Midtown — and all that jazz

We're rife with great musicians but not enough venues for them to play in

Jazz musician Sun Ra once said, “The earth moves in a certain rhythm, a certain sound. When the music stops the earth will stop and everything upon it will die.”

Now, the start of 2017 has seen two respected music venues shutter their doors. Not to get all ominous with Mr. Ra’s quote, but here in Toronto with venues shutting down, and HMV closing, well, it’s looking pretty bad for music in general.

Though the fate of Hugh’s Room in Roncesvalles is up-in-the-air, the owners of the Silver Dollar Room on Spadina Avenue announced their run is over after almost 60 years of live music.

Now, how does this pertain to midtown? Well, during my rambles as an entertainment reporter, I’ve got to know the people who live in the neighbourhoods covered by this newspaper. Jazz chanteuse Sophie Milman calls Davisville home, while pianist Robi Botos resides in Cedarvale, among other local musical figures.

Both are Juno Award winners, and both reveal the absence of good venues, not just in Toronto but in midtown.

Botos is playful when first I ask about the need for places to play their jazz.

“At this point, a jazz venue anywhere would be great,” he says.

He even offers a few locales on the St. Clair strip that would be ideal. Ellington’s, just west of Bathurst, is one spot he says could use more live music.

Davisville seems a little anemic on the venue side of things, but that hasn’t deterred Milman from planting her roots.

She loves living in the community. When her parents first immigrate to Canada from Russia, they lived in midtown. Now Milman raises her own family here.

“It’s that perfect combination of calm, quiet and serenity and it’s close to downtown,” she says. “I don’t need it to be busy all of the time.”

There is a lot more jazz in midtown. Bill King, the artistic director for the Beaches International Jazz Festival, lives in the shadow of Casa Loma, while singer Amanda Martinez is neighbours with Botos. Move a little further south, and big band leader Martin Loomer strikes it up in the Annex.

Midtown is rife with brass. So, why doesn’t someone give a tip of the hat to the scene and open a restaurant geared for jazz lovers here?

“There will always be a need for live music, and even more now with so many crazy things going on,” Botos says.

I agree. If we look south of the border, there’s some pretty intense ideologies flooding the newswires. Best to escape in music.

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