Formed in 2004, KC Roberts & the Live Revolution (KCLR) are a seven-piece funk band based in Toronto, Ontario. In the last ten years, KCLR has reached many career highlights including being named among the Top Five Bands by chartattack.com for their North by Northeast performance, being asked to open for the Black Eyed Peas and winning a Toronto Independent Music Award for Best Live Act. A high-energy band, KCLR have become mainstays at large festivals including the Beaches International Jazz Festival, Distillery Jazz Festival, JUNOfest and the TD Toronto Jazz Festival. KCLR is currently touring across Canada promoting their latest double album, Parkdale Funk 2: Slides.
Melbourne Ska Orchestra (MSO), the massive 26-piece Australian contemporary ska ensemble, is the largest aggregation of its kind worldwide. Founded in 2003 as a world-record attempt to have the greatest number of horn players on stage at the same time, this sold-out performance was just the beginning of MSO’s plentiful success. Formed by some of Australia’s most distinguished ska and reggae artists and fronted by the unparalleled Nicky Bomba, MSO has already become an esteemed act in not only the Australian music landscape, but in the jazz world as well. In 2013, the band released its self-titled debut album to rave reviews, earning two ARIA nominations and has since earned an ARIA nomination for Best Live Act. After 12 years of sold-out shows, MSO has a growing international fan base and continues to perform at high profile global music festivals, including England’s Glastonbury Festival, Australia’s Bluesfest and Canada’s Montreal International Jazz Festival.
In 2012, legendary singer-songwriter and percussionist Nicky Bomba started Bustamento as a side project, aiming to pay homage to the upbeat rhythms of the Caribbean, encompassing calypso, early reggae, mento and ska styles. Inspired by the island music of Malta, where Bomba is from, he returned home to Australia eager to create a new band. In one mere weekend, Bomba formed a group and recorded 23 songs, proving the band’s incredible chemistry. From jungle drums to banjos to ukuleles, Bustamento pushed the limits of creativity to reveal a unique and compelling sound, while paying tribute to traditional island music. In 2012, the band released its first album, titled Intrepid Adventures to the Lost Riddim Islands, earning Bustamento an ARIA Award nomination. Last year, after spending two years traveling and performing around the world, the band released its sophomore album, titled Intercontinental Journal 7, and is currently touring in North America.
Banjoist and composer Jayme Stone, inspired by sounds from around the world, authentically bridges folk, jazz and chamber genres. Simultaneously defying and honouring the banjo’s role in music, his award-winning albums define his relevance in the music industry. The Other Side of the Air, Stone’s newest project, serves as a travelogue of imaginary landscapes and faraway lands, traversing through the styles of India, Persia and West Africa, among others. The quartet’s performance encompasses a range of genres, from Trinidadian calypso to Bulgarian mountain dance. Currently, Stone holds two JUNO Awards for his albums The Utmost and Africa to Appalachia and a Canadian Folk Music Award for his third album Room of Wonders.
Kirby Sewell Band (KSB), an alternative blues quintet hailing from Calgary, is known for their high energy performances and their idyllic modern interpretation of blues. Sounding like a great gospel singer from the past, frontman Kirby Sewell has been heralded as “one of the finest male blues vocalists in Canada” by Real Blues Magazine and never fails to please the crowd with his passionate delivery. Backed by an incredible band, their invigorating and thought provoking arrangements breathes new musical life into the traditional blues genre. KSB has released three albums to date and is touring across North America in support of its latest release Girl With a New Tattoo.
Dubbed the ‘Queen of Blues’ for her fabulous voice and incandescent stage presence, singer and songwriter Dawn Tyler Watson has earned her place among Canada’s blues elite. Born in England and raised in Ontario, Watson relocated to Montreal after earning her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Jazz Studies at Concordia University. Known for her eclectic artistic style that blends jazz, soul, folk and rock, she has single-handedly propelled blues into a new dimension. Watson is the recipient of three Maple Blues Awards and nine Quebec Lys Blues Awards and earned a Canadian Folk Music Award nomination for Best Vocalist. Joining Watson on stage is Ben Racine Band, a rising star in blues. Ben Racine fronts the group, bringing contagious energy and charisma to the stage with every performance.
The Lost Fingers (TLF) is a Canadian gypsy jazz music group from Quebec City. In 2008, the group’s debut album, Lost in the ’80s, gained overnight success, selling over 100,000 copies in a short 12 weeks. This popularity earned TLF two JUNO Award nominations for Fan Choice Award and Album of the Year. To date, the band has released five albums and recently acquired a 2015 JUNO Award nomination for its 2014 album Wonders of the World. Joining TLF in performance is Grammy Award-winning accomplished musician John Jorgenson. Well known for his remarkable guitar licks and mastery of a broad musical range, Jorgenson has earned the reputation as a world-class musician and has collaborated with the likes of Bob Dylan and Elton John.
The Boom Booms (TBB), a Vancouver-based musical brotherhood, is an indie-soul band. Formed during a summer-long tree planting expedition in northern BC, TBB discovered their love of performing together and continued to play once their season ended. Inspired by their activist roots, the group is committed to promoting community building and environmental welfare. In 2011, TBB released their debut album Hot Rum!, earning them a coveted spot in the Peak Performance Project, BC’s most prestigious contest for emerging artists. The group has built a loyal fan base that stretches equally across generations as it does regions, winning the brotherhood a Just Plain Folks Music Award for Best Roots Song in Nashville. TBB is currently touring in support of its long-awaited sophomore album, Love is Overdue.
Michelle Willson, a passionate vocalist that is known as ‘Evil Gal’ amongst the blues community, is inspired by what she calls “the lost music of vintage soul legends.” Forever aspiring to share the intensity that Etta James and Dinah Washington possessed, Willson has had a remarkable career that continues to thrive. The Boston native has released four albums with Bullseye Records, receiving outstanding reviews from such respected sources as The New York Times, The Washington Post and Jazz Times. Now, Willson performs with the Evil Gal Festival Orchestra, creating electric live performances and unforgettable shows through her engaging rhythm and blues style and tight backup band. Willson’s music is regularly played on blues radio stations and Internet programs globally and has been featured on the HBO show Mind of a Married Man and the 2008 House of Blues compilation album Essential Women in the Blues.
With multi-talented musician and journalist/broadcaster Bill King on keyboards, Rhythm Express was formed with the vision of fusing ska, funk, reggae and soul music into one mellifluous sound. A major player on the Canadian jazz scene, King has earned three JUNO Award nominations and has worked with a host of legendary artists over the years, including Janis Joplin, Martha Reeves and The Pointer Sisters. In addition to King, the band is composed of many noteworthy musicians; the horn section includes Chris Butcher of the Heavyweights Brass Band, Bobby Hsu and Cuban percussionist Jorge Luis Torres. Perfectly complementing the other members are guitarist Shane Forrest, bassist Jesse ‘Dubmatix’ King and percussionist Jamaicans Paul. Coupled with an impressive roster of vocalists – Gavin Hope, Selena Evangeline, Ammoye Evans, Aria Zenua and Michael Dunston – RE flawlessly delivers an infectious groove with every performance.