Toronto's TONE Festival Gets the Sun Ra Arkestra, Ben Lamar Gay, Badge Époque Ensemble for 2023 Edition

Andy Moor, Marc Ribot, Farida Amadou, Ways, Zoh Amba, Jason Doell and many more will perform

BY Calum SlingerlandPublished Apr 5, 2023

Toronto's TONE Festival returns for its fifth edition this June, and co-founding curators Tad Michalak and Karen Ng have unveiled the fest's 2023 lineup.

Running from June 2 to 28, TONE 2023 continues to highlight Toronto as a music city that embodies and emboldens genre-defying creation and improvisation, with programming that includes performances by the Sun Ra Arkestra, Ben Lamar Gay, Badge Époque Ensemble and many more across venues including the Great Hall, the Rex, the Tranzac, Array Space and others.

This year's festival opens June 2 at Tibet Street Records in the city's Queen and Ossington neighbourhood, with a headlining performance by foundational American free improv saxophonist Jack Wright. Wright leads the RAWL ensemble that includes Evan Lipson (bass), Ben Bennett (drummer and noteworthy YouTuber), and Zach Darrup (guitarist), while the evening also features performances by Toronto woodwind player Naomi McCarroll-Butler and Philadelphia-based experimental artist Unguent.

On June 7, the Great Hall will play host to Marc Ribot's Ceramic Dog, an ensemble of "sonic fury" led by the accomplished guitarist and composer that also features drummer Ches Smith and bassist Shahzad Ismaily. Joining them at the storied Queen Street venue are guitarist Andy Moor (of the Ex) and Toronto-based four-piece Adversarial Networks.

Days later (June 9), the Great Hall will also play host to a musical meeting of celebrated experimental record labels Telephone Explosion and International Anthem. From the former, Badge Époque Ensemble will at last celebrate their 2022 full-length Clouds of Joy in a live setting, while Masahiro Takahashi will envelop the crowd in the warmth of compositions from this year's Humid Sun. From the latter, cornettist and composer Ben Lamar Gay will showcase the instrumental prowess that has made him a favourite collaborator of Makaya McCraven, the late jaimie branch and more.

Shifting to Bar Orwell on June 13, TONE's program welcomes the New York Review of Cocksucking. Subverting and queering the history of the saxophone, Michael Foster explores new woodwind horizons through "multifarious preparations and augmentations" to his instrument, while Richard Kamerman electronics charge into "noise, analog glitch, and glam." Local support on this evening will come from multimedia artist and musician Del Stephen, and vocalist, composer and improviser Laura Swankey.

On June 18 at Array Space, local experimentalist Jason Doell will celebrate the release of Becoming In Shadows - Of Being Touched, a piano-based record for which the artist employed a self-developed algorithmic compositional tool. The event will also include a performance by Halifax improvisational ensemble New Hermitage (Andrew MacKelvie, India Gailey, Ross Burns and Ellen Gibling).

At the Tranzac on June 21, saxophonist Zoh Amba and percussionist Chris Corsano will chart "blistering roars, transcendent oases, and worlds in between" in their improv interplay, while the transformative bass playing of Brussels-based Farida Amadou, and the rhythmically agile Ways — a duo of Toronto's Brodie West and Evan Cartwright — are also on the docket.

On June 24, the Tranzac will also host White People Killed Them — a collaboration between Pulitzer Prize-winning composer and sound artist Raven Chacon, John Dieterich of Deerhoof, and percussionist and installation artist Marshall Trammell. It's an evening further enhanced by the crunchy new wave of Not a Band, and the polyrhythmic rock of Animatist.

At the Rex, Toronto's longest-running jazz club, on June 25, Brooklyn-based saxophonist Caroline Davis will present works from Alula, the album featuring Matt Mitchell (synthesizers) and another Deerhoof member, Gregory Saunier (percussion). For this Toronto performance, Davis will be accompanied by Kate Gentile (drums) and Chris Tordini (bass).

TONE's final evening takes place at the Great Hall on June 28, where concertgoers will embark on the continued interplanetary journey of the Sun Ra Arkestra. Led by Maestro Marshall Allen, a member of the Arkestra since 1960, the visionary jazz group released Swirling in 2020, marking their first album in two decades.

Complete festival and ticketing information can be found via TONE's official website.

TONE's 2022 event saw performances from Mary Halvorson's Code Girl, JOYFULTALK, Kee Avil, Bernice, Gordon Grdina and more, while previous editions have hosted Beverly Glenn Copeland, the Ex, Efrim Manuel Menuck and others.

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