I have been writing a column in WholeNote for a number of years now and as 2012 heads towards the past I thought it might be interesting to look back at some of the items from the late 90s on, at changes that have taken place as well as some constants that don’t alter.

2000: For example, at end of the year 2000 I wrote: “Looking back over the past year, I realise just how much good jazz is available on a regular basis in this city. On any given week in Toronto, you can hear a wide range of music. The performers are often visiting “names,” but the majority are our own artists — and the standards are high. The concentration of good musicians in our own community is astonishing. The number of playing opportunities is regrettably small,  for it is an unfortunate fact that there is a lot less work for musicians than there used to be. And Toronto is a city with more playing opportunities than most. A young player entering the profession today has a difficult path ahead. There are simply not enough jobs to go around and talent is no guarantee of success.”

And I thought it was bad then!

jazznotes ralph suttonjazznotes bill basie between-1946-and-19482003: A sense of humour is part of the makeup of most jazz musicians and I have always tried to inject some into this column almost every month. So in 2003 I made up a small list of CDs that “might have been”:

Anita O’Day – “What A Difference O’Day Makes”

Bill (aka Count) Basie/Bill Holman Christmas Album – “Jingle Bills”

Mitch Miller – “Mitch’s Brew”

Al Kay – “Kay Passa”

Guido Basso – “Basso Profundo”

Phil Dwyer – “Dwyer Circumstances”

jazznotes bill holman -photo credit john reevesRay Bryant and Bill Mays – “Bryant and Mays: A Perfect Match”

Stompin’ Tom Connors – “Stompin’ At The Savoy”

(And in rehashing the topic for this month’s column with David Perlman, I have to give him credit for suggesting an album with Mike Murley, Larry Cramer and a rhythm section that could be called “Murley, Larry and Co.”)

2010: The 2010 December issue contained some memories of the years when I was artistic director of the Toronto Downtown Jazz Festival including the following:

“We have at times even helped the course of true love. One time I was in one of the festival vehicles along with a visiting group on the way to a sound check when the band’s road manager saw a lovely young lady walking along the street in downtown Toronto. He called out to the driver, “Stop the van! I must meet that beautiful woman! Stop the van!!” He slid the passenger door open and jumped out into the crowd.

We never saw him again — not at the sound check or the concert. He simply disappeared. I do hope everything worked out for him.”

In 2008 I expressed some of my feelings about Christmas in a piece titled “The Ghost Of Christmas Presents”:

“It’s that time of the year when the festive season, and all that goes with it, is upon us,” I wrote. “That time when there are the rival groups of Ho! Ho! Hos! in the red corner and Bah Humbugs! in the blue.

“Please don’t misunderstand me when I admit to being drawn to the blue corner, but I’m tired of the commercialism and insincerity which has turned the season into just another big sell. School may be out, but crass isn’t dismissed!

“The first Christmas card’s inscription read: “merry Christmas and a happy New Year to you.” “Merry” was then a spiritual word meaning “blessed,” as in “merry old England.” But today the great divide is between the spiritual aspect of Christmas and the secular and the secular is winning at a canter. Christmas may come but once a year but the commercial aspect of it which might well be called “giftmas” lasts for at least two months.”

Resolutions: After Christmascomes the event that used to be one of the busiest nights of the year for musicians — New Year’s Eve. It paid at least double scale and very few musicians sat at home wondering why they didn’t have a gig. Now most players do sit at home with their memories of gigs galore in days gone by. I have one funny, if at the time a bit embarrassing, recollection of the night at the Montreal Bistro when we had the count down to midnight and everybody was ready to sing Auld Lang Syne — and I launched into Happy Birthday to You!

New year is, of course also the time for New Year’s resolutions. Personally I don’t bother with them. If I’m going to resolve to try and do something, or change certain habits, why wait until the end of December? Do whatever it is no matter what time of year it is. After all it’s just as easy to break a resolution made in the middle of July as it is at the New Year when it might be made under the affluence of incohol!

But I have a couple of wishes for other people and I’m quite prepared to wait until January 2013 or even later:

I wish that jazz audiences would resolve not to talk loudly in a club while the music is being played. You are being rude and insensitive to the musicians and the people around you.

