Jane Bunnett and Maqueque to tease new album at Toronto concert

Jane Bunnett and Maqueque, one of the top jazz groups in North America, are gearing up for a new project.

The Juno-winning, Grammy-nominated ensemble are recording their new album Playing With Fire, with a release date still to be determined.

But before then, the band is playing songs from the new record for one night only at the El Mocambo on Thursday, Sept. 15.

The concert is part of a new initiative by JazzinToronto to bring more jazz acts to the iconic Toronto venue, which recently completed a $37-million renovation project.


Vocalist and composer Ori Dagan, the promotional group’s artistic director, says it began earlier this year when he released his fourth album Click Right Here and was looking for a venue to host a release party. With support from FACTOR, he held a sold-out show at the El Mocambo in May. Afterward, the El Mocambo’s programmer Mike Chalut asked Dagan if he could help them book more jazz acts.

“I said, ‘Can you repeat that question?’ And he said, ‘Can you please bring more jazz?’ My favourite magic words.”

Jane Bunnett and Maqueque are the first act that Dagan and JazzinToronto — which also comprises Lina Welch, Camille Neirynck, Mark Lemieux and Jay Sison — are bringing to the El Mocambo’s Starlight Room, an intimate concert space that holds approximately 100 people.

Led by five-time Juno Award winner Jane Bunnett, Maqueque features Joanna Majoko, Yissy García, Tailin Marrero, Dánae Olano and MaryPaz Fernández. What started out as a project to record and mentor young women from Cuba’s music scene has become one of the hottest groups in jazz. Since 2015, Maqueque have played in major jazz festivals like Newport and Monterey, they’ve been featured on NPR’s program Jazz Night in America, they won a Juno Award for their self-titled first album, they were nominated for a Grammy Award for their second album Oddara,  and they were nominated for another Juno for their latest release, On Firm Ground/Tierra Firme.

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Maqueque’s show at the El Mocambo’s Starlight Room will be the group’s first Toronto concert in three years. It’ll feature guitarist Donna Grantis — best known for playing and recording with Prince’s backing band 3RDEYEGIRL — as a special guest. The band is also introducing vocalist and violinist Daniela Olano to the lineup.

Dagan hopes this will be just the beginning for jazz at the El Mocambo, which has been a musical landmark in Toronto since 1948.

“We really want to prove that jazz sells,” Dagan says. “We live in such an amazing community with so much talent, so it’s always a blessing to be able to give a spotlight to it.”