2006-Jazz_Stories_1-Kobi_Haas_and_Bass.jpgOn Wednesday March 18 starting at 6:30pm at The Rex Hotel Jazz & Blues Bar it will be difficult to find a seat. At the Spotlight on Israeli Culture event the bill will feature three headlining acts, each exciting for different reasons. The biggest name of the three is Anat Cohen, a seven-time Jazz Journalist Association Clarinetist of the Year and internationally acclaimed saxophonist, known for her virtuosity on various instruments, the richness of her tone and an utterly enchanting stage presence. It will be Cohen’s first appearance in Toronto as leader.

Then there is the precocious Guy Mintus Trio, of which two musicians are America-Israel Cultural Foundation scholarship winners. Twenty-two-year-old Mintus is the recipient of ASCAP’s Herb Alpert Young Jazz Composer award and a full scholarship student at the Manhattan School of Music. Following appearances at the Kennedy Center, the Apollo Theater and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the trio makes its Canadian debut.

The third headliner is Kobi Hass, whose quartet will be opening the show, and who is a wonderful recent addition to our city’s musical landscape. Since moving to Toronto in 2010, the Tel-Aviv-born bassist and composer has mostly worked as a sideman, bringing many positive vibes to live music here with his emotionally charged musical versatility. The original songs to be performed at The Rex have been described as “soulful compositions” in the press release, to which Hass adds:

“The people I will play with are local musicians with whom I perform from time to time – Barry Livingston, pianist, who writes beautiful and soulful tunes, Ernie Tollar, saxophones and flutes, who is in charge of the more experimental writing, and Paul Fitterer, who turns keeping time into a very imaginative and surprising process. Each of us brings in his own tunes, we ‘try them out,’ and I feel that we’ve developed our own sound and atmosphere.

“I find it hard to characterize the music, but I like what was written in the press release. Indeed the music is based on ‘soulful compositions’ that each of us contributed to the quartet. The forms are relatively open, yet the compositions are very classically written. There is a certain harmonic colour that we all like and it helps the quartet developing its own sound. The improvisations do not stay in the traditional jazz idiom, and we try things as we go. Playing the acoustic bass in this format is a very challenging process for me, being an e-bass pop-rock player for many years.”

Hass got his break on the Israeli music scene soon after he picked up the instrument:

“After my military service I moved to Tel Aviv to study choir conducting in Tel Aviv University. Somehow I got a hold of an electric bass and started playing with a neighbour of mine, a jazz piano player. It was just for fun. However, not long after I started playing the bass I received a phone call asking me to play a few gigs with Ofra Haza, a very well-known Israeli singer. One thing led to another, people started hearing about me, and in no time I played in the biggest shows of those days – Yossi Banai, Gali Atari, theatre shows and more. I was a lucky guy!”

If the name Hass rings a bell, a few years back you may recall that at the age of 15, cellist Daniel Hass (son of Kobi) won the Marta Hidy prize among other prestigious awards; turns out the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

“It was a family decision to move to Canada and we are very happy here. It seems to me a lot is happening here musically, and I am happy to have met some people that I enjoy making music with. The city seems to be very vibrant and there is a lot of music happening. I played in a Toto Tribute Band and got to know some of the rock scene, and I played some jazz music, experiencing what the jazz scene is like.”

2006-Jazz_Stories_1-Robi_Botos.jpgRobi Botos: There’s another very exciting event happening this month, which I personally believe will be a historic night of music. On Thursday, March 26 at 9pm incomparable pianist Robi Botos will release his new recording, Movin’ Forward, at Jazz Bistro with musicians that one simply must hear to believe, and for which words can do little justice. Says Botos:

“Drummer Jeff ‘Tain’ Watts is one of my heroes. I also play drums and I admire him greatly, so it’s extra special for me to have him on this record. Both him and bassist Robert Hurst played with Wynton and Branford Marsalis whose music I grew up on, and seriously Robert Hurst has everything you would ever want from a bass player. I used to listen to this band with Kenny Kirkland on piano, who’s one of my early main inspirations to play piano.”

Produced by the artist in collaboration with Scott Morin, the album marks the first time Robi Botos records with American musicians, with the addition of saxophonist Seamus Blake, born in London England, raised in Vancouver Canada and currently based in New York City.

“Seamus Blake is one of the most complete musicians out there in my opinion. He is perfect for my writing, which has many different influences.”

