "Lovers in a Dangerous Time".
The final performer of the night was Kristen Violet May. She came out in a long gown, and was reminiscent of old time elegance. We were not available to review the performance, but listening to her songs are velvety and arid. They have retro sensibilities and yet feel like modern jazz. The moodiness of songs like "Killing Time" is reminiscent of a modern day Billie Holiday fused with Lana Del Rey. She is included in CBC's 35 Jazz Musicians Under 35, and is definitely a major player in the modern jazz scene.
Overall, the night was filled with immense talent, poise, and musical sophistication. Hopefully in the future Canadian Music Week decides to continue the Jazz Nights as to give more exposure to modern jazz musicians and expand Toronto's jazz scene which has been unfortunately, slowly narrowing over time.
View the gallery below!