1806 in the clubsClubs have folded, restaurants have closed and music programming has been cut, resulting in plenty of blues to be sung for the jazz community but hardly any venues to sing them in.

“If you want to make a million dollars from jazz, start with two million” is a saying that has been going around.

Enter Colin Hunter, founding president, CEO and owner of the airline carrier Sunwing Airlines and the all-inclusive package company, Sunwing Vacations. He’s also a part-time crooner. Now, with the help of wife Joan Hunter and general manager Sybil Walker, he is set to open the Jazz Bistro, the long-awaited, eagerly anticipated business venture that is finally ready to roll.

Sharing the same address as the famed jazz club Top O’ The Senator (1990–2005), the Jazz Bistro has been years in the making, but the wait is over, and it was well worth it.

“Toronto didn’t have an establishment of this calibre, so I sensed there was an opportunity,” says Colin Hunter. “I’ve done a few gigs with Joe Sealy in Montreal at the House of Jazz and wanted to give Toronto an establishment that was better than anything that was in Montreal. For starters, we are going to have better food, better service and better ambiance.”

Designed by Joan Hunter, the Bistro is a feast for the eyes, boasting a beautiful balcony, a ruby chandelier and a signature Steinway piano that even has a name: Red Pop.

As suggested by the name of the club itself, cuisine will be instrumental in complementing the musical experience: “We have hired a chef I have known and respected for some time, Matt Cowan,” says general manager Sybil Walker. “I have always been impressed with his respect for his ingredients, his passion for finding just the right food pairings and his insatiable interest in food on every level.”

Walker is also responsible for booking the club and has initiated a weekly jazz brunch featuring a different vocalist each month. The series debuts on March 17 with illustrious bass-baritone Marcus Nance; another sure highlight this month will be a three-night stint with veteran American flutist and saxophonist Lew Tabackin, booked with the Mark Eisenman Trio March 28 to 30.

Tuesday nights are going to feature a variety of special events including CD releases, the first one being Tuesday, March 26, when July/August 2010 cover girl for The WholeNote, Alex Pangman, will celebrate her newest release, Have a Little Fun. Notably, this Justin Time release features a guest appearance by legendary guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli, 87 years old as of this writing.

“I was actually saying to my husband that I’d love to record with Pizzarelli one day,” says Pangman. “Then I heard that Jazz.FM was bringing him to town for a concert and I just about had a heart attack. I learned that he had a little time off so I got up the gumption and asked him. You can’t win a lottery if you don’t buy a ticket!” she laughs. “The recording is essentially an ode to the human condition, and since I like to have a little fun, the title made sense! There are songs about love, loss, deception and forgiveness, mostly 1930s tunes but with four originals that I’ve written in this style.” While Pangman will be playing with Pizzarelli at a sold-out concert March 4 at the Old Mill, her great band, the Alleycats, will be backing her up at the Jazz Bistro March 26. Be sure to reserve!

Meanwhile in the west end Junction neighbourhood, this year Indira Nanavati Cadena will celebrate the third anniversary of her Mexican restaurant and music venue, La Revolución. Affectionately known as “La Rev,” this very inviting, unpretentious spot features reasonably priced traditional fare and service with a smile. In a dimly lit intimate back room, weekly events include a Saturday evening singer-songwriter night hosted by Jay Linden with guest headliners, as well as gypsy jazz happening every Sunday night with Mikko Hilden’s Les Petites Nouveaux and special guests.

“La Revolución was initially inspired by a trip to Mexico city, which sparked my interest in the local ingredients used in traditional cuisine, the varied genres of live music and the effect the Mexican revolution had on its society,” says Cadena. “Out of these three ideas was born a small but big-minded business, which is meant to be a revolution of mind, music and flavour!” Finding an acoustic piano which is kept in tune is not common these days, so it is unsurprising to learn that Cadena is herself a musician-turned-entrepreneuse.

