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  • Writer's pictureGloriaWrites

Musical Revolutión in the Junction

Updated: Sep 19, 2021

Nothing can replace the room, the energy, the vibe of a live jazz show. As I walk my dog past La Rev, a Mexican restaurant in Toronto’s Junction district, I see a poster in the window: BROWNMAN AKOUSTIC TRIO - every Monday in September. After 18 months of live music drought, I think to myself, “I’m in!”

The evening turns out an open jam hosted by the veteran jazz trumpet player who splits his time between Brooklyn and Toronto. “My trio - with Jack Johnston (19) on bass and Mateo Mancuso (21) on drums - opens up the night. We play adventurous stuff.” The word about the event seems to have travelled fast. A flurry of talent has shown up. Most are music students from Humber College music program. A couple hail from the University of Toronto and York University. The young instrumentalists (the average age in the room might be 22) sit holding guitars and saxophones of various sizes waiting to be called up.

“We haven’t had a lot of opportunity to play with people,” says saxophonist Tyler Campbell. “I’m really happy to be back out here. It’s a good time!”

Brownman checks the signup sheet and pulls another band together. Each fresh combination of players sets a vibrant pace. There are just two singers this tonight. Well-known Toronto singer Ori Dagan, slows things down for a moment with You Don’t Know What Love Is. The one woman performer of the night, Karen Pearce takes to the stage with a warm, rich and unexpectedly low voice.

New Old Ways

“I find Toronto – very stratified. Old guys play with old guys. Young play with young,” says Brownman. “Coming up in Brooklyn I never saw that. As long as you can play and hang out, you got to play with whomever. This is part of my response to that. As you can hear, the bar is set quite high. These are some of the hottest young players on the scene. They are calling tunes that are very difficult. It’s very courageous.”

He also holds jam sessions with many of these same players at his Junction based studio. “They are almost like masterclasses. We talk about Cuban music, advanced jazz, harmony, polyrhythms and how apply to them modern jazz. A lot of these kids show up and put that into practice on stage. It’s all a part of the aural tradition. It all gets passed on organically from human to human as opposed to in a classroom.”

Dinner and Music

Earlier in the day on my walk with my dog, incidentally named Jazz, I’d asked the owner, Indira Nanavati Cadena whether or not I needed a reservation. She’d paused and then laughed, “No!” However, it’s turned out to be unexpectedly busy for a Monday night and she’s been running the bar, occasionally racing to the store next door for more supplies, all the while keeping a head count.

“This is really one of true hidden gems in the live music community,” says Ori. “It’s a good place to take someone if want to surprise them.”

Every Monday night in September at La Rev is a happening. Indira tells me that she is booked most other nights as well - until the end of 2021. Oh, and the food is amazing.

Why am I telling you this? I mean really. Why? Don’t come. I think I’ll be here all the time, there is limited capacity and I want to keep this brilliant little jazz venue on the corner mostly to myself.

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