Consisting of ten original tunes and two standards, the album Movin’ Forward will be available for sale in stores and online on March 24. I must say that one of the perks of the writer’s job is hearing music before it is released, and quite honestly it is the most exciting jazz recording I have heard in a very long time.

“Some of the music you’ll hear on this album is more recent, fresh, and some of them I wrote a long time ago,” says Botos. The two standards I chose are Softly as in a Morning Sunrise and Close to You which is more of a pop tune rearranged in a groovy, funky way. I specifically chose the tunes for the group of musicians. I focused on what would feel good.”

Just how is this album different from his first effort, Place to Place?

“This album represents a lot of my musical sides. From Hungarian Romani (Gypsy) music to straight ahead jazz to funk. It’s also my first recording with American musicians as a leader. I really consider this as my debut album. Also, it is a childhood dream to collaborate with these amazing musicians. I’m very excited to share it and I hope people will like it!”

The event at Jazz Bistro is expected to sell out; reserve your seats as soon as you possibly can at 416-363-5299. Good luck!

2006-Jazz_Stories-Christine_Gaidies.jpgMonarch Fundraiser: On Sunday March 22 from 2 to 6pm a beautiful singer-songwriter, Christine Gaidies, will be raising funds for her new CD at the Monarch Tavern on Clinton Street, sharing the stage with a lineup of friends rallying to her cause. I was going to say it’s a list too long to print. But what the heck: Sandi Marie, Diane Baker Mason, Nicole Coward, Andrew M. Smith, Dan McLean Jr, Michelle Lecce, Orit Shimoni, Chris Hess, Erin Ford, Maia Waern, Debbie Fleming, Linda Maruta, Henry Cifersons, Kevin Kennedy, Valerey Lavergne, Eunji Kim, Michelle Denis MacDougall, Kristin Mueller-Heaslip, Alan McKinlay, Niki Andre, Lesley Roylance, Harpin Norm Lucien and others to be announced!) Show some love to Christine Gaidies who could use your support at a particularly challenging time – her cancer has returned and any funding beyond completion of the CD will go towards her treatments – book your reservations through the Monarch for March 22 from 2 to 6pm and check out the GoFundMe campaign for other ways you can help.

Speaking of me! Finally, I hardly ever do this but I thought I’d let you, dear readers, know about two of my own gigs this month, especially since they are both the beginning of monthly residencies, the last weekend of every month.

Friday March 27 from 6 to 8pm I will be performing a Pay-What-You-Can dinner show with two of my favourite musicians at the 120 Diner located at 120 Church Street. The menu is very good and reasonably priced, the owners are kind to the musicians, and the acoustics are excellent – as a wise poet once wrote, “Who could ask for anything more?”

Saturday March 28 from 9:30 pm to 12:30 am I will be back at the intimate Poetry Jazz Café, a hidden gem neatly nestled in the heart of Kensington Market at 224 Augusta Avenue. Like a few other venues in town, this one does not take reservations, except for parties of ten and over, so arrive on time to get good seats. Each month I’m joined by the electric Patrick Hewan on keys, with rhythm section featuring two special guests announced mid-month on my website at oridagan.com.

Thank you for your support, genuinely. In an age when there is an abundance of entertainment available at the touch of a button, I think I speak for all jazz musicians and music venues when I say, “We hope to see you in the clubs!”

Check out Bob Ben’s Mostly Clubs, Mainly Jazz for all the details.

Ori Dagan is a Toronto-based jazz musician, writer and educator who can be reached at oridagan.com

“If you don’t live it, it won’t come out of your horn.” – Charlie Parker

Jim Galloway’s way with a phrase – be it on the bandstand or on the page – was inspiring beyond words. This column is dedicated to the memory of a great artist and a true jazz ambassador whose loss is felt around the world. I’ll have more to say about him later in the column.

2005_-_Beat_-_Jazz_-_We_are_one.pngFirst though, I want to speak of the power music has to unite us all, as manifested in a very special event that takes place on Wednesday February 11 at the Toronto Centre for the Arts. That evening, the We Are One Jazz Project will present its sixth annual gala concert, featuring legendary jazz pianist and educator Barry Harris, multi-instrumentalist and Order of Canada member Don Thompson, a big band, a string section, an adult jazz chorus, and at the heart of it all, a children’s choir comprised of 275 members from eight north Etobicoke schools.

