Renee Rosnes Quartet at Jazz Bistro: Echoes of Toronto’s Jazz Past

Used to be that Toronto was known as a jazz town.

Years ago there was the Town Tavern and the Colonial Tavern – clubs that regularly presented the world’s greatest jazz musicians. As a teenager I heard Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, Stan Getz, Gary Burton, Dizzy Gillespie, Earl Hines, the Modern Jazz Quartet – the list goes on and on – from my balcony seat overlooking the stage. And they came with their whole bands, and stayed for a whole week.

Yes, it was another era, but after that there were other clubs, like Bourbon Street and the Montreal Bistro, that would mostly bring in headliners to play with a (terrific) local rhythm section. But the last club to bring in a full band on a semi-regular basis was Top O’ the Senator. It was a sad day when, after 15 years, it closed in 2005.

So in January of this year, when Jazz Bistro opened on the same site as Top O’ the Senator, and with the Senator’s old manager, Sybil Walker, at the helm, it looked like Toronto finally had a club that would aspire to the glory days of the city’s jazz past.

Since opening in January, 2013, Jazz Bistro has brought a number of great musicians to town – not to mention its having served as a prime performance venue for the best in Toronto’s own jazz community.

But this week, from Nov. 14-16, the Bistro takes another step forward when it presents not only Renee Rosnes – one of the premiere jazz pianists of the day – but her full New York-based quartet. And what a quartet this is. With Ms. Rosnes on piano, Peter Washington on bass, Lewis Nash on drums and Jimmy Greene on saxophone, it happens to be made-up of all-stars. It can’t be easy (read cheap) bringing a band like this to town. Kudos to Jazz Bistro.

For an old guy like me, it brings back memories of afternoons and evenings spent at the Colonial Tavern forty, forty-five years ago. I encourage anyone who loves music to get out to hear this stellar band.

We’ve got the club now. Add an enthusiastic audience and maybe Toronto can once again call itself a jazz town.

The Jazz Bistro www.jazzbistro.com is at 251 Victoria Street in Toronto
For reservations, call 416-363-5299