“Whether it was composing, performing or as it turns out, running a music venue, music has always been my greatest passion. I studied classical piano up until university, at which point I took an interest in sound production and engineering. It’s really nice to be able to relate to the musicians outside of business terms, and it’s even nicer to be able to run the soundboard and focus on the quality of what’s being presented to the listeners. The local music in Toronto is so raw and full of talent. I’m just happy to be a part of it and help support it. ... While the Junction has been known more for blues and rock bands, the response to our songwriter series and the gypsy jazz has been very enthusiastic so far.”

JazzIntheClubs Terra Hazelton photo by Richard SibbaldBack to a familiar venue, The Rex, where our next singer can be found on a regular basis but has a very special CD release this month. The very talented and entertaining Terra Hazelton was first heard in a jazz context as the featured vocalist with Jeff Healey’s Jazz Wizards. Back then, her electrifying voice came across as the channelling of some wicked 1920s blues shouter. Now she can still do that, but in the five years since Healey’s passing, Hazelton has worked with many musicians — Brandi Disterheft, Sophia Perlman, the TurnArounds and the Jive Bombers to name a few — and stepped outside of her comfort zone.

Today Hazelton sings with even more range than ever before; her ballads have grown particularly arresting and genuinely sentimental. Teaming up with a pair of very spirited players — guitarist Nathan Hiltz and bassist Jordan O’Connor — is all sorts of brand new for Hazelton, as she has usually worked with far bigger ensembles. But when these three play together, nothing is missing; a wonderful musical chemistry exists, and if you’ll pardon an Ira Gershwin cliché, who could ask for anything more? Hazelton, Hiltz and O’Connor have decided to “go old school” on their new recording and do what’s considered bold these days: go into the studio, record live off the floor and release what comes out without doing any fixes. The only thing better than getting this record is seeing the smiles on their faces. Don’t miss the Terra Hazelton Trio’s CD Release Party for That’s All on Thursday March 7 at 9:30pm at The Rex Hotel. That’s all! 

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

48 jazz in the clubs ottawas renee yoxonBorn in the United Kingdom’s county of Sussex, Jane Harbury came to Canada in 1966, thinking it would be for just a year.

“I had no goal or clear path when I came here, it just seemed like a good idea at the time,” she recalls. “Actually, my debating partner in the Young Conservatives in the UK, Janice Hunt, had been living and working in San Diego and said, “you should go, there’s ten men for each girl!” So I said okay, but it was easier to get to Canada in those days, so I just arrived, knew no one, stayed at the YWCA for a couple weeks and then found a room and began my life in Canada.”

In the late 1960s, Harbury started working as a dishwasher at the famous Riverboat coffee house in Yorkville. As fate would have it, within a few years she ended up being the club’s manager, becoming known affectionately as “Riverboat Jane.” Harbury’s next chapter was as personal assistant to record producer Brian Ahern (Anne Murray, Emmylou Harris, Johnny Cash, to name a few) and in 1988 she founded her own publicity company, passionately promoting numerous Canadian artists across a wide spectrum of musical genres. Her clients have included artists such as Lhasa, Ian Tyson and Ben Heppner, and she has also publicized many events, from the North By Northeast festival to the JUNO Awards. Nine years ago, Harbury began presenting a successful series at Hugh’s Room called Jane Harbury’s Discoveries, a showcase of emerging artists. How did the idea come about?

“This series began as me repeatedly asking Hugh’s Room’s booker, Holmes Hooke, for opening spots for some of my ‘baby band’ artists — not necessarily bands, but those not yet known,” says Harbury. “He repeatedly replied that he didn’t have many opening act spots. Finally, probably out of sheer frustration, Holmes said “Why don’t you do your own night? We’ll give you the room!” and so I put together five artists — at 25 minutes each. It turned out to be one artist too many, so fairly quickly I adapted and refined it to four per show with 30 minutes each. Each artist is expected to bring at least twenty people, but the more the merrier, of course.”

Discoveries has been presented three times annually, and as one can imagine, there have been a lot of highlights over the years.

“We’ve had some amazing nights,” she recalls. “Bora Kim on violin at 14 playing Paganini. Eric Tan amazing the audience with his talent, playing classical on the old electric keyboard! Jazz vocalists Barbra Lica and Jordana Talsky, both shone.”

What has Jane Harbury discovered by presenting Discoveries?