This incredibly ambitious undertaking is the result of many days and nights of hard work by countless individuals, most notably Howard Rees, the founder and president of We Are One Jazz Project, and 85-years-young bebop pianist and jazz education pioneer, Barry Harris. The seed of their fruitful collaboration dates back to 1978, when Rees moved to New York City to study with Harris for a period of six years.

“Upon returning to Toronto, it became very important to me to both spread the wisdom that Barry shares so freely with his students and to do my part in documenting his methodologies – which to that point had been an oral tradition,” says Rees. “Over the past 30 years this has resulted in the creation of Howard Rees’ Jazz Workshops, celebrating its 30th anniversary this year; the Barry Harris Workshop Videos, three instructional book/dvd sets featuring Barry and dubbed the ‘bebop bible’ by Tommy Flanagan; an online school featuring over 200 video lessons on Barry’s methodology; harmony articles for Keyboard Magazine; clinics at colleges in 10 or 12 countries, and the We Are One Jazz Voices, a choir that performs Barry’s original compositions and his arrangements of standards.”

In addition to bringing jazz to a wider audience and education to the general public about the jazz tradition, around 2008 Rees and Harris pondered the possibility of using jazz as a force for social change. The result was the founding of the We Are One Jazz Project as a Canadian charitable organization.

“Our purpose is to harness the beauty and power of jazz to inspire and empower young students who don’t have access to high-level music programs at their schools. We accomplish this goal through an intensive four-month program that brings together the students with master musicians in an enriched learning and performance environment. We work with several hundred students in grades 3 to 6 each year. Since 2008 we have brought the Project to 2,000 students in more than 50 schools in six priority neighbourhoods of Toronto. There are many wonderful stories, such as the student who stopped stuttering after being in the program. Another where a student sang a solo at a 300-member choir rehearsal after being mute (unbeknownst to us at the time) since the beginning of the school term. When we began in 2008, the city had identified 13 areas as ‘priority’ neighborhoods. As of this year that number has been revised to 31. So, as for future plans, we look forward to bringing this award-winning and life-changing program to many more students for years to come.”

The music performed at the concert is written and arranged by Barry Harris, and the program’s success relies greatly upon its teachers, including vocal coach Rita di Ghent who has the following to say:

“Being the jazz vocal coach for the WAOJP is endlessly fascinating and rewarding. I’ve always taught university students so for me, teaching jazz to youngsters has added this whole lovely dimension to my teaching career. Barry Harris’ tunes are stunningly beautiful and complex, but our grades 3 to 6 can sing anything you throw at them – not because they’re musically trained, but because they’re little sponges. They don’t know that jazz music is hard! The process of watching the singers unfold over the course of five months really is magical. We get to see children of all backgrounds and psychologies become hooked by the music and the spirit of working together. It changes their lives. And so it changes mine.“

A new addition to the staff this year is children’s choral conductor Sophia Perlman, responsible for rehearsing the choir and making sure that We Are One sings as one.

“Because I grew up with so much choral background in my own early musical life it has been really nice to see it reinforced,” says Perlman. “For me personally it’s interesting to see the way that choral training can reinforce jazz – I don’t think it’s a connection that necessarily gets made all of the time. For example, as an improviser, if you have to follow harmony, you’re going to have an easier time if you’ve had to be responsible for singing the inner parts of a harmony in a choir such as this one.”

Perlman also emphasizes the profundity of having Barry Harris work directly with the children.

“Kids in schools are not taught to necessarily connect composers with living people – generally if you ask kids who are some composers, they will name mostly dead composers. And so for these kids to learn these songs for weeks and weeks and then to sit there and learn the songs from the person who wrote them, and the fact that he will be playing the songs with them on the eleventh, it connects them to the music and the fact that music is made by people, and I think that’s really important.”

NOW BACK TO GALLOWAY ……………………………………………………

2005_-_Beat_-_Jazz_-_Martin_Loomer_and_the_Orange_Devils.pngIt’s fitting to focus on guitarist, arranger and bandleader Martin Loomer, whose 14-piece outfit, the Orange Devils, would likely not exist were it not for the encouragement of one wee yet powerful jazzman:

“I met Jim Galloway in the late 1970s,” remembers Loomer. “His cornetist with the Metro Stompers, Ken Dean, was the father of saxophonist Alex Dean, who was in the band I was in at the time, Shox Johnson and his Jive Bombers. Jim wanted to organize a band like the National Jazz Repertory Orchestra that Chuck Israels was leading in the U.S. Ted O’Reilly booked the proposed band for a CJRT Science Centre concert, forcing us both to get moving. I wrote arrangements by transcribing numbers from tapes Jim gave me, and he organized the personnel and logistics.