And I wish some wealthy patron would come along and donate decent pianos to several of the venues around town. My heart goes out to the talented pianists in this town who, over the years, have had to struggle with out of tune pianos, broken strings and keys. It’s a pipe dream I know, but as the song goes I Can Dream Can’t I.

Mind you, the latter isn’t a problem that exists only here. I remember an occasion when I was touring with that wonderful pianist, Ralph Sutton. The town was in the north of England and the piano was almost unplayable. Now Mr. Sutton for the most part was an easygoing agreeable character, but he did have a fuse which in certain circumstances was on the short side and I could see his anger rising as he did his best on this terrible apology for an instrument. We struggled through to the end whereupon Ralph, who was physically a very strong man, reached into the piano and pulled out handfuls of hammers and strings while saying with relish, “No other poor bastard will ever have to play this piece of shit!

On the subject of resolutions I’ll leave the last word to Oscar Wilde — “Good resolutions are simply cheques that men draw on a bank where they have no account.”

Have an enjoyable and safe festive season and may it continue into the new year.

Happy listening. 

Jim Galloway is a saxophonist, band leader and former artistic director of Toronto Downtown Jazz. He can be contacted at jazznotes@thewholenote.com.

30-31-jazznotes-hanna-gallowayJohn edwin “jake” hanna, drummer: born Dorchester, Massachusetts April 4, 1931; married 1984 Denisa Heitman; died Los Angeles February 12, 2010.

There have been so many books about jazz it is difficult to know what to buy — histories, biographies, essays, criticisms and some by superior writers such as Ralph Ellison, Gary Giddins, Nat Hentof, Albert McCarthy, Albert Murray and Scott Yanow.

But very few are as entertaining as Jake Hanna, The Rhythm And Wit Of A Swinging Jazz Drummer, a new addition to the ranks.

Jake Hanna was one of the great drummers but just as well known for his wit. He had an irrepressible sense of humour which endeared him to audiences and fellow musicians. In the band room he was always a centre of attention and wherever he was there was always laughter.

It was surely just a matter of time before somebody decided that there had to be a book about him and, to borrow the name of a jazz standard, “Now’s The Time.” The author is Maria S. Judge and she knew the Hanna family very well–she is, in fact, Hanna’s niece and a published writer of several books.

The early part of the book deals with the Hanna family and no other writer could have gone into more detail or have given a better insight into the environment that produced a man destined to become one of the legends of jazz.

The bulk of the work consists of anecdotes, remembrances by members of Hanna’s jazz community and contributions from friends and acquaintances. Together they convey a colourful picture of the drummer/raconteur who has left an indelible mark on the lives of so many of us.

He was the master of the one-liner on stage and off: “So many drummers, so little time.” Not all of them were original but somehow Hanna took ownership of them. If he liked you it was for life; if he didn’t it was also a pretty permanent arrangement. He was straight ahead in the way he played drums and straight as a die in the way he lived life.

Hanna could have been a great stand-up comedian, but was occasionally, in a friendly way, on the receiving end as when drummer Danny D’Imperio saw him come into the club and acknowledged him as “not just any old Tom-Tom Dick Dick or Harry Harry!” For once Hanna had no comeback.

It won’t spoil the book for you if I drop in a couple of stories from it like the time when Hanna was playing the Merv Griffin show and a famous singer agreed to an impromptu performance and said to him, “Give me four bars.” Hanna called out the names of four of the New York City bars where musicians hung out: “Charlie’s, Junior’s, Joe Harbors and Jim and Andy’s!”

Or the time when Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner were guests and people were panicking because Reiner was late. When he got there he was berated by Brooks. Reiner explained that he had just been to the doctor and was told he had arrhythmia, to which Hanna promptly responded “Who could ask for anything more.”

This is also a great “loo” book; in fact you should maybe buy two copies, one for your bookshelf and another for visitors who have to “spend a penny,” to coin, literally, a saying from my youth.

