[JPL] Canadian festivals

Larry Appelbaum jumpmonk at hotmail.com
Mon Jul 11 20:51:35 EDT 2005

Jim Wilkie wrote:
>It got me wondering how to explain the success of Canadian jazz festivals 
>with their adventurous programming?  I haven't seen the figures yet for 
>Toronto and Montreal, but they seem to get bigger every year, too.   Is it 
>the CBC?  Both CBC radio and tv do a great job of covering living Canadian 
>artists and do lots of live broadcasts of jazz and other music year 'round. 
>  There are daily jazz shows on the CBC radio network.


I just got back from covering both the Toronto and Montreal festivals for a 
Japanese magazine. I can't imagine that the CBC has much to do with the 
success of either festival. As far as radio goes, in Toronto it's a station 
called FM 91 (run by Ross Porter) which acts as a marketing partner for the 
festival. Every day I was there they were doing interviews with festival 
artists, frequent run-downs of the festival schedule, and live reports from 
the side of the downtown tent stage. If you look at FM 91's playlist it's 
strictly mainstream jazz. Although David Murray and Roy Hargrove's RH Factor 
played the festival, I don't think you're likely to hear their music 
on-the-air there. Maybe one of the college stations, though. I did see a 
woman from CBC introduce Roy Hargrove but it was a little embarrassing the 
way she was fawning over them. Montreal on the other hand is a festival 
that's run on a much larger scale. There's simply more of everything; in 
terms of resources, artists represented, audiences who show up, and high 
production values at each show. They also get a much larger amount of money 
from the government than the Toronto or other festivals, which are forced to 
shill for TD Canada Trust. The Montreal Festival also has their own radio 
station, and there's an interesting low-key college station at McGill 
University that our friend Len Dobbin broadcasts from. The two cities are 
very different, and I would imagine that Vancouver is different still. You 
might want to look at the festival's artistic directors to see how their 
tastes and business acumen are reflected: Patrick Taylor and Jim Galloway in 
Toronto, and Alain Simnard and Andre Menard (and a large crew of 
programmers) in Montreal. The fact that Montreal can shut down city streets 
for their festival, while Toronto has to erect a tent in Nathan Phillips 
Square says something about the political pull each festival has on their 
community. I wouldn't look only at the effect of each city's radios stations 
to explain their successes or failures, but the big picture. It's political 
as well as cultural. I hope one day to visit Vancouver to see for myself 
what they do. I like the adventurous side of their programming, and I assume 
Ken Pickering has something to do with that. And don't forget that Canada 
has two of the most interesting avant/improvised music festivals in the 
northern hemisphere, in Guelph and in Victoriaville. If anyone has other 
insights about the Canadian festivals, I hope you'll share them.

Larry Appelbaum

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