I’ve been attending concerts by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra ever since I moved to the city in 1980. As I grow older, I appreciate it even more and go much more often.

Of course, JAZZ.FM91 listeners know me primarily as a jazz man. But at recent concerts, I’ve been surprised about how many familiar faces I’ve seen — including many JAZZ.FM91 listeners and donors and several of our best-loved jazz musicians. That said, it’s not actually surprising, because jazz and classical music are a logical marriage.

For one thing, they’re both primarily instrumental forms of music. Jazz ensembles are led by a bandleader; classical orchestras are led by a conductor. Each genre has its own rich history. Over the course of centuries, classical music gradually evolved from its origins in medieval, renaissance and baroque music. Similarly, jazz also had its own slow path from ragtime and Dixieland to the jazz forms we recognize today.

By the beginning of the 20th century, classical music included “expressionism” which featured irregular meters and rhythms. This new form of classical heavily influenced the birth of jazz. Jazz respected classical music, but it incorporated African rhythms and featured multiple instruments improvising simultaneously. Some may say the two genres are hundreds of years and hundreds of miles from each other, but they both reveal the human spirit and transcend the spoken word.

There are even some composers who slip some jazz in their classical: Leonard Bernstein, George Gershwin, Igor Stravinsky, Claude Bolling and Aaaron Copland, for example. There are also those who have classical training and incorporate it into jazz: Chick Corea, Keith Jarrett and Adam Makowicz come to mind.

I spoke to several of Toronto’s well-established jazz musicians and composers, and I asked them about their own unique relationships with classical music. In this Q&A, you’ll find Thompson Egbo-Egbo, Chelsea McBride, Christopher Simmons, John MacLeod and Hilario Durán discussing how classical music influences their jazz.