Toronto Jazz Festival... and G20

Posted by Jenny Good on June 27, 2010 2:51 PM

Hilario Big Band at Toronto Jazzfest.jpg
The tantalizing Toronto Jazz Festival is back, and is an inspired and welcomed contrast to the tense backdrop of the G20 which has pretty much reduced the city to police, protesters... and a few destructive opportunistic idiots. It is definitely an interesting combo this weekend of: World Cup Fever, G20 and Jazzfest. For the most part, the city feels pretty empty.  But there are Jazz Festival venues all over the city including Nathan Philips Square and last night we started our show with The Hilario Durán Big Band!
On the way there we were stopped by police to inquire where we were going and what we were doing, apparently if they don't like your answer they can arrest you. But they did like the friendly Hour concert coverers of course.  We were almost the only ones down at the water where it had finally stopped raining, but the event was inside a dark theatre.  Outside there were rows and rows of police driving by and police boats in the harbour.

Inside, Hilario Durán brought the colourful Cuban Rhythm to the Harbourfront at the Toronto Jazz Festival.  The lively Cuban pianist and arranger is a multi-award winner including at least 3 Junos, the second which he received the day he became a Canadian citizen. The band featuring Roberto Occhipinti on bass and Mark Kelso on drums have a new album out called 'Motion' which they showcased here last night along with savoury tasters from Latin Big Band album 'From the Heart'.  When they really got on a roll with the ascending sax, the crowd surged with applause!      

But you could not escape the backdrop of this G20 this weekend. Friday I got evacuated from the Eaton Centre, then it was hard to know the difference between threat and fear. I spoke with many protesters and police who were conducting themselves amazingly. But it was hard to get the message attached to the protests. There were so many different causes but they were so unclear to the average onlooker never mind the G20 delegates. There were busloads of protesters from Quebec and other areas as there were police brought in from all over Canada. I was very impressed with the Toronto OPP I encountered but I have to admit I saw some excessive force in other areas and some people being violent with no message and no intelligence to their actions. How is smashing a poor local shop's windows going to accomplish anything? Or destroying a company's store that if you did your homework would discover they are one of the best in fair trade, treatment of employees and the environment?  One of the most ridiculous things that I saw was the attacking of the one place you might actually get a message out - the media.  Smashing a News Van? Where's the intelligence strategy in that? And then there were the local protests at a global meeting including Toronto bike lanes which yes we need but will we accomplish them this way? It's one thing to bring awareness, but does it get lost in the shuffle? Some very serious and valid causes were overshadowed by seriously stupid and violent nonsense. Being in the city first hand I also realized how different the events seemed on the news because it entirely depends where you are when. On both sides as per usual, the bad apples spoil the bunch. But if the message is lost, then what's the point? Good causes need intelligent, effective strategies to address the important issues.

Jenn Good 

Categories: Blog Entry , Music and Concerts