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Toronto Hosts First Annual National Jazz Awards

America’s friendly neighbors to the north are proud to have produced such acclaimed musicians as Oscar Peterson (pictured left), Paul Bley and Diana Krall, even if those artists had to leave the Great White North for the States in order to achieve stardom. And of course many Canadian players are just as happy to hang back in the homeland, spawning jazz scenes, however large, throughout the provinces.

To celebrate and reward the best of the Canadian jazz musicians, Galaxie, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s Continuous Music Network will present the first annual National Jazz Awards gala on Sun., Feb. 24. The Awards will honor artists, groups, journalists and industry organizations in 25 different categories like Album of the Year, Label of Year, Jazz Journalist of the Year, Jazz Broadcaster of the Year, etc.

In addition to the always-entertaining suspense generated by awards shows, the night will also include performances by Toronto’s Tenor Madness, featuring Alex Dean, Pat LaBarbera, Rick Wilkins, Mike Murley, Mark Eisenman, Steve Wallace and Barry Elmes, the Joanne Brackeen Trio with Terry Clarke & Don Thompson, the D.D. Jackson Trio with Mark McLean and John Geggie, the Club Django Sextet, Michael Occhipinti’s Creation Dream, the Jane Bunnett Group and Denzal Sinclaire and Bill Coon.

And unlike most American entertainment awards contests, where the winners are usually chosen by an elite council of elders, the Canadians are giving the power to the people. Fans of Canadian jazz cast cast their votes at www.nationaljazzawards.com from now until Jan. 31. A look at the site’s “Year In Review” section will reveal a list of just about every jazz CD put out by a Canadian this year, which ought to help you cast your vote. There is one category, though, where the winners are decided by one of those suspicious councils. The National Jazz Awards’ board of experts and historians gets to select inductees to the Canadian Jazz and Blues Hall of Fame without the approval of the masses. But they’ve done a fine job this year, picking Oscar Peterson, Moe Koffman, Jackie Washington and Dutch Mason.

CBC Radio will broadcast the show on After Hours hosted by Peter Porter from 8-10 p.m. on Feb. 24, but tickets for the event, which will be held in Toronto at the Randolph Academy of the Performing Arts, are available at $35 (Canadian) per person online at nationaljazzawards.com or by calling 416-533-2813.

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