This year’s Emilie-Claire Barlow show at the TD Toronto Jazz Festival is 20 years in the making.
It’s been that long since her first album of 12 was released. And there’s an air of relaxation in the two-time Juno award winner as she talks about finding the right sound through Skype from Huatulco, Mexico.
The 42-year-old, Beach-raised, former midtown resident is celebrating that milestone with a band she refers to as her core.
“It checks all the boxes,” she says. “They are extraordinary musicians and they have a sound that’s right for the music that I’m doing.”
Joining her on stage June 25 at Koerner Hall will be guitarist Reg Schwager, pianist Amanda Tosoff, bassist Jon Maharaj, drummer Fabio Ragnelli, saxophonist Kelly Jefferson and percussionist Chendy Leon. In addition, a string quartet based out of Montreal will be adding to the rich sound of the festival, which runs from June 21 to 30.
Barlow admits she’s had many different configurations from her first album Sings in 1998 to her most recent addition to her discography, Lumières d’hiver in 2017.
That’s all attributed to the talent pool she can dive into here in Toronto, one that she’s been a part of since her parents, Brian Barlow and Judy Tate, were both session musicians.
“The jazz culture of Toronto is deep,” she trills, adding she’s collaborated with her dad, as well as greats Guido Basso and Moe Koffman. “That’s been a huge influence on me.
“There are so many. That’s one of the things I love about Toronto is that it’s rich with musicians that are incredibly talented, versatile, and great people to be around.”
The last time she performed at the Toronto Jazz Festival was 2012. During that time, she’s won two Junos for Vocal Jazz Album of the Year (2013 and 2016). The latter of the two, Clear Day, is the work she says she’s most proud.
Produced and arranged by her boyfriend Steve Webster, also known for his work as a bassist with the Parachute Club and Billy Idol, the duo teamed up with Dutch jazz orchestra, Metropole Orkest.
“That’s one of my proudest achievements and the recognition from our peers,” she said.
This time out at the jazz festival, she hopes to play a little something from each album in her repertoire. It’s always a challenge to make sure nothing is missed, including the fan favourites.
The audience is always important.
“I love to make a connection with an audience,” she says. “I hope to share the joy that the band and I feel on stage. To transport them, in a way.
“For them to have that moment of excitement or comfort or surprise when they hear a song they love.”