The Bathurst music venue has seen plenty of top talent grace the stage since it opened nine years ago.
By Sadie McInnes
In April, the Trane Studio (964 Bathurst St.) hosted its ninth anniversary dinner and concert event.
Named one of the “Top 150 Jazz Venues of the World 2011” by DownBeat Magazine, the Trane merits the title. Though its exterior is simple, with a small sign and dark windows, inside it’s a different story.
The walls hold simple portraits of John Coltrane, the studio’s namesake. Well-worn sofas, and upholstered chairs nicely complement exposed brick, and an ornate-pressed tin ceiling. At night candlelight bounces off installations of local artists’ work and as the small stage illuminates, the Trane truly comes alive, transforming into a warm and bustling hub for Toronto’s biggest jazz fans.
For their anniversary, founder and manager Frank Francis kept things running smoothly while still providing personal welcomes to each guest, making anyone feel welcome to join in their celebration of success. He seems to know everybody there, demonstrating the sense of community that exists among the Trane’s many supporters.
Francis has been involved in the production of live music events for several years, but only decided to open up this space in 2003. When asked why he created the Trane, he looks back on his own experiences as a Toronto artist.
“I had a concert at a venue in the city and they double-booked us. We had about 400 people lined up to see the show and it was a problem, I thought at the time that the city needed a space that was respectful to artists,” he said, adding that he is “a big fan of Coltrane.”
Since then, Trane has been hosting artists from far and wide. Greats like Wynton Marsalis, Kahil El Zabar, and Waleed Abdulhamid have graced their stage, as well as many local artists. “We have a great deal of local supporters who are musicians who live in the Annex area for example, Scott Marshall has been a great local talented saxophone player, Jordan Klapman, Julie Michaels … ” he adds.
Plenty of local supporters showed up to celebrate on Apr. 28. The evening was hosted by Clifton Joseph, two-time winner of the Best Dub Poet Award and friend of The Trane, and featured a performance from local band the Sharron McLeod Fauxtet. They played tribute to the great jazz vocalist Abbey Lincoln who passed away in August 2010.
“For us, it [the anniversary] is to remember Abbey’s music, and to commemorate our nine years. It’s to acknowledge our past and to talk a little bit more about moving forward into the future,” said Francis. Singer Sharron McLeod found the perfect balance between past and future, switching without hesitation between songs that inspired recollection and sorrow to far more celebratory pieces.
McLeod has known Francis for almost 15 years, and has been involved at the Trane since day one. She had a great success with her performance of For the Love of Abbey at the Trane in December 2010, who brought her back to once more honour Lincoln’s achievements. This year she featured songs from her project: The Trilogy Remix, which included pieces that have been performed by the likes of Nina Simone and John Coltrane himself.
McLeod says she thinks it would be nice to see The Trane stick around for at least another 9 or 10 years. “It’s a wonderful space. It’s holistic. I love that jazz exists there alongside other kinds of music,” said McLeod of the Trane. “It makes me feel at home.”
When asked what makes year nine so special, Francis says “it’s taken nine years, but I think internationally the venue is now being a little more recognized.”Already planning for the future, Francis chuckles, saying “I think every year after nine is going to be bigger, because apparently it’s an achievement for a jazz club in Toronto. I think after two years you better start celebrating!”
The Sharron McLeod Fauxtet will be at The Trane Studio again on June 28th for the Toronto Downtown Jazz Festival. Several other events, including CD releases, band performances, and actors’ monologue nights are frequently held.