If you ever met Jake Hanna you will want to have this book. If he is only a name to you please buy it and enjoy getting to know him.

Jake Hanna, The Rhythm And Wit Of A Swinging Jazz Drummer. Maria S. Judge. Meredith Music Publications. $24.95 (US) or check amazon.com.

MR. ED: Jake Hanna was a huge fan of Ed Bickert, which will come as no surprise to anyone who heard Ed play. After the death of his wife Madeline, Ed retired from playing. I remember the evening very well. I was giving a concert of Ellington’s sacred music that night and at intermission we heard about Madeline’s passing. After that Ed simply stopped playing; a few years earlier he had had a fall on ice and suffered severe injuries to both arms from which he never completely recovered and with his wife’s death he simply didn’t have the will to keep on playing. No amount of coaxing could make him change his mind although he still shows up to hear musicians he likes.

I have a lasting memory of a recording session with Ed. The British trumpet player/bandleader Humphrey Lyttelton was in town and John Norris decided to make an album with him for Sackville Records.

The rest of the band included Neil Swainson on bass, Terry Clarke, drums, myself and Bickert. The music consisted of all originals by Humph, who showed up with no music! He would sing the various themes and we would go from there. Ed worked his magic and turned every number into music that was beautifully structured harmonically.

Like a lot of musicians I rarely listen to my own recordings, but when I do hear a track from that session it sounds like it had been arranged and well rehearsed, largely thanks to Mr. Bickert. And it was all done in one afternoon.

Well, on November 6 at the Glenn Gould Studio, you are invited to “Ed Bickert at 80: A Jazz Celebration,” with a line-up that includes Don Thompson, Neil Swainson, Reg Schwager, Terry Clarke, Oliver Gannon and others. Tickets are $45. Proceeds go to the Madeline and Ed Bickert Jazz Guitar Scholarship Fund.

Happy listening and, as Ted O’Reilly used to say when he signed off, “Think nice thoughts.” 

Jim Galloway is a saxophonist, band leader and former artistic director of Toronto Downtown Jazz.  He can be contacted at jazznotes@thewholenote.com.

jazz notes chapman option 2Unfortunately I find myself having to devote part of this month’s column yet again to a friend who recently passed away. I refer to Geoff Chapman an accomplished writer and a gentle man. He had wide-ranging interests and they included a great love of jazz, in fact it could rightly be called a passion. In the years that he wrote for the Toronto Star he covered theatre as well, but jazz stirred his emotions more deeply than anything else. Not that he ever made a big outward display of his feelings because nothing ever seemed to disturb that serene quality which has been described as a Buddha-like presence.

He was open-minded, always looking for something positive to say and I’ve yet to hear anyone say an unkind word about him. He was certainly a good friend to musicians, all of whom will think fondly of him.

Along with his talents, occasionally having the good fortune to be in the right place at the right time enabled him to leave the rest of the field trailing behind. I remember one night at the Montreal Bistro and Geoff was there to review the band. It was the same year that the jazz festival, because of imminent tobacco legislation, was about to lose the title sponsor, duMaurier. There was a grace period before the ban on tobacco sponsorship became law, but the sponsor decided to withdraw support as of that year.

To make a long story short, a good friend of the festival at City Hall, Sean Gadon approached the then mayor, Mel Lastman, and convinced him to intervene and call the then President of Imperial Tobacco, Don Brown. So there we were at the Bistro. Geoff was just getting ready to leave in order to file his review and in came a jubilant Sean Gadon with the news that the festival, which we had just cancelled had its funding for another year. Johnny-on-the-spot Chapman made some hasty notes before rushing off to file his story which scooped everybody else in town.

jazz notes chapman option 1But what made him much more than just a competent writer was that along with his language skills, an inbuilt natural ability to convey with words, he also had a broad knowledge of what he was talking about and a desire to communicate with his audience.

It starts to sound like the qualities of a good jazz musician, doesn’t it?

I remember one evening we had dinner together and in casual conversation I discovered we had shared an unusual childhood activity. As kids we had both chewed tar and to this day I love the aroma of hot tar! I initially thought that it might in some odd way have had something to do with the fact that we were both Brits until quite recently.
 I found a Canadian, albeit with the Irish name of O’Reilly, who, when he heard about our tar traits, exclaimed, “I used to do that!”