“So much, but perhaps one of the most wonderful aspects is that you bring four diverse types of music into one show, the audience members are wonderfully open to appreciating this and are so supportive of all four. It is nerve-wracking for the artists, most of whom have always wanted to play a venue like Hugh’s Room where they are treated with so much respect ... it might sound as though it’s a kind of Ed Sullivan variety show, but it’s SO much more. Most of the artists are those who find me and not usually clients of mine. Something magical seems to happen at every Discoveries. I want to stress that it’s nothing like an open stage event. The artists support each other. I love it!”

The next edition of Discoveries takes place on Tuesday, February 5, featuring country/bluegrass/folk duo The Schotts, recent Etobicoke School of the Arts graduate Jessica Chase, Vancouver-based singer-songwriter Tom Taylor and Ottawa-based jazz vocalist Renée Yoxon. Being already familiar with the gorgeous voice of Yoxon, I am looking forward to discovering the other three acts. Hope to see you there! 

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

The fascinating thing about jazz — and life itself — is that one never knows where it’s going. One of Toronto’s finest and most established jazz pianists, Richard Whiteman is set to celebrate the release of his eighthrecording. The big surprise? This time, he plays the bass.

intheclubs richard whiteman“My career as a bassist started during a photo shoot in my backyard in the summer of 2003 with Brandi Disterheft and drummer Sly Juhas. I held Brandi’s bass while she made a makeup/hair adjustment. Although I couldn’t play the thing, I was fascinated and said to myself, “This is cool!” Two weeks later I bought an instrument at George Heinl and Co. and started taking lessons.”

Whiteman’s greatest challenge?

“Merely learning how to play the instrument,” he says. “I have done a lot of slow repetitive practice over nine years to get a reasonable technique. Playing in tune is paramount.” (Charmingly, in the new recording’s liner notes he thanks his life partner Bev Legg “who has had to endure nine years’ worth of daily arco practicing. Love is not only blind; it is deaf.”) On that note: “Playing the bass has improved my musical ear. Unlike a fixed pitch instrument like the piano where the player has merely to press a key and a sound will be generated, a string player has to really hear a note before playing it and then stop the string at an exact spot on the fingerboard — not an easy task. My overall musicianship has improved.”

The new album, On Course, is an enjoyable straight-ahead jazz affair seasoned by tasteful choices not only in repertoire but also in personnel. Whiteman explains:

“There is no concept for the CD except, perhaps, ‘Songs I like performed by musicians I like.’ I’m very impressed by Amanda Tosoff’s piano-playing and am pleased to showcase her. She gets a lovely sound out of the instrument, paces her improvisations intelligently and burns with a lot of fire when needed. Master guitarist Reg Schwager is a brilliant soloist and the best possible accompanist. Morgan Childs plays the drums with great energy, spirit and musical taste. Tosoff is a prolific jazz composer and we recorded two of her tunes. The other songs, by writers like Harold Arlen, Cole Porter, Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn, are timeless and beautiful. You’d have to be deaf to the beauties of the Western tonal system NOT to like this material.”

Peruse our In the Clubs (Mostly Jazz) listings section (page 64)and you will find that Whiteman still plays plenty of piano, leading a quartet on Monday nights at Gate 403; he also plays with the Hogtown Syncopators at the Rex on Fridays from 4-6pm.

“I don’t have the time to learn another instrument, but I would like to take a few voice lessons so I can use an instrument that doesn’t involve gear, automobiles and heavy lifting,” says Whiteman, drolly adding, “I certainly have the ego for it.”

Richard Whiteman’s bass quartet celebrates On Course by playing the early evening slot every Thursday in December at the Rex at 6:30pm.


For the first time in years, our In the Clubs (Mostly Jazz) listings are empty under the letter Q, as Quotes Bar & Grill, the cozy jazz venue below Barootes Restaurant, is closing this month. Reminiscent of a 1940s New York City jazz club, Quotes will be missed by many folks who attended the Canadian Jazz Quartet’s fantastic “Fridays at Five” series, featuring Gary Benson on guitar, Frank Wright on vibes, Don Vickery on drums and Duncan Hopkins on bass and cream of the crop weekly guests. If there’s one silver lining, it’s outlined in this quote about Quotes:

“All this ceased, not because of waning interest, but because the building was sold. The old adage ‘All things must come to an end’ somehow doesn’t fit here. Not yet. I find it hard to believe that all this life and vitality won’t find another home for ‘Fridays at Five.’”
Gary Benson, leader of the Canadian Jazz Quartet.

