A Look Back at

Joyce Corbett
Top Ten? Far too difficult

The most profound musical experience of the year for me was hearing folkloric group Los Muñequitos de Matanzas playing at their home in Cuba on my trip there with KosaMusic. They did a cross-Canada tour this summer but I missed their Toronto performance. Among the many excellent concerts that I did attend this year here are an even dozen of those that stuck with me (in chronological order)

Most refreshing fusion
Folklore Urbano @ Lula Lounge, Toronto (Jan. 12)
Columbian music of various types fused with jazz. Wonderful brass arrangements, piano, great vocals and the haunting sound of the gaita flute. A fresh sound that keeps the life pulse of the original folkloric forms but moves them into the present. Rich enough to just listen to, ebullient and great fun to dance to.
> LMR report

Most luminescent
William Parker, David Mott and Jesse Stewart @ Guelph Youth Music Centre (Jan. 14)
Sonoluminescence: the production of light from sound. I attempted to sum up this concert of sensitive creativity in my report thus: The mystery of how sound waves can cause the emission of light is still unsolved, but we know that they do.
> LMR report

How fabulous mainstream jazz can be
Kevin Mahogany with the Art of Jazz Orchestra @ Lula Lounge, Toronto (Feb. 8)
I am a long-time Kevin Mahogany fan. Having seen him previously with a trio, I was excited at the prospect of hearing him with a big band. The show more than lived up to my expectations with an all-star Toronto band and Mahogany’s rich and expert voice.
> LMR report

Most percussive
Samba Squad @ The Mod Club Theatre, Toronto (Feb. 16)
Was there any Brazilian percussion instrument they did not play? Plus Peruvian, plus……
Great total concept show from the lighting to the costumes to the band moving across the floor and the dancers mingling with the crowd.
> LMR report

Most intriguing
A 97-note octave – the piano in sixteenth tones @ Music Gallery, Toronto (Apr. 28)
The microtonal piano music became even more intriguing paired with an Onde Martenot keyboard with its separate moveable ring on a wire and its changeable timbre. The inclusion of other more traditional instruments on a few pieces worked well; a full and varied musical experience. Lots of room for further exploration with these seldom seen inventions.
> LMR report

Most surprising
The Humber College Latin Jazz Big Band @ Lula Lounge, Toronto (May 15)
I had seen this band at one of Humber College’s student shows. They were so good, a number of people were suggesting teacher and bandleader Luis Mario Ochoa take them on the road. As a reward for their achievement, Luis Mario Ochoa booked them a gig at Toronto’s ground zero for Latin music, Lula Lounge. They did him proud, playing and singing like professionals.
> LMR report

Most exciting
Havana Norte, led by Roberto Linares Brown @ Lula Lounge, Toronto (May 19)
An extraordinary experience for sheer pizzazz and musicianship. Their passion is obvious and so is their musical skill. They display a winning camaraderie with complicit smiles and laughs, creating a tight and intricately meshed sound at top speed. Watching the frontmen dance is inspiring! Arguably Toronto’s top timba band. (with a first CD due for release in early 2008)
> LMR report

Most spirited, in every sense of the word
Kahil El'Zabar & Ethnic Heritage Ensemble @ Trane Studio and @ Courthouse, Toronto (Jun. 30)
Kahil El'Zabar — drums, percussion, African thumb piano, voice
Ernest 'Khabeer' Dawkins — alto & tenor saxophones, percussion
Corey Wilkes — trumpet, fluegelhorn, pedal effects, drums & percussion.
Their performance at the Trane Studio married ancient and new, hand drumming and electronically processed trumpet lines. They appealed to our humanity, our sense of community and of history. The spiritual presence of Ernest Dawkins and Kahil El’Zabar, elders of the ensemble, was palpable. The young Corey Wilkes’ explorations included playing a trumpet and a flugelhorn simultaneously. His prowess, ease and sheer delight in playing were awesome. Toronto pianist Robi Botos had invited them to the Courthouse for a jam session after their Trane gig and they were eager to go. Closing the place at 4 a.m., they walked out on the sidewalk, instruments in hand, Ernest Dawkins singing Mingus lines, all of them asking about another place to play. Off to the Rex they went with Trane Studio proprietor Frank Francis and musician/soundwoman Zoé. Alas, they arrived too late. The Rex was closing up. What spirit!
> LMR report

Most historically resonant
Mavis Staples @ Toronto Jazz Festival Main Stage (Jul. 1)
This small giant of a woman transported us back to the tragedy and triumphs of the Civil Rights Movement, the glory days of Martin Luther King, the music and idealistic outlook of the 60s through her unique and powerful voice, beautifully backed by a band that included her sister Yvonne. She warned us not to become complacent and reminded us that one person can make a difference — “This little light of mine…..”
> LMR report

Most epic
Yoruba Andabo @ The Phoenix Concert Theatre, Toronto (Oct. 12)
Beautifully costumed, paced and executed. Never have I seen a pantheon of the orishas (Gods of the Santeria religion) at this level of art and excellence. The spirits of the dead from the Abakuá tradition were fabulous. And there was the street dance…..
P.S. Their DVD is a must.
> LMR report

In the musical and cultural icon category
Willie Colón @ The Docks, Toronto (Nov. 3)
A huge turnout for a huge figure in the Latin music world on what may have been his last tour. One of the originators of the Puerto Rican-New York salsa sound, signed to Fania records at the age of 15 and now set to retire, the music and the presence of this trombonist, singer, writer, actor and political activist held the crowd enthralled from start to finish.
> LMR report

Most Hard-Hitting Fun
Giraldo Piloto y Klimax @ Lula Lounge, Toronto (Nov. 17)
You would expect a band led by one of Cuba’s foremost drummers to be tight – and they were! The kind of vocal interplay I love in Cuban music, great rhythms, instrumentation and sheer excitement.
> LMR report

Special mentions – probably half of the other concerts I have heard this past year, so let’s not go there!

We welcome your comments and feedback
Joyce Corbett
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