A Look Back at

Sebastian Cook
Top Concerts for 2008

1. Toubab Krewe with High Plains Drifter @ Revival (Sep. 28)
An astonishing, spirit-awakening fusion of West African traditional music, jam rock, southern rock, surf-punk and so much more. The closing percussion salvo with all five members pounding away was positively cathartic. One person commented that Toubab Krewe could “teach Africans a thing or two about making music.”

2. Hypnotic Brass Ensemble with King Sunshine @ The Opera House (Nov. 15)
The highlight of the NuJazz Festival, featuring eight brass-playing sons of Sun Ra trumpeter Phil Cohran. It was jazz with a hip hop edge, and hip hop with a jazz pulse. Seeing that many Torontonians come out in terrible weather to see a brass band was a beautiful thing.

3. Tribute to Jackie Mittoo @ Lula Lounge (Mar. 20)
We had no idea at the time that the show came just weeks after what would have been Jackie’s 60th birthday. His family was there in force, and truly moved by this tribute to his legacy. Bandleader and Mittoo protégé Jason Wilson led the way with that gorgeously crunchy Leslie combo organ sound. For good measure Bob Marley’s trumpeter David Madden happened to be in town.

4. SalsAfrica @ Lula Lounge (Feb. 8)
The visionaries at Lula brought together the city’s foremost salsa and African musicians under the leadership of the incomparable Luis Orbegoso. The second set was right up there with the very best I have ever seen, and the show would have ranked higher if they weren’t working out the kinks in the first set. I call this music “Toronto timba” — a mashup of Afro-Latin, funk, jazz and groove.
> LMR report

5. Burnt Sugar: The Arkestra Chamber @ Lula Lounge (Mar. 27)
Bar none, this improv orchestra from NYC painted most diverse musical palette I have ever seen in a single show — jazz, funk, metal, rock, reggae, go-go, this had EVERYTHING, and it’s all on-the-fly. Bandleader Greg Tate is one of the deeper integrated thinkers I’ve ever had the honour to meet, and their collective chemistry is truly inspiring to be around.

6. Ensemble Uniqua with Shakshuka @ Lula Lounge (Apr. 10)
Local killer Sundar Viswanathan (sax) along with Rich Brown (bass) and Justin Abedin (guitar) welcomed some of Sundar’s friends from back in the day in New York City — Antonio Dangerfield (trumpet), Micheal Lawson (violin), Matt Baranello (drums) and Shaun Kelly (percussion). World music and jazz fusion at its finest, with some ethereally tasty egg foo yong afterwards.

7. Jason Wilson with Ernest Ranglin & Pee Wee Ellis @ Hugh’s Room (Sep. 25)
Two bona fide legends helped celebrate the release of Wilson’s long-awaited solo debut album The Peacemaker’s Chauffeur. This night touched the historical essence of funk, reggae and island soul in a single performance. Further evidence of what makes Jason stand alone as a visionary in the reggae world, and the double CD will change the way you look at the music.
> LMR report

8. Rebel Rhythm @ Supermarket (Jul. 10)
Booty-shaking pan-Latin, house-and-funk inspired grooves featuring the Ventura Brothers, Luis Orbegoso, and Mayito del Monte. The fairly small crowd showed up late, but sounded about five times larger.
> LMR report

9. Namori @ Lula Lounge (Apr. 17)
The former Dobacaracol drummer came down from Montreal with his own band for the finale of the Small world Jazz Series. Percussionists with that type of melodic composition sense are really rare. In person he’s one of the most genuine and delightful artists one could ever hope to meet. He doesn’t speak much English, but he gets you and gets his point across.

10. Orchestra Baobab @ Harbourfront (Jul. 3)
In a funny way, these lions in winter from West Africa reminded me of the Grateful Dead — they’d by turns struggle to find their stride and then deliver moments of pure melodic and rhythmic bliss. Harbourfront was made for that sort of call-and-response musical love-in, and sometimes the place a show holds in one’s heart is dictated more by emotion than musicality. This was one of those nights.
> LMR report

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Sebastian Cook
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