Event and project manager Fay Olson is very hopeful about the continuation of the series and is seeking a new venue ... she talks about her qualified quest for an alternate to Quotes on our blog here.          


31--jazzintheclubs-allemanoTalk about the element of surprise! In November of 2008, I was given the task of reviewing Lina Allemano’s third recording, Gridjam. Truth be told, I accepted the assignment wearily and wasn’t expecting to enjoy the CD nearly as much as I did, if only because at that time I thought I did not like avant-garde jazz. Isn’t it funny how we think we don’t like a certain genre, be it early music or hip hop, thereby prejudging a whole category of music based on its style, as opposed to its substance? Inevitably this brings one to Duke Ellington’s famous quote: “There are only two kinds of music: good and bad.” The Lina Allemano Four, pictured above, just might make a fan out of folks who don’t believe they “like” cutting edge, contemporary jazz. This month they release Live at the Tranzac, recorded at one of Toronto’s most essential spaces for creative music.

The record is the band’s fourth CD and has already received some nice reviews in Europe according to Allemano. “It’s our first live record,” she adds. “It was recorded on three different nights during our monthly residency at the Tranzac in February and June 2012 and November 2011 by our faithful and amazing engineer, “Fedge,” who recorded, mixed, and mastered it. We had great audiences all of those nights and their enthusiasm is on the recording. Fedge has done a brilliant job of capturing the live sound of the band. It’s released on Lumo Records, which is my own label. (Fedge also is responsible for our YouTube videos of the band’s performances at the Tranzac.) The music is all my original music which was workshopped during our various performances at the Tranzac.”

Allemano’s devilish, deliciously dissonant compositions are just the tip of the cool iceberg: her musical choices are unquestionably exceptional and she could not ask for a more formidable supporting cast: Brodie West on alto sax, Andrew Downing on bass and Nick Fraser on drums. The group has been playing the Tranzac’s Southern Cross room once a month since about 2006.

“What do we love about the Tranzac? So many things!!!” writes Allemano. “The Southern Cross room sounds amazing acoustically, which is perfect for us as an acoustic avant-garde jazz band. The audiences are always great — they listen and they give back their energy to the musicians. The Tranzac has a very comfortable atmosphere that allows us and the music to breathe and to grow. We can take musical chances there. There is a real community feeling there ... amazing and supportive and welcoming. It’s a nonprofit mentality and the programming supports all types of music that is generally alternative and non-mainstream — such an important place for musicians in Toronto, for artistic music to thrive and grow and to push the boundaries. It is just enough off the beaten path that it has kept a slightly underground feel to it, which I think keeps things real. It’s my favourite place to play in Toronto, and has been for years — it’s a special place and it has been really important for me personally to develop all three of my bands there over the years. Thank you, Tranzac!!”

The Lina Allemano Four’s Live at the Tranzac CD release takes place right where it was recorded on November 11 at 9:30pm.

Meanwhile, a brand new group, the Ken McDonald Quartet, led by bassist Ken McDonald, is starting a monthly residence at the Tranzac’s Southern Cross room November 20.

McDonald, a graduate of York University’s Jazz Composition Master’s program, is also a big fan of the Tranzac: “I love playing and seeing live music here. I think it’s one of the few places in Toronto where music of all styles and levels of creative expression is welcomed. You can drop by any time not knowing exactly what you’re going to see but knowing you’ll see something good.” The quartet is rounded off by Demetri Petsalakis on guitar, Paul Metcalfe on saxes and Lowell Whitty on drums. Expect tunes that draw from both the modern and classic jazz traditions, both orchestrated and freely structured.