Jim introduced me to any number of great bands and artists whose recorded work I continue to mine for pieces the Orange Devils can recreate and perform live once again. He gave me the opportunity to transcribe any arrangement I thought suitable for the band, and to get it played as soon as it was ready. I also met and worked with many great musicians, not only from Toronto, but elsewhere, like Jay McShann, Fraser MacPherson and Clark Terry. Certainly his influence changed the direction of my musical career and most of my endeavors for the past 25 years.”

These days Martin Loomer and the Orange Devils make for happy ears and happy feet when they perform at private functions, from dance halls to weddings, as well as every second Monday of the month at the Monarch Tavern on Clinton Street.

“The band loves playing at the Monarch Tavern,” says Loomer. “The management and staff are great supporters and super co-operative. They’ve been very patient and allowed us the chance to try and develop a following. And they have that great rarity, a grand piano, which they maintain quite well! The ambiance is perfect for what we do. It’s kind of like having a paid rehearsal with a bunch of friends dropping by to listen and party with us. Relaxed and fun. Because of our size and style, we haven’t been able to play many other venues. We’ve done several concerts, notably for the Duke Ellington Society, which are wonderful, but they don’t have the same relaxed atmosphere as being in a club, not to mention the availability of alcohol.”

In addition to reed players such as Merlin Williams, Tom Skublics and Andy Ballantyne, soloists include Scott Suttie on trombone, John MacLeod on trumpet and Richard Whiteman at the piano, to name a mere few. In addition to playing instrumental charts by the likes of Fletcher Henderson, Benny Carter, Jimmy Lunceford, Count Basie and Duke Ellington, each gig features a handful of vocal tunes delivered charmingly by Rita di Ghent. Says di Ghent:

“Being the band vocalist in the Orange Devils is a dream gig. Who wouldn’t want to sing on stellar arrangements with A-list players that swing like crazy? And Marty is a dream bandleader. He knows my voice and chooses repertoire accordingly: a lot of bluesy material like Fine Brown Frame and Going to Chicago and complex ballads like Ellington and Strayhorn’s Daydream. He consults with me on every tune. He’s so kind and talented. I’m delighted that his tireless work has paid off and that the Orange Devils are quickly becoming the ‘it’ band with the swing dance crowd.”

Indeed, what has made the monthly Mondays especially marvellous of late is an increasingly loyal following of swing dancers. Says Loomer:

“I have to say, I’m always mindful of the fact that the music we play was originally conceived to be played for dancers. So we’re all very pleased when it can serve its original function and inspire swing dancers to get out on the floor and show their finest Lindy Hop moves. If the dancers are in the mood, then the band falls in the groove and we feed on each other’s energy.”

Monday February 9 will be the next gig for Martin Loomer and the Orange Devils. Ten dollars at the door is the best deal in town, and while enjoying these fantastic arrangements performed by stellar players and joyously interpreted on the dance floor, I challenge you not to smile!

Ori Dagan is a Toronto-based jazz musician, writer and educator who can be reached at oridagan.com.

 

Clubs 63Pianist Steve Amirault is a welcome addition to the Toronto music scene. The critically acclaimed Acadia-born musician has been based in Montreal for most of his career; he also lived in New York City from 1990 to 1993 where he worked with Dave Liebman, Sheila Jordan, Eddie Henderson, Joe Chambers and Eddie Gomez. In this country he has had the pleasure of working with Ingrid Jensen, Christine Jensen, Kirk MacDonald, Mike Murley, Seamus Blake and countless others; and since September of 2014 he has been happy to make Toronto his new home, already having performed at Jazz Bistro, The Rex, as well as the Savoury Sweet restaurant in Niagara Falls and the Jazz Room in Waterloo.

“I love it here and have found the scene, fans and musicians very welcoming,” says Amirault.

Known primarily as a pianist with an energetic, thoughtful style, in the past decade he has added vocals to his act, revealing a smooth and sensitive vocal instrument.

