Toronto’s top jazz club during the 1950s and ’60s featured the music’s biggest stars and was where now legendary Canadian jazz pianist Oscar Peterson recorded his acclaimed On the Town album.
The Town Tavern, located on Queen Street near Yonge, opened in 1949 as both a theatre and a restaurant. Owner Sam Berger switched to an all-jazz format in 1955 at the suggestion of Oscar Peterson, the Montreal-born piano sensation who immediately became the new jazz room’s first booking. Two years later Peterson, together with his bassist Ray Brown and guitarist Herb Ellis, recorded his On the Town album there, a recording that cemented Peterson’s growing international reputation as “the man with four hands.” The Town became one of the key stops on North America’s jazz circuit for the next two decades and saw everyone from Billie Holiday, Dinah Washington and Carmen McRae to Lester Young, Ornette Coleman and Stan Getz all grace its stage. The club closed in 1972 and the building was demolished in 1999, but the Town’s legend as a world-class jazz haven lives on.