416 Festival: November 7 to 10, the Tranzac is also home to the 12th annual 416 Festival, dubbed “the best music you’ve never heard.” According to the press release that we received in a timely fashion (presenters, please send all your listings by the 15thof the month prior to your event to listings@thewholenote.com for our FREE listings service!), the 416 Festival was created “in 2001 as a counterbalance to the lack of innovative music programming at local jazz festivals.” I asked the founder and director, Glen Hall, if he feels that anything has changed since 2001 on Toronto’s jazz scene regarding this issue:

54 intheclubs david-story-rakesh-thewari-and-glen-hall“Local jazz festivals continue to feature mostly traditional-based, tonal, metrical music of the genre widely understood and called jazz. In addition, they have added popular music forms which have little in common with the improvisational core of authentic jazz. However, the Toronto Downtown Jazz Festival has included some offerings by improvisers associated with the Association of Improvising Musicians Toronto (AIMToronto). But, to my knowledge, these are with little or no financial commitment on the festival’s part: a half-hearted, qualified support. So, the ‘lack of innovative programming’ has not changed appreciably since the inception of the 416 Festival. This does not apply in the case of the Guelph Jazz Festival, which has been bold and adventurous in its programming choices. (Non-tonal, arhythmic, sound-based improvisation by Toronto improvisers is seldom heard outside of the 416 Festival.)”

It’s fantastic that the 416 exists to showcase the incredibly rich diversity of non-traditional creative improvised music. Musicians do frequently wonder what an artistic director is looking for when booking, a question Glen is happy to answer:

“Some selections are made according to who approaches us and what their goals are. Also, new groups form constantly and I keep tabs on who is doing what and try to give them opportunities to be heard in a supportive environment. Some musicians I know personally; others are recommended to me. For instance, last year a new music aficionado suggested the neither/nor collective. While I was aware of them, it previously hadn’t occurred to me to ask them to participate as improvisation is a part, not the entirety, of what they do (they were an audience favourite). Quartetto Graphica was interesting because they use graphic scores which demand improvisational interpretation. This year CCMC is featured because they embody the essence of what the 416 Festival presents: fearless, risk-taking, improvised music making. We are always open to improvisation-based artists wanting to perform at the 416.”

Artists appearing at the festival this year include vocalist/pianist Fern Lindzon’s trio featuring trombonist Heather Segger and drummer Mark Segger; drummer Chris Cawthray’s improvised roots duo with organist Simeon Abbott; electronic wave drummer Bob Vespaziani with vocalist Tena Palmer and guitarist Arthur Bull — and that’s on opening night alone! See our listings section for complete details and for more information visit 416festival.com.

Here’s to the best music you’ve never heard! 

Ori Dagan is a Toronto-based jazz vocalist and an associate editor at The WholeNote. He can be contacted at jazz@thewholenote.com.

intheclubs robbcappellettoMusic venues are not hospitals and compact discs cannot be made by accident, yet for some reason releasing a CD is often likened to having a baby. Maybe it’s the many months of stressful preparation or the life savings required. At any rate, several young jazz musicians are expecting this month, including two set to deliver their firstborns at The Rex Hotel: guitarist Robb Cappelletto, Wednesday October 24 at 9:45pm and drummer Will Fisher, Sunday October 28 at 9:30pm. Both have been making a name for themselves since graduating from post-secondary institutions honing their chops, writing original tunes and melding together unique ensembles.

Toronto native, 27-year-old Cappelletto began his musical journey in blues, rock and R&B but has been focused on jazz for the past decade; following his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree at York University, he recently completed a Master’s degree in composition from his alma mater before getting to work on his self-titled debut.

“The album features an electric approach inspired by 70s Miles Davis with a heavy blues influence. All the originals were written within the past year and I feel they are inclusive of all my musical experiences up to this point,” he says. Cappelletto’s core trio is rounded off by bassist Jon Maharaj (“The electric bass is key to the sound of this group.”) and Cuban-born Amhed Mitchel; with special guests Daniel Easty on soprano saxophone and the all mighty Robi Botos on fender Rhodes. A recipe for intensity!