“I sang a lot of pop and rock music in high school, but when I went to the University of St. Francis, I put singing aside and concentrated on the piano. Then in my early 30s I became interested in vocal music and I started writing lyrics. It seemed natural to put words to my music and I have always thought myself to be more of a songwriter than jazz composer. I wasn’t planning on becoming a singer, but about seven years ago I started singing one song per set on my shows, to see how it felt, and fell in love with it. I recorded my first vocal CD, One Existence, a few years ago, and I’m now preparing a standards recording.“
On December 11 at 8pm Steve Amirault will perform a solo show at Toronto’s most intimate venue, Musideum.

“I’ll play a mix of original pieces, both vocal and instrumental, and some new arrangements of standards that will be on my next recording. I’m really looking forward to playing my music in this lovely space.”

Clubs 64aThere’s no mistaking that soulful vocalist Sacha Williamson sings directly from her heart, taking listeners on a journey that is frequently spiritual and always expressive. While one can hear jazz, blues and R&B in her delivery, Williamson’s original sound mixes contemporary traditions including new soul, hip hop and electronica. On Sunday December 7 at Hugh’s Room, Williamson celebrates the release of her latest collection of originals.

“I’m all over the place but I think it blends nicely,” she says. “One song is a down tempo soul tune that goes into a bossa nova…another one starts with hip hop beats with Billie Holiday-esque vocals on top. It’s called Love Life and these songs are all about elements of my love life and places I’ve been in love – everything from the joy and the heat of it, to anger and the uncertainty of a relationship.”

With music that often relies on extensive production, one of Williamson’s challenges is in translating it into a live performance.

“You need to have a very highly skilled band – and my thing is with this kind of music I need to have a pianist who definitely knows more than one kind of genre – he needs to know Odyssey Arp and 808 sounds – synth sounds – I guess you can say he needs to have gone through the Herbie Hancock school.”

Joining Sacha Williamson at Hugh’s Room on December 7 will be keys wiz Michael Shand, along with bassist Andrew Stewart and drummer Maxwell Roach.

Clubs 64bTrombonist Chris Butcher keeps himself busy with a variety of projects these days, including the Heavyweights Brass Band, The Lula All Stars, Changui Havana, Roberto Linares Brown, as well as his own quartet, which just wrapped up a residency at the Bellwoods Brewery. This month he is excited about playing a gig with Jay Douglas and his All Stars featuring the patriarch of Jamaican jazz, 82-year-old Ernest Ranglin, who was Bob Marley’s guitar teacher as well as one of the most prolific record producers in Jamaica’s history.

“The last time he was in town he played the main stage of the Luminato Festival on the week of his 80th birthday,” remembers Butcher. “Age has not slowed him down and he is still a pervasive and individual voice on the guitar.”

Ranglin, along with Jay Douglas and his All Stars, will perform an afternoon Sunday Jam at Seven44 (formerly the Chick’n Deli) on December 14 at 4pm. Tickets are $50 at the door or $40 in advance and can also be purchased at Henry’s Records in Scarborough, 130 Shorting Road, or at Crasher and O’Neil Barbershop at 169 Eglinton Ave. W.

In addition to Butcher’s busy performance schedule he hosts Dig! On CIUT 89.5FM every Wednesday from 12 to 2pm.

“The show is largely geared as a jazz show but I have an eclectic taste and deep love for many styles of music so expect to hear anything I’ve been digging on lately. I try and keep the show very connected to the Toronto scene on the ground level. That means you’re going to hear tracks by local artists or people coming to town before they’re released and before the big radio boys in town are playing them. I also have artists in for interviews and features at least on a weekly basis. This means you may hear a renowned musician with an international following like Elizabeth Shepherd or Adonis Puentes or you may hear a local guy like James McEleney, the bassist in my quartet, down playing tracks and talking music. You can tune in worldwide at ciut.fm.”

Speaking of James McEleney, he just let me know of an exciting weekly residency he has been enjoying with The Breakmen Trio for the past few months in Toronto’s west end, Thursday nights at the Passenger located at 2968 Dundas Street West.

The Breakmen Trio is chordless: Bobby Hsu on saxophone, James McEleney on bass and Sly Juhas on drums.

