Artists 2021

Adrean Farrugia

Award-winning pianist and composer Adrean Farrugia is one of Canada’s most distinct voices and sought-after pianists, touring extensively around the world. He’s played on more than 40 albums, working with a who’s who of artists, from Ernie Watts, Sheila Jordan, Randy Brecker and Brad Goode to Matt Dusk, Molly Johnson and Joel Frahm. To date, Adrean has released five albums, penned more than 30 original tunes and earned two JUNOs and eight nominations.

Alexis Baro

By age 19, Havana-born Alexis Baro was playing lead trumpet for Cuba’s National Radio and Television Orchestra. In Toronto from 2001, he flourished as a writer and member of Kollage, earning three nominations for “Best Jazz Trumpeter” by the Canadian National Jazz Awards. Alexis has performed with David Foster, Michael Bublé, Hilario Duran, Robi Botos and Andrea Boccelli, among many, as well as opening for Herbie Hancock, touring globally and releasing six solo albums, including the JUNO-nominated “Sandstorm” in 2018.

Bill McBirnie

Jazz Hot Spot on Main St. Unionville August 21, 1– 2:30 pm at Jakes on Main JUNO nominee Bill McBirnie is a jazz and Latin flute specialist who has studied with renowned American flutist Samuel Baron, Canadian flutist and composer Robert Aitken and Cuban charanga legend Richard Egues. Bill’s extraordinary skill led him to serve as Resident Jazz Flute Specialist at Sir James Galway’s official website. Known as an exceptional improviser, notably in the bebop, swing and Latin idioms, Bill has recorded with the likes of Junior Mance, Irakere, Memo Acevedo and Emilie-Claire Barlow, as well as being a charter member of Bernie Senensky's Moe Koffman Tribute Band.

Brian O’Kane

Jazz Hot Spot on Main St. Unionville August 21, 3:30–5 pm at Sweetie Pie Trumpet and flugelhorn player Brian O'Kane holds a Masters in Jazz Performance from the University of Toronto and leads brass studies at Humber College. He has been a regular member of the Rob McConnell Tentet, Hilario Duran’s Latin Jazz Big Band, the Bernie Senensky Quintet and Septet, Bruce Cassidy’s Hotfoot Orchestra, Barry Romberg’s Random Access Large Ensemble and John MacLeod’s Rex Hotel Jazz Orchestra. He’s also performed with the Canadian Jazz Quartet, the Don Thompson Septet, the Barry Elmes Quintet, the Dave Young Quintet, Ron Collier, Vic Vogel, Peter Appleyard, Dave McMurdo and Joe Sullivan’s Big Band, not to mention a long list of international stars.


Carlo is an old friend. You’ve known them since you can’t remember when. You’re not sure when you stopped seeing them regularly, but now that you’re reunited, it’s like no time has passed. You understand the great ifs, whats and whys of each other’s lives, the darkness and the irony, the fun and the frivolous, the dubious and the reliable. A fresh take on vintage surf tunes in a complete sight-and-sound experience.

Diana Braithwaite & Chris Whiteley

Diana Braithwaite is an award-winning vocalist who has made blues and jazz her passion. As one of the few Black blues artists performing in Canada, she enjoys sharing the history and beauty of music along with her partner, nine-time Maple Blues Award winner Chris Whiteley. Chris is a legendary multi-instrumentalist on the blues scene who has worked with many of the greats along the way – Blind John Davis, Leon Redbone and Chuck Berry, to name a few.

Donovan Locke

Donovan Locke is a multi-talented vocalist based in Toronto. He started singing in church at an early age and joined the Toronto All-Stars Big Band in his teens, performing across Ontario and in the U.S. Donovan has been a part of several Canadian productions, from David Ferry’s “The Postman” to Ann-Marie Donovan’s “Sounding Rituals,” and has sung with Cleo Laine, John Dankworth and Jackie Richardson, among many.

Elmer Ferrer

A 2021 JUNO nominee for his most recent album, “Básico, no Básico y Dirigido,” Cuban-born Elmer Ferrer is a multi-award-winning guitarist, composer and producer now based in Toronto. He has recorded over 150 CDs, including two Latin Grammy-nominated albums, and performed with Zucchero, Chucho Valdes, and Sting, among many. Recent work includes recording and touring with Canadian fiddlers Natalie MacMaster and Donnell Leahy, Mark Kelso & the Jazz Exiles and the Larnell Lewis Band.

