Published Jan 14, 2010The Toronto Jazz Festival got a little more interesting last week with the appointment of Josh Grossman as the fest's new artistic director. Grossman takes over from founding artistic director, Canadian jazz titan Jim Galloway, who has retired after 23 years in the position.
Though the festival has been reasonably successful commercially in its last few years, it does not have the same sense of identity nor stature as other jazz festivals across Canada. In terms of its appeal to Exclaim! readers, the Toronto Jazz Festival has traditionally not featured much in terms of more left-field, experimental music in its programming, though last year there was an uptick in less conventional acts.
Grossman, 33, promises to inject a broader scope and community engagement into the festival. He was recently artistic director of the Markham Jazz Festival and is a co-founder of the Toronto Jazz Orchestra, and intends to build on these experiences in his programming.
"The festival needs to take a lead role in presenting the next generation of outstanding jazz musicians," Grossman tells Exclaim! in an interview. "While it is important to nurture our current audience, the festival can also introduce them to the new and exciting music making waves throughout the international jazz community. As the jazz community becomes more diverse - as musicians and musical influences from a wider variety of cultures become a regular part of the scene - the music is only going to get more interesting."
Despite any lofty ambitions, Grossman has a realistic view of jazz currently coming out of the Canadian musical landscapte. "I think jazz in Canada today is at a real crossroads," he notes. "As post-secondary jazz programs continue to expand and improve, the country's largest cities are inundated with outstanding young musicians who are complementing the many seasoned and often internationally acclaimed jazz veterans. I think jazz festivals across the country have an important role to play - by supporting local musicians, by expanding the horizons of current jazz audiences, and by reaching out to the next generation of jazz fans."
Though these priorities have been expressed before, hopefully Grossman's inclusive attitude and younger perspective will truly extend to the many fans of improvised music who don't come from jazz education backgrounds, a varied audience with which the Toronto festival has struggled over the years.
Nonetheless, the festival has a strong foundation both financially and as an event upon which to build.