“I have an affinity for this formation,” says McEleney, “because of classic Sonny Rollins recordings like Way Out West and Live at the Village Vanguard, Toronto’s own Time Warp (which is now a quartet but still without chords) and as I player I find it feels very open and free.”

Of his sidemen, McEleney says: “I work in a variety of settings with Bobby Hsu including his group A Sondheim Jazz Project. He and I have very similar tastes in music and he is well-versed in the world of chordless trios, in particular the aforementioned Sonny Rollins records. Sly Juhas is a no-brainer for this gig. He swings, he has very focused ideas and has a way of pushing everybody’s playing up to a higher level. In the past year or so the three of us started to get together regularly to play tunes and work out some musical ideas so we’ve been really excited to share our work. Any day where I get to play music with these two is a great day.”

The Passenger is an intimate space with a cool vibe, great food including some late night snacks, a special cocktail menu and a wide selection of craft beer. There’s no cover for this series, which they call “The J-Train.” Join the Breakemen Trio at The Passenger on a Thursday night for some jazz in the Junction.

Ori Dagan is a Toronto-based jazz musician, writer and educator who can be reached at oridagan.com.

beat - jazz itcBorn in Mississauga some three dozen years ago, vocalist Alex Pangman has been breathing new life into old songs since her teens. As loyal WholeNote readers may recall, my cover story on Pangman a few years back detailed her battle with cystic fibrosis and her comeback to jazz following a double lung transplant. She has since continued to perform, record, tour and advocate for organ donation awareness.

Pangman was lucky to have her life saved through the courtesy of an organ donor not once, but twice. In December of 2013, just a few months after a second lung transplant, she celebrated her recovery with a trip to New Orleans.

“There’s a different feel to clubs there: celebratory and joyful. Musicians are treated as the main event, not an afterthought,” she recalls fondly. “Frenchman Street particularly has a very active scene of musicians playing in a traditional vein while audiences are dancing, clapping, eating and drinking. After feeling that vibe, and hearing those bands, especially the Cottonmouth Kings nailing their 1930s repertoire, I started to get ideas about where to make my next recording.” With her newly donated lungs she returned to NOLA just a few months later to record New – an album captured in a new city, with musicians that are new to the artist and even an engineer new to her ears. Fresh, but certainly no easy feat!

“I felt up to the challenge. I love the vibe of the recording; it’s like we pressed a record on a lovely first date! Breathing, singing, is a joy for me again.”

Joining Alex Pangman at her New CD Launch at Hugh’s Room on Monday November 3 will be her Alleycats: Peter Hill on piano, Chris Banks on bass, Glenn Anderson on drums, Brigham Phillips on trumpet and Ross Wooldridge on clarinet, as well as two guests from New Orleans who appear on the recording: Matt Rhody on violin and Tom Saunders on bass saxophone. Congratulations to Alex Pangman, and here’s to New!

beat - jazz itc 2Bob@60 at Gallery 345: New music, jazz, classical and klezmer, are a few of the genres Bob Stevenson has immersed himself in since the 1970s. He has performed with many ensembles including Arraymusic, New Music Concerts, Tapestry New Opera Works, the Flying Bulgar Klezmer Band, and the Red Rhythm. To celebrate his 60th birthday, Stevenson will be appearing in concert at Gallery 345, with his quartet – Jonnie Bakan on alto sax, Mike Milligan on bass and Jeff Halischuk on drums – as well as Big Idea, an 11-piece ensemble featuring some of the city’s finest improvisers and classical players. A virtuosic and versatile musician, Bob Stevenson’s compositions combine jazz, free improvisation and through-composed music, drawing deeply from his decades of experience as a player, conductor, composer and educator. I asked him to name three of his favourite music venues in the world.

“I’ve been fortunate to perform some great music with inspiring artists in wonderful venues throughout the world,” says Stevenson. “The three conditions required for a quality venue are the acoustic, the vibe and the willingness and ability of the venue to support your work. More than any other concert hall, the Brahms-Saal at the Musikverein in Vienna meets these requirements. The hall functions as an extra player in your group; whatever you give, it gives back. The crew is fantastic, great choice of well-maintained pianos. I first played Massey Hall when I was 15. Again, you really feel the room and its history, plus you can speak from the stage, and everyone can hear you, even if you don’t have a mic. I got to play in an orchestra backing up Dizzy Gillespie there. I have a very nostalgic feeling for the first Music Gallery in Toronto on St. Patrick just north of Queen. You were welcome to try just about anything. It was a hole in the wall, but it was our hole. For a young artist just starting out, that’s very important.” 

