Toronto fest brings music to streets

CNC report from Toronto
Added On July 30, 2013

Now we take a look at a music festival in Toronto that had over 50 bands playing along a two kilometer stretch of road. StreetFest -- and that was just part of a much bigger celebration.

For ten days a year, the Beaches International Jazz Festival brings free music of all kinds of jazz-related genres to Toronto.

Featuring jazz, blues, soul, funk and much more, the festival's artistic director Bill King says StreetFest attracts over 700,000 people over the three days, and over a million people throughout the entire festival.

SOUNDBITE (ENGLISH) BILL KING, Artistic director
"It's all about the face of this city, how we are all so many cultures and we're all together and enjoying each other."

King, who cofounded the event back in 1989, says choosing jazz was a no-brainer back then.

SOUNDBITE (ENGLISH) BILL KING, Artistic director
"At the time jazz was a big thing. It was very popular 25 years ago. Jazz festivals was kind of something that you told people that you felt safe at a festival, you were coming for the music, so it also told you it was a listening experience right. So it had great history, it had a great aura around it."

But it's not easy to put together a jazz festival anymore. King says only about 30 per cent of the bands playing at StreetFest this year are jazz bands.

SOUNDBITE (ENGLISH) BILL KING, Artistic director
"The jazz scene anywhere is not very good right now, and that's because all the great legends have passed away, the only person you can really go out to see and people will really know is Tony Bennett or Harry Connick Jr."

King says with the shortage of jazz musicians, the festival has evolved organically to include different types of bands.

Who Stole the Cookies, a local band that mixes vintage and contemporary rock is the perfect example.

SOUNDBITE (ENGLISH) TONY JOHNSTONE, Band member
"Rock that's basically aimed at baby boomers, people that's ages 45 and over, and the kind of songs we have reflect a lot of the life experiences.”

Johnstone, who infuses a bit of jazz into their rock music, says there's a reason this popular form of music is losing its pool of talents.

One, being that it's hard to play.

SOUNDBITE (ENGHLISH) TONY JOHNSTONE, Band member
"Jazz is hard, and I think that's what puts people off, but on the other hand it's fantastic to listen to 'cause it regenerates and revitalizes."

But that doesn't mean jazz is disappearing.

SOUNDBITE (ENGHLISH) TONY JOHNSTONE, Band member
"I think it's alive and kicking, I think what's happening is the style of jazz is evolving. I think that's exciting, if you think about it, look at us, Toronto is a very multi-ethnic city, and a lot of that world sensibility in music, listening to the guys from South America behind us, is creeping into jazz and developing jazz too. So it's not quite as rigid and stuck in its form as it used to be."

Jazz fans are still flocking to the annual event.

This 10-day festival featured some newer events this year including Latin jazz and its very first Taste of Jazz-slash-Gourmet Food Truck Extravaganza to expand its appeal.