A good English beer, a cigar and listening to jazz was his recipe for a good time. Oh, and looking forward to seeing a good football — soccer, not rugby — match on TV.

When I think of Geoff, there is a line from a novel by Charles Dickens, “Our Mutual Friend” which seems a propos — “Have a heart that never hardens, a temper that never tires, a touch that never hurts.”

To The Letter

And now I will digress. My real introduction to acronyms was listening as a child to BBC — an acronym in itself — radio, and to a weekly comedy show starring Tommy Handley called ITMA which was made up from the first letters of the phrase “It’s That Man Again.” The show also introduced a classic, still widely in use today: TTFN — Ta Ta For Now.

Coming up with acronyms is a linguistic process that has existed throughout history. For example it was used in Rome before the Christian era, the official name for the Roman Empire, and the Republic before it, being abbreviated to SPQR (Senatus Populusque Romanus).

But acronyms became much more common in the 20th century with AT&T, Nabisco (National Biscuit Company), TV, Radar (short for for radio detection and ranging) and on and on. Back in the days when people actually wrote letters, some of you may have received or sent correspondence of a personal nature which had the letters SWALK on the back of the envelope meaning that it was Sealed With A Loving Kiss. Try that with a text message (lol).

Jazz has had its share of acronyms. Some of the most widely known were NORK (New Orleans Rhythm Kings), JATP — Jazz At The Phil, a travelling jazz extravaganza produced by Norman Grantz and the MJQ (Modern Jazz Quartet).

All of which is a preamble to KPMT, the Ken Page Memorial Trust which will hold its 14th annual jazz gala at The Old Mill on October 18 with a star-studded line-up including, from the United States, Harry Allan and Ken Peplowski on reeds, Warren Vache, cornet, Russ Phillips, trombone, and on piano Italian virtuoso Rossano Sportiello. The home team will consist of Terry Clarke, Alastair Kay, Reg Schwager, Neil Swainson, Don Thompson, Kevin Turcotte and your faithful scribe. Prior to the main event and in keeping with the goals of the Trust there will be a performance by the Ben Hognestad Trio featuring Matt Woroshyl from the University of Toronto Faculty of Music. You can enjoy them along with a complimentary cocktail. If you have never attended the gala this is a great year to get involved in support of jazz and the musicians who make the music. You’ll not see a line-up like this any place else in Toronto. For details see the ad in this issue of The WholeNote.

Meanwhile, now that the days are turning chilly it’s a good time to move inside and trade the hot sun for some hot choruses. As always, The WholeNote club listings, on page 55, are the town’s best guide to what’s on.

Happy live listening!

Jim Galloway is a saxophonist, band leader and former artistic director of Toronto Downtown Jazz. He can be contacted at jazznotes@thewholenote.com.

It’s all right — I’m talking about the season not the state of the music. Summer fades away, holiday makers come back to the city and the evenings begin to draw in and become cooler.

In Toronto the club activity ranges from the ever active Rex with up to 19 bands a week to other regular but less frequent spots such as Chalker’s, Gate 403, Grossman’s, Mezzetta, Musideum, Pilot Tavern, Quotes, Reservoir Lounge and so on.

For the most part the festival season has run its course, but not quite: on September 14 and 15 there is Jazz & Blues In the Village in Sarnia, now in its ninth year; the All-Canadian Jazz Festival in Port Hope takes place from the 21st to 23rd; and there is the Willowbank Tenth Annual Jazz Festival, a one-day event on September 16.

38 jazznotes abdullahibrahim  3 photo by ines kaiserA David among the Goliaths:A more contemporary program is on offer at the Guelph Jazz Festival from September 5 to 9. Nineteen years ago a group of jazz enthusiasts got together to create a festival showcasing the brand of music to which they were dedicated and I use the word “dedicated” advisably in that they were single-minded about the musical content. Now in its 18th year, they have retained the vision in a way that larger, more commercial enterprises cannot. The Guelph Festival has grown from small beginnings with audiences in the hundreds into a success that draws an audience of 16,000 annually. Now that is peanuts compared to say, Toronto and Montreal, but is bigger always better?

