I am a regular listener to a jazz radio station in my hometown of Toronto, Canada. JAZZ.FM91 is a non-profit radio station and in order to keep the station running, they have donor campaigns from time to time. (click on any photo to see a larger version)
During their last campaign drive, I decided to donate $250, for which I was given one seat on a Jazz Safari. There are three types of safaris. The classic safari rents a bus (a.k.a. the “magic” bus) that goes to four or five different jazz clubs. The timing is such that we get to a club just as a set is about to begin. When the set is over, we get back on the bus and travel to the next club.
There is also a one-stop safari going to a single club with multiple acts.
They also have international jazz safaris where you visit the jazz scene in different cities and countries. JAZZ.FM91 recently had a safari to Iceland. They have also visited places like New Orleans, New York City, and Monterey. Their next international safari goes to Cuba for a week in January 2016.
The host for these safaris is the amazing Jaymz Bee. There is never a dull moment with Jaymz and his stories on the magic bus.
Jazz Safari host, Jaymz Bee
My first jazz safari began with everyone meeting at Kama restaurant, which is known for classical Indian cuisine. Our meeting time was 6 p.m., which gave us time to enjoy the buffet before boarding the magic bus at 6:50 p.m.
While enjoying our meal, we were entertained by a fabulous vocalist, Geneviève Marentette, along with pianist Robert Scott.
Geneviève Marentette and Robert Scott
At 6:50 p.m. we left Kama and had to walk a couple of blocks to get on the magic bus. Normally the bus would have picked us up right outside Kama, but TIFF was on and King Street West was blocked off.
About thirty minutes later, we arrived at safari stop number two, Gate 403 on Roncesvalles Avenue. Performing was vocalist Denise Leslie along with David Restivo on piano and Pat Collins on bass. Denise, David and Pat provided us with a great 40-minute set and I was able to have enough time to enjoy a beer while we listened. It is worth noting that any food or drink is your own responsibility; the safari does not cover those items.
You can find a brief video of Denise by clicking here.
David Restivo, Denise Leslie, Pat Collins
Shortly after 8 p.m. we were back on the bus for a short 10-minute ride to stop number three, the Home Smith Bar, which is located in the Old Mill at 21 Old Mill Road.
Performing for us were John MacMurchy on tenor sax and clarinet, Mark Kieswetter on piano, Ross MacIntyre on bass and Daniel Barnes on drums. I really enjoyed the Home Smith Bar, which has great acoustics due to carpeting and upholstered chairs.
Click this link for a video from the Home Smith Bar.
Jaymz Bee and John MacMurchy
John MacMurchy, Ross MacIntyre, Daniel Barnes
Mark Kieswetter, John MacMurchy, Ross MacIntyre
Back on the bus, and twenty minutes later we arrived at stop number four. We were at an old church which now serves as Dovercourt House. Friday night was Swing Dance night. It was great to see so many young people really dancing and enjoying live music provided by the Mike Daley Quartet: Mike Daley guitar, Lowell Whitty drums, Michael Herring bass and Jordan Klapman on keyboard.
Jaymz Bee was correct when he told us that Dovercourt House has probably the cheapest liquor prices in town. I ordered a double J&B on the rocks and it was $7.50!
View a video of people doing Swing Dance with the band.
Mike Daley guitar, Lowell Whitty drums, Michael Herring bass
Jordan Klapman, keyboard
It was now shortly after 10 p.m. and we boarded the bus for our fifth and final stop, The Monarch Tavern. Performing was an ensemble put together by tenor sax man Scott Marshall. Along with Scott were pianist David Restivo whom we had seen earlier in the evening accompanying Denise Leslie, Dave Young, legendary bassist with the Oscar Peterson trio, Terry Clarke on drums, and Kevin Turcotte on trumpet.
Scott’s theme for the evening was a tribute to Miles Davis. The ensemble played many famous Miles Davis tunes to the delight of everyone in the club.
A short video can be found here.
Dave Young, Scott Marshall, Terry Clarke
Jaymz Bee and Scott Marshall
We left the Monarch around 11:30 p.m. and our magic bus driver graciously dropped off people at various points downtown.
His final stop was at the King Edward Hotel where the last four of us got off at midnight. I shared a cab with a fellow safari attendee who happened to live in my neighbourhood.
Here are all the places we visited that evening. Click this link for detailed Google Maps information.
As I mentioned, this was my first jazz safari. Many of the others on the safari had done multiple safaris in the past. Will I do another one? Absolutely! It would be tough to cover that many clubs in one evening on your own. And with transportation and cover charges all taken care of for you, I think it’s great value and it goes towards helping radio station JAZZ.FM91.
And with apologies to all the bass players we saw on the safari (my father was a bass player), here is one of Jaymz’s jokes:
“A man decides to go on a vacation on a Pacific island. When he steps off the plane, it is amazing: cool, light ocean breeze, palms gently swaying in the wind, white sandy beaches, drums off in the distance. He goes to his hotel, checks in, starts having the time of his life.
When he turns in on the first night, he can still hear drums off in the distance. They were charming at first, but now it’s a little annoying, and he has a hard time going to sleep. The next morning, he goes to the concierge and asks about the drums. The concierge replies, “The drums, they never stop. Very, very bad if they stop.”
So the man goes about his day in paradise, having a great time, but the drums never stop. He tries to ignore them, but they interfere with his sleep the second night. The next morning, fuzzy-headed from too many island drinks and too little sleep, he again asks the concierge if something can be done about the drums. He gets the same reply: “Drums not stop. Very bad if they do.”
The rest of the day is not fun. The drums are driving this man crazy, and he isn’t getting any sleep. The next day he is ready leave. He packs his bags and goes up to the front desk to check out. But first the man finds the concierge to give the concierge a piece of his mind. Suddenly, the drums stop.
He says to the concierge: “They finally stopped! Thank god, I can get some sleep. I was about the leave.”
The concierge says: “This is bad. Very, very bad. Flee from this island while you still can.”
“Drums stop. Bass solo next.”