Something for the Soul: Jazz Bars in Toronto
It’s only fitting that the home of the late legendary Oscar Peterson is also home to a thriving jazz scene. So if Dixieland, swing and bebop get you moving and Miles Davis and Charlie Parker are personal idols of yours, explore Toronto’s jazz bars and festivals to feed your soul.
Soak up That Smoky Sound
Toronto is home to some of the country’s top jazz training institutions – including Humber College and the University of Toronto – so it’s no surprise that the city boasts a thriving jazz community made up of both established and emerging artists.
At The Rex (149 Queen Street West) you can catch live jazz seven days a week. Here, local luminaries like Rich Brown and Don Thompson share the stage with international acts such as Snarky Puppy. With its full lineup of fine musicians, casual atmosphere and affordable drink menu, The Rex has been the go-to spot for jazz on Queen West for over 40 years.
In the heart of downtown Toronto, The Reservoir Lounge (52 Wellington Street) is one of the hippest lounges in the city. Exposed brick walls and dim lighting give this basement venue a relaxed martini-swirling vibe, but don’t be fooled – once the band takes the stage the dance floor abounds with energy. It was at The Reservoir Lounge that a young unknown named Michael Bublé first made a name for himself.
Picking up the mantle where the renowned Top O’ The Senator left off, the Jazz Bistro (251 Victoria Street) opened up on the same spot. Enjoy an evening of great music and great food amidst the Jazz Bistro’s contemporary design, complete with a beautiful one-of-a-kind Steinway piano nicknamed “Red Pops.”
For an extra special atmosphere, head to Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada on the second Friday of each month for Friday Night Jazz. Wander through the aquarium at your leisure while treating your ears to live jazz music (refreshments available at the cash bar).
Find Your Groove at Toronto’s Famous Jazz Festivals
Toronto is fortunate to have not one, but two major international jazz festivals. Dedicated enthusiasts flock to the city each June for the TD Toronto Jazz Festival – a 10-day event featuring some of the biggest names in jazz. Over 1,500 musicians perform at more than 40 locations across the city, including free concerts at Nathans Phillips Square.
The jazz celebration continues in July at the Beaches International Jazz Festival. This free outdoor festival showcases a variety of sounds from blues, big band, African, Latin and other traditions – all taking place in a spectacular lakeside setting in The Beach.
Still itching for more jazz in your life? Make your way west to the Tim Hortons Southside Shuffle in Port Credit for a fun-filled weekend of food, entertainment and of course – live jazz, blues and big band music!
Get Your Jazz Fix All Day and Night
Toronto is home to one of the few 24-hour jazz radio stations in the world, so in between live music shows, enthusiasts can tune in to Jazz 91.1 FM for music, interviews and listings.
Looking to expand your musical horizons across different genres? Find out where else to catch live music in Toronto.