Why Gallery 345 for his birthday concert?

“Thanks to Ed Epstein, musicians from a wide variety of approaches and backgrounds have the opportunity to present their work in a supportive atmosphere. He’s performing a great service to the cultural community. He does it because he cares about music and the people who make it.”

You, reader, are invited to Bob’s 60th birthday party on Sunday November 23rd at 3pm at Gallery 345, and please tell him we sent you!

beat - jazz itc 3Candido Camero: Fresh off a successful tour with Maqueque (comprised of Cuban musicians mostly in their early 20s), Jane Bunnett will be feeling younger this month when she and pianist Hilario Duran share the stage with 93-year-old jazz legend Candido Camero for three exciting evenings at Jazz Bistro.

“Every conga player all over the world has the most incredible respect for what Candido has done and for who he has played with. Legends like he – at 93 – you never know, he might make it to 100 – just aren’t around anymore,” reflects Bunnett.

“I first met him at the last IAJE in Toronto. I interviewed him, so I really researched it and I was checking up on all this stuff, it was so amazing! He was on the Ed Sullivan show 50 times – he recorded with Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, Tony Bennett, Dizzy Gillespie, you name it. The first time he played in Toronto was 1952 with Stan Kenton at Massey Hall, just down the street from where we will be playing. The exciting thing about him for me is that he was really the first Cuban musician, along with Chano Pozo, that really took the congas into jazz. He was also the first conga player to play two, and later three congas. Nobody had ever done that before – and he tuned them. A lot of people just bang them but he tunes them before every gig. At 93 of course he’s not as forceful as he was but he’s still extremely eloquent and tasteful. He knows the older style of this music, how not to overplay, where to accent. He never drank a drop of alcohol in his life so his brain is pretty amazing.”

Get intoxicated by the music of Jane Bunnett, Hilario Duran and Candido Camero on Thursday, Friday and Saturday November 6, 7 and 8 at Jazz Bistro.

Ori Dagan is a Toronto-based jazz musician, writer and educator who can be reached at oridagan.com.

BBB-JazzITC1If you happen to fancy the music of the 1920s, 30s and 40s, you would be wise to get to the Rex Hotel every Friday afternoon from 4 to 6pm for The Hogtown Syncopators. While this kind of promise is hardly customary, I guarantee you will be entertained.

First there are the vocals of Terra Hazelton. It’s not at all surprising that Jeff Healey chose this woman to front his Jazz Wizards for six years and that Jaymz Bee of Jazz.FM91 has said that she is one of a handful of singers who take you back to the 1930s. Oozing with personality, Hazelton can be found singing jazz, roots, country and original music, but her voice is ideal for the blues, reminiscent of timeless singers like Bessie and Billie. She has a way with a lyric and simply put, when she sings, it’s hard not to listen. Hazelton also plays the snare drum in the Hogtown Syncopators, and does so with a sense of swing sublime.

The rest of the rhythm section is guitarist Jay Danley, who also sings and contributes original material to the group, James Thomson on bass, and Richard Whiteman on piano. Each of them brings something different to the band, but what they have in common is  a passion for the music that is infectious.

And then there is violinist/clarinetist/saxophonist/vocalist Drew Jurecka. It is difficult not to be in awe of this versatile virtuoso, who was classically trained at the Cleveland Institute of Music. He has played the Hollywood Bowl with Diana Krall, Shirley Horn and Dianne Reeves; he spent five years on the road with Jeff Healey and now tours regularly as part of Jill Barber’s band. In addition to his busy recording and performance schedule, Jurecka is a faculty member at Humber College where he has helped to develop a unique jazz strings program that includes technique classes, ensembles and private lessons.

“I played violin from a very young age, studying the Suzuki method, and then playing classically through my undergrad,” Jurecka recalls. “I also played flute, then clarinet, then saxophone in my middle school and high school band. I studied the saxophone with two great private teachers: Andy Ballantyne and Alex Dean. Both of them introduced me to jazz music and taught me how to appreciate and approach playing it. Somehow it never occurred to me to play jazz on the violin until midway through my undergraduate degree at the Cleveland Institute, when someone introduced me to the music of Django Reinhardt (and his amazing violinist colleague Stéphane Grappelli). Playing jazz on the violin quickly became a passion, then a drive. I learned to apply the stuff I had been playing around with on the sax to the violin, and now here we are.”

