A cohort of European artists are making their mark at this year’s TD Toronto Jazz Festival
Jazz was born in America in the late 19th century — but today, the music has taken root in all corners of the world. Over the years and decades, the genre has been fused with all sorts of sounds and styles from various cultures from around the globe, leading to continually fascinating developments in the evolution of jazz.
This year’s TD Toronto Jazz Festival represents that diversity with a lineup of more than 100 acts whose music comes from all sorts of different places. Whether they’re international artists performing for Canadian audiences or local acts whose families immigrated to the country and now call Toronto home, these musicians represent the impressive diversity of the jazz scene today.
Among those artists is a cohort of lesser-known European (or European-influenced) artists who are making big statements despite their relatively smaller profiles. Hailing from places like Ukraine, Poland and Hungary, these artists are showing audiences what jazz sounds like in their parts of the world.
The Krzysztof Baranowski Trio
July 1 | 10 p.m. | The Pilot
July 2 | 2:45 p.m. | TD Village Stage
Based in Warsaw, Poland, multi-instrumentalist Krzysztof Baranowski is engaged in a variety of stylistically diverse projects and moves freely between artists from various genres, including pop artist SANAH, soul and R&B singer Paulina Przybysz, retro acoustic band Warsaw Sentimental Orchestra, and his own project, the Krzysztof Baranowski Trio. His debut album Krzysztof Baranowski Trio – Live at Radio Katowice was a result of an awarded performance at the 2022 Bielska Zadymka Jazzowa festival. Formed in 2018, the trio combines jazz traditions with modern sounds within the classic piano trio format. Fresh, harmonious compositions, stage creativity and emotional language of musical expression distinguish the trio on the contemporary jazz scene of Poland. Baranowski’s original compositions combine various inspirations from traditional jazz, classical music, Scandinavian jazz, film and world music. The musicians are characterized by great sensitivity and versatility. With Baranowski leading on double bass, he’s accompanied on stage by pianist Mateusz Kaszuba and drummer Shachar Elnatan.
July 1 | 5 p.m. | TD Main Stage – OLG Grove
Born in Ukraine, Nastasia Y blends folk tradition with futuristic ideals. Inspired by the vibrant, multicultural city of Toronto that she now calls home, Nastasia seamlessly fuses pop, jazz, and Slavic ancestral sounds into her music. She grew up in Kyiv to the soundtrack of the Ukrainian resistance songs her late father would sing. After moving to Canada, she completed a jazz piano degree, fell in love with soul and Motown music, and released her first original album Set the Water Straight in English (under the name Stacey Y). She then went back to creatively embracing her culture with projects such as DoVira, BLISK, and many other collaborations. Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Nastasia has been tirelessly volunteering and advocating for her country, using her music as the vehicle for her activism.
June 27 | 6 p.m. | OLG Lounge – OLG Grove
June 27 | 8 p.m. | OLG Lounge – OLG Grove
Also hailing from Ukraine, Mira Mela is a jazz-trained pianist, singer-songwriter and DJ who draws from her rich relationships with the world around her, connecting cultures, people, and places through the art of multidisciplinary musical storytelling. Her innovative interpretations of soul music and her penchant for finding deep cuts bring together a mélange of sound marked by soulful introspection and jazzy progressions.
June 26 | 5:45 p.m. | The Village
June 26 | 7:45 p.m. | The Village
June 27 | 6:30 p.m. | TD Village Stage
Pulkes is a Balkan-Klezmer band that was formed in 2018 within the walls of the city of Jerusalem. The band has already performed in a variety of festivals around the country and around the world. Its musical show takes listeners on an intoxicating Balkan journey, covering a diverse array of genres including Afrobeat and Eastern European melodies. The band released their first EP in 2022.
June 26 | 8:45 p.m. | TD Main Stage – OLG Grove
KUNÉ brings together 11 artists who exchange and merge their different cultures in their work, contributing to a distinctive sound. KUNÉ’s musicians come from all over the world – Peru, Burkina Faso, Greece, Turkey, Cuba, China and elsewhere – and are now based in the Toronto area. They play instruments as diverse as their ethnic backgrounds. The project was initiated by Mervon Mehta, director of Toronto’s prestigious Koerner Hall. The ensemble released its first album in 2018 and is working on a second original album scheduled for 2023.
Debi Botos Quintet
June 24 | 2:30 p.m. | TD Village Stage
From an early age, Debi Botos has cultivated an interest in the Hungarian Gypsy music from the place where she was born. Today, she continues to explore and experiment with the sounds of the legendary Django Reinhardt. Through gigging around Toronto, playing festivals and concert halls in the U.S., and growing up in a very musical Botos family, she has found a sound that is both contemporary and an homage to the greats. A former participant in JAZZ.FM91’s Discover Women in Jazz concert series, she has composed multiple compositions in the Gypsy jazz style that create an enjoyable atmosphere that feels traditional yet modern.