This is Jazz? Beaches Jazz Festival kicks off 27th year today with eclectic lineup

Sam Taylor -Michele O'Neill

Sam Taylor -Michele O’Neill


The 27th edition of the much-heralded Beaches International Jazz Festival kicks off this afternoon in Woodbine Park with performances on two stages by acts that you’d really have to stretch your mind to define as “Jazz” artists.

The three-weekend (and one Thursday) extravaganza runs July 10-12, 17-19 and 23-26 in the park between Eastern Avenue/Queen St. E. and Lake Shore Blvd. E., east of  Coxwell Avenue and also includes the four-day “Streetfest” outdoor performances Jul 23-26 at dozens of venues along Queen St. East from Woodbine Avenue to Victoria Park Avenue.

The very first act of the entire festival is one with whom regular readers will be very familiar: Blues tyro songwriter and covers interpreter Sam Taylor with his band The East End Love.

Arsenal -Gary 17

Arsenal -Gary 17

If Buddy Guy, Stevie Ray Vaughn or Jimi Hendrix could have been called Jazz then I guess so can Taylor –but really this is straight-ahead six-string high-energy guitar-driven Blues all the way, with sizzling riffs and improvisations that certainly are the technical equivalent of Jazz riffles but would have purists howling. Everyone else, however, just becomes too transfixed to complain.

East York resident Taylor, who is in the process of recording an album at newly formed Facilitator Records and who has been tearing up club stages across the city for the past year, will appear at 4 p.m. for the only performance of the day on the “Indie Stage” (in the park’s south-west corner at Coxwell and Eastern).

At 7 p.m. what is being called the “Pan Am Celebration Stage” (southeast corner of park off Northern Dancer Blvd.) will feature another group with only tenuous connections to Jazz Ska demons Arsenal.

While Arsenal’s leader, Dizzy D, does employ a flugelhorn and trombone and the outfit takes the hugest liberties imaginable with every form of Pop Rock, Funk and Boogie, calling the combo Jazz might be stretching it – but who really cares; these guys are the bomb!

Arsenal will be followed at 9 by K.C. Roberts & The Live Revolution, an act I’m not familiar with and that may well be pure Jazz, though I’d doubt it.  But in the spirit of the PanAm vibe, not to mention the just-completed Pride Week, inclusiveness seems to rule this year’s installment of the venerable festival.

Given that the festival’s website contains no link to purchase tickets and no mention is made of an admission fee anywhere, it appears that the events are all free. Shows in the park continue throughout the weekend, for which a full lineup can be found at:

-Gary 17,