While most of the time Jurecka performs on the violin, in the Hogtown Syncopators he stretches out on his other instruments and sings in a heart-melting Louis Armstrong-influenced manner. It’s not that he growls like Satchmo, but rather respects the melody while improvising ever so subtly in a hornlike way, all the while swinging you to good health.

As a sideman he has played, written or arranged on more than 150 records, including several JUNO-winning and Grammy-nominated albums, film and television soundtracks. What about his own recording?

“I’ve long been pressured by lots of friends and supporters to put out a solo disc.  I’ve never had a strong drive to record “my own” project. I love playing music, arranging, producing and doing all of the things that I’m fortunate enough to do, and I feel pretty artistically satisfied.However, I do have a couple of days booked at Canterbury Studios in October with Mark Kieswetter and Clark Johnston. I’m excited to finally record a record as a leader.” Cheers to this news! It will be very interesting to hear the choices Jurecka makes as a leader. For a sneak preview, see him along with Kieswetter on piano and Dave Young on bass at the Home Smith Bar on Saturday October 11 from 7:30 to 10:30pm.

The Unsinkable Terry Wilkins

BBB-JazzITC2Another musician who can easily be described as versatile is bassist Terry Wilkins. The veteran Toronto-based musician, composer, bandleader, arranger, producer and teacher is a native of Sydney, Australia. He has been working here for over 40 years, but has kept a trace of an accent.

“I moved to Toronto on March 14, 1971. I arrived with a band – we were called Flying Circus and we came to Toronto to wait out the negotiations for a record deal with Capitol U.S. We stayed here for a few months and played bars and high school dances. We decided we liked Toronto, so after returning to Australia for one more nine-week national tour, we returned to Toronto, got our Capitol deal and I am still here.”

Since the days of that country-rock band, he has worked with an impressively diverse group of artists including Lighthouse, Big Sugar, Rough Trade and David Wilcox, as well as backing up visiting artists such as Dr. John, Eddie (Cleanhead) Vinson, Maria Muldaur and John Hammond.

These days Wilkins is very excited about his recently formed band, The Sinners Choir (there is no apostrophe, I checked) which is a funny name for a powerhouse trio. Halfway between roots and rock ‘n’ roll, this unique cross-generational formation of three sideman who sing in harmony, in addition to playing bass, guitar and drums, rocks in every sense of the word.

“Four years ago, I got the call from Brian Cober of The Nationals to go play a Sunday night at Grossmans. I had done many of these over the years since their dear bassist, Paul, passed away.

“In this case, Brian informed me that he would be in Israel but he was sending in a young guitarist-singer named Adam Beer-Colacino. I had not heard of him. He was about 20 years old. We talked about what we were going to start with. From the literal first note we played together we had an innate understanding of how to intersect. Last November we added Adam Warner on drums after having had many gigs over those years with various drummers. Adam’s writing and singing made him an invaluable addition. As a bonus, the very first time we ventured to sing a three-part, we made the sound we currently make. No strenuous rehearsal or detailed planning. It just worked.”

These days you can see and hear The Sinners Choir on most Tuesday nights at 10pm at The Cameron House, a venue which is very dear to Wilkins.

“I have played there right back in time and over the intervening 33 years I have nearly always had one connection or another that kept me playing there, whether it was seminal Queen Street band V featuring Mojah, Lorraine Segato and Billy Bryans and myself, through to the early days of Big Sugar and its early associations with Molly Johnson, and on to standing on the bar with Jake and the Blue Midnights –right up to now with my work there with The Sinners Choir. I love The Cameron and I am so delighted that Anne Marie’s son Cosmo and Mike McKeown had taken the spirit of The Cameron and pulled it into the 21st century keeping all the best and adding in their take. May it last another 100 years.”

Ori Dagan is a Toronto-based jazz musician and educator who can best be reached at oridagan.comand I am so delighted that Anne Marie’s son Cosmo and Mike McKeown had taken the spirit of The Cameron and pulled it into the 21st century keeping all the best and adding in their take. May it last another 100 years.

Ori Dagan is a Toronto-based jazz musician and educator who can best be reached at www.oridagan.com

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