Ajay Heble, the festival’s artistic director, was out of town at the time of writing this piece but I spoke with Shawn Van Sluys, vice president of the Board of Directors of the Guelph Festival and executive director at Musagetes Foundation, an international organization which seeks to transform contemporary life by working with artists, cultural mediators and other partners to develop new approaches community and culture. The co-operation between these two entities makes sense and emphasizes the importance of the community aspect of the festival.

Some of the highlights this year include a solo performance by South African pianist Abdullah Ibrahim; Brew, an international trio which features Miya Masaoka on 17-string Japanese koto zither, bassist Reggie Workman and Gerry Hemingway on percussion; a John Coltrane tribute with Ascension; and an interpretation of his masterwork by Bay-Area-based ROVA Saxophone Quartet plus five rhythm, two violins and cornet.

38 jazznotes ajayheble 2 photo by trina kosterSo the ingredients are there — a city, but not too large, a University, strong community involvement, some corporate support, but not to the point where the tail wags the dog, and a dedicated team with a common vision.

This is not a put-down of large festivals. They do what they have to do in order to survive. Rather, it is an expression of regret that they have to dilute the content in order to be financially successful. But remember the immortal words of Yogi Berra: “If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up some place else.”

Any debate about the relationship between size and quality isn’t restricted to jazz festivals and I must confess that when I went online and asked the question, ‘Is bigger better?’ I had a host of replies that belong in a quite different sort of publication than The WholeNote. But I digress.

Of Olympic proportions: Undoubtedly the recent Olympic Games are a case in point. From the relatively innocent days of the early Games we now have a vast, commercial enterprise with a considerable number of events which — and this is a personal opinion — frankly don’t belong, largely because the judging is subjective and open to error or bias. Synchronised swimming requires a huge amount of ability and physical control, but is it really an Olympic event? Then why not include ballet?

However the name of the game is expand the audience base and make sponsors happy. And on the subject of sponsors and just how much influence they exert, here we have a huge event extolling the virtues of fitness and physical prowess sponsored by a huge corporation which sells a range of soft drinks that aren’t exactly health-giving.

Which reminds me of the disappointed Coca Cola salesman returning from his first Middle East assignment.

A friend asked, “Why weren’t you successful?”

The salesman explained, “When I got posted to the Middle East, I was very confident that I would do well as Cola is virtually unknown there and it would be a new and huge market. But, I had a problem; I didn’t know how to speak Arabic. So, I planned to convey the message through three posters , side by side ...

First poster, a man crawling through the hot desert sand totally exhausted and panting.

Second poster, the man drinking our Cola.

Third poster, our man now totally refreshed.

I had these posters pasted all over the place.”

“That should have worked,” said the friend.

The salesman replied, “Well, not only did I not speak Arabic, I also didn’t realize that with Arabic you read from right to left ...”

I will add one Olympic footnote:

The chief executive, ODA (Olympic Delivery Authority), received a basic salary of $578,564.44 CAD plus bonuses paid from the public purse. And the Games’ top executives make substantially more than that. So it was with interest that I read in Britain’s Telegraph newspaper an article saying that the Musicians’ Union had received complaints from members that they had been asked to donate services at the Games “because it’s such great exposure.”

Does that sound familiar to any of you musicians out there? No comment.

In the meantime, happy listening and try to put some live music in your life. 

Jim Galloway is a saxophonist, band leader and former artistic director of Toronto Downtown Jazz.  He can be contacted at jazznotes@thewholenote.com.

Well, the TD Toronto Jazz Festival has come and gone for another year and musicians have had a chance to “strut their stuff” and demonstrate their onstage personas. But one of this year’s daytime features was a series of interviews with some of the featured performers held on the main outdoor stage under the aegis of the Ken Page Memorial Trust.

