Street Music

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Beaches International Jazz Festival. A week-long summer music event that spans across roughly 2 kilometres in Toronto's east-end. I call it a music-fest as opposed to a jazz festival, simply because throughout the years, any excuse for sounds and melodies made to be related to jazz is fair game here. From big-band, swing, to latin and world music. From funk, ska to R&B and only rock and roll 'cause I like it. Heck, a couple of years back they had a band doing 70s' disco hits! Oddly enough, this group brought in the biggest and rowdiest crowd. I wondered why I hadn't seen them performing again in recent years?

One of the highlights of the week is the Street-Fest. For three consecutive evenings, the gangs of musicians and bands erect stages and perform alternatively at every corner block. I am proud to say that I live just around the corner from one of these blocks. Unfortunately this time round, the band at our corner performed hard-core jazz tunes. You know, the type of jazz where the untrained ear like mine would never be able detect if the keyboard player hit a wrong note. All the notes sounded mashed and tangled to me, until I heard their fusion-filled rendition of Europe's 'The Final Countdown'.

This year, due to an injury to my leg and my preparations for an upcoming exam, I didn't get to walk around and soak in the atmosphere of the street party. Again, up to this point, my sample of the music was only the intricate and unnerving melodies of the band close to our home that went on until 11 pm. However, on the last Sunday which presented itself with balmy 23-degrees sunshine, I made the effort to visit the performances at Kew Gardens, three blocks away.

I was pleasantly initiated to the cool spanish-guitar strum and finger work of Robert Michaels. Oh man, can this guy ever play! So impressed was I that I instantly bought one of his CDs, had him sign it, and took a picture of him and Your Humbleness together. Yes, I know what you're thinking… I'm such a schmuck!!

Robert Michales

After my 'park experience', I decided to walk along the boardwalk. There I came across a stage where big-band music was playing. Swing, salsa, Glenn Miller, Ol' Blue Eyes Sinatra, you name it… if the tunes could be played with trumpets, sax and bass, the 1950s' standards would come. They even had a makeshift dance floor prepared. I saw particpants of all race and age, all shapes and sizes, dancing cheek-to-cheek, hip-sway to hip-sway. Wait, aren't those kids a little too young to be digging this kinda' thing..?

So there it was. My smidgin taste of this year's Beach Jazz Fest. Sad to say that I had not digested a larger helping of it, but there will still be next year. As I write this posting in my dining-room, the last few hours of the festival is winding down outside. Still, with Robert Michaels playing 'Classical Gas' through my Bose, I'm confident that jazz, in whatever form, is alive and swinging.

July 28, 2013

© Prakoso Sastrowardoyo 2012