Friendly Rich

A self-described mad composer, Friendly Rich reunites with Cory McCallum and the Boringville Pielsticker Three to reimagine their heralded avant-jazz/beat poetry opus, The Henson Suite, a puppet-fueled music-and-poetry spectacle that defies descriptions. Friendly Rich composed music for MTV’s The Tom Green Show and recently earned a PhD in Music Education. Cory McCallum has contributed to all genres in the Canadian music scene for more than 25 years, most recently with the doom metal outfit, Olde.

Jenie Thai

Jenie Thai is a classically trained pianist who sings, writes and plays gritty barrelhouse piano steeped in the blues. In Edmonton, she attended Grant MacEwan University’s jazz and contemporary music program as a performance major. Her first full-length album, 2013’s Only the Moon, received extensive airplay, and she’s earned three Maple Blues award nominations since 2016. After touring Canada with her latest album, “Night on Fire,” Jenie is opening for Downchild Blues Band as they celebrate their 50th anniversary.

Jesse Ryan

Praised as a fresh new voice, Trinidad-born saxophonist and composer Jesse Ryan was the 2020 recipient of the Toronto Arts Foundation’s Emerging Jazz Artist Award. As an arranger and producer, he’s worked with many jazz, gospel and world music artists. His ambitious Bridges project is an eclectic quintet that joins both jazz and Afro-Caribbean traditions. Jesse is set to take Caribbean Jazz out of its niche of ethnic fusion and into the mainstream.

Jessica Lalonde

A classically trained soprano with a focus on the bel canto style, Jessica Lalonde studied opera at Wilfrid Laurier University and went on to perform and take part in masterclasses across Europe with legendary composers and opera luminaries. Shifting back to her first love, jazz, Jessica has performed extensively here in Canada. In 2018, Jazz.FM91 named her as one of “eight Canadian women in jazz you need to know.”

Jocelyn Gould

Called “a leader in the next generation of great mainstay guitarists,” Jocelyn Gould earns rave reviews wherever she goes – not to mention winning the 2021 JUNO Jazz Album of the Year for her debut release, “Elegant Traveler.” She’s performed around the world with Grammy-nominated vocalist Freddy Cole, trumpeter Etienne Charles and trombonist Michael Dease, as well as recording with many. Jocelyn is also an educator, teaching guitar at Humber College.

Joy Lapps Project

Joy Lapps-Lewis is an artist, educator, creative consultant and creative womanist, widely recognized for her proficiency on the tenor steel pan. She’s performed at festivals in Canada, the United States and the Caribbean, and is busy writing, recording and developing work that celebrates the contributions of women to the steel pan community. In 2019, Joy presented her multi-disciplinary project “From Skin 2 Steel and Beyond” at the Toronto Evergreen Brick Works.

Moneka Arabic Jazz

Rooted in jazz and blues, Moneka Arabic Jazz draws from leader Ahmed Moneka’s Afro-Irapi heritage, flavoured by Toronto’s rich multicultural mix. Ahmed founded the group in part to reflect the stories and songs of his background. His work has led to collaborations with the Canadian Opera Company, Aga Khan Museum, Tafelmusik, Koerner Hall, Modern Times Stage, and Jaberi Dance Theatre, among others. The group’s repertoire introduces maqam and weaves African identity and influences into its music.

Tak Arikushi

A veteran of the Canadian Jazz Manouche scene, Tak Arikushi started in Vancouver before relocating to Toronto. He now leads this own project, “Onyuuden,” an exploration of the crossroads between Japanese culture and jazz music. It combines the red-hot style of Django Reinhardt and the introverted moods of traditional Japanese music. His “Sakura Swing” has been featured multiple times on CBCradio.

Tanika Charles

Twice JUNO-nominated and twice Polaris Prize long-listed singer Tanika Charles has become a staple on the scene at home and abroad. Backed by her band The Wonderfuls, Tanika has embarked on five tours across nine countries since releasing “Soul Run.” She moves seamlessly between faithful recreations of her studio recordings and cross-genre nods to rock, gospel and country influences. She was named the inaugural Polaris artist-in-residence for 2020 at the Studio Bell National Music Centre.


Electrifying Toronto jazz drummer Ernesto Cervini radiates energy from behind his kit and on multiple musical and educational projects. With his JUNO-winning sextet Turboprop, Cervini creates a landscape of textures and moods on which his monster bandmates can play. The band’s JUNO-award winning third album, “Abundance,” dropped in the fall of 2018.