This column is being written before the fact, but I hope these were well attended because they were an opportunity to learn some things about what makes the musicians tick, something about individual philosophies, likes and dislikes, and get a glimpse into, as the series’ title suggests, The Inside Track.

I shared the hosting of the series with artistic director Josh Grossman and one of my interviews was with veteran tenor player Houston Person.

Less known to the younger generation than say, Joshua Redman,Houstonbrings a wealth of experience to his music and the same sort of approach as big-toned tenor players like Gene Ammons, Arnett Cobb and Buddy Tate. He has carved a special niche for himself with his distinctive sassy sound and his expressive style. But to hear him put into words the same sort of things he says through his playing is an entertaining education.

I mentioned Arnett Cobb and Buddy Tate as being two of the great big-toned tenor players. They were also visitors to Toronto and both played at Bourbon Street, the Queen St. club, and one of four clubs operated by Doug Cole, who passed away in June at the age of 87.

Doug was an ex-policeman whose love of jazz was one of the best things that ever happened for the jazz community in Toronto. His first foray into the world of the jazz impresario was in 1956 when he opened George’s Spaghetti House in downtown Toronto. Why George’s Spaghetti House? Simple. That was the name of the business operating there before Doug took it over and he didn’t have enough ready cash to change the sign! It wasn’t an immediate roaring success but Doug kept the faith and eventually it paid off and George’s became a showplace for a Who’s Who of Toronto talent and, on occasion, a visiting out-of-towner. On weekends the music ran an hour later than other clubs in town so musicians could catch the last set on a Friday or Saturday. Regulars would phone in their orders, and their drinks would be waiting for them when they arrived at the club.

Doug opened another room, Castle George, on the floor above, with a house trio, then in 1971 he opened Bourbon Street which presented a steady flow of American artists usually fronting a local rhythm section.

The booking policy at Bourbon Street helped, I believe, to create an awareness of just how good were many of our own Toronto players. A second floor club called Basin Street also showcased jazz on a less regular basis and it is no understatement to say that Doug Cole’s love of jazz helped greatly to maintain Toronto as a leading jazz city after the demise of the Colonial and Town Taverns.

We could certainly use another Doug Cole today.

There may not be a lot going on jazz-wise in Toronto but August is a busy month for out of town festivals.

August 16 to 19 are the dates of the 14th annual Markham Jazz Festival.

Among the featured musicians are pianist Bill Charlap and vocalist Gretchen Parlato, Tara Davidson, Samba Squad, Three Metre Day with Hugh Marsh, Michelle Willis and Don Rooke, Jeff Coffin and The Mu’tet, and Kellylee Evans.

Entering its 18th year is the Oakville Jazz Festival, August 10 to 12, and the program will include Peter Appleyard, Joey DeFrancesco, Holly Cole and Tierney Sutton.

August 15 to 19 are the dates for the Prince Edward County Jazz Festival with Emilie-Claire Barlow, the Louis Hayes “Cannonball” Legacy Band, Tribute to George Shearing with Don Thompson, Reg Schwager, Neil Swainson, Bernie Senensky and Terry Clarke, and a Boss Brass Reunion concert.

I’ll close out with one of my favourite anecdotes from George’s.The story isn’t really meant as a reflection on the chef. He may not have been an escoffier, who would have been out of place anyway in an Italian restaurant, but generally speaking the food wasn’t bad and sometimes it did hit the spot, as the saying goes. But culinary mishaps can happen and this story does revolve around a steak dinner.

I was playing the club one week and two friends, Alastair and Vivien Lawrie, came in. Alastair’s name will be familiar to those of you who remember his jazz reviews in the Globe and Mail. Anyway, Viv ordered a steak. Now, granted the knives and forks weren’t exactly sterling silver, but her fork actually bent on the steak. So, Alastair called the waiter over and politely explained what had happened. The waiter apologized profusely, left the table and came back with another fork!

And no, we did not play All That Meat And No Potatoes.

This being a two-month issue, I’ll wish you an august summer and see you in September.

Happy Listening! 

Jim Galloway is a saxophonist, band leader and former artistic director of Toronto Downtown Jazz. He can be contacted at jazznotes@thewholenote.com.

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