Upon graduating from Humber College, Will Fisher went on to obtain his Masters in jazz performance from the University of Louisville on a full scholarship. The 24-year-old’s debut album, Portage, is inspired by Fisher’s travels across Canada:

“I wrote and worked on the music while in Victoria, British Columbia, my home town of Truro, Nova Scotia, Toronto and other places,” he says. “Some of the songs were named after specific places and things that I was inspired by.” The cross-generational band features Jon Challoner on trumpet, Mikko Hilden on guitar and Mike Downes on bass; with guest pianists Nancy Walker and Matt Giffin. The album has been nominated for the Music Nova Scotia Award for Jazz Recording of the Year.

intheclubs roseannavitrooption1Meanwhile, two prominent vocal artists, soprano Dorothy Stone and jazz vocalist Roseanna Vitro, both based in New York City, will be visiting Toronto this month. Besides being seasoned performers, both women are fervently committed to vocal education. Chair of the Vocal Jazz Department at the New Jersey City University since 1998, forward thinker Roseanna Vitro is the creator of an increasingly popular Facebook page called “JVOICE (Jazz Vocalists Offering Instructional Curriculum for Education)” which as of this writing has 2,434 likes. The page is used as a resource for vocal jazz teachers and students from across the globe, addressing everything from jazz pedagogy to vocal health.

“I love teaching and working with singers,” Vitro says. “I’ve learned a great deal from teaching and I’m thrilled at the progress that’s been made and the level of jazz singers we are hearing today. I was drafted into teaching about 15 years ago at New Jersey City University by Ed Joffe, head of the jazz program. I was astounded when I discovered at that time, what wasn’t being offered to singers in college for jazz. I started developing programs for singers who desire good technique but want to sing jazz.”

A dedicated jazzer at heart, Vitro’s most recent recording — her 12th baby — features songs written by award winning singer-songwriter, arranger and film composer Randy Newman. The release garnered a coveted Grammy Award nomination for best jazz vocal album. Vitro had previously recorded albums dedicated to Ray Charles, Bill Evans and Steve Allen. Why Randy Newman?

“I recorded Randy Newman’s composition, “I Think It’s Going to Rain Today” on my 2006 Live at the Kennedy Center album. It’s one of Randy’s poignant songs about caring for your fellow man and I had been singing it for years,” she says. When her husband recommended producing an entire album of Newman “The journey began and I fell into a giant well of great stories and music. I could make three albums of Randy’s music and love every minute of it.”

And just how is singing Randy Newman different for Roseanna Vitro from singing Cole Porter or George Gershwin?

“Anything I sing, I sing with the same voice and care. I’ve made ten straight ahead jazz albums. I love to swing but I also love Brazilian music and Indian music and so on. What I did not do with Randy Newman’s music was try to make it something it’s not. I honoured his stories and melodies and interpreted them in that manner. I only improvised on a couple of songs where I felt it was appropriate. The music was a real blend of pop, blues, jazz, Americana. We had a couple of classical soli with violin and it was all in the service of the music.”

Joined by pianist Mark Soskin and violinist Sara Caswell, Vitro will perform her tribute to Newman at Hugh’s Room on Tuesday October 30, presented as part of the Jazz.FM91 Cabaret Series. Buy your tickets in advance because concerts in this series always sell out!

“If I had one hundred million dollars, I would still be doing what I’m doing — sitting at the piano and teaching my wonderful students,” says Dorothy Stone, who has travelled extensively to coach singers throughout the United States, Canada, Europe and South America. Having attended her Campo Doro Vocal Institute in northeastern Pennsylvania this past summer, I can personally attest to this woman’s considerable gifts as an educator. Aside from knowing vocal technique inside out (“I dissected the human body in medical school so I can tell you exactly how your cords work.”) Stone’s sensitivity to the details of a performance is molecular, drawing from an impressively wide palette of musical styles.

A performer herself, she has achieved critical acclaim on three continents as a Verdi specialist, performing the lead roles in Aida, Il Trovatore, Otello and Un Ballo in Maschera, as well as Carmen, La Boheme, Norma, The Magic Flute and The Marriage of Figaro. Musical theatre credits include Mother Abbess in the Sound of Music, Katisha in The Mikado and Ruth in The Pirates of Penzance.

When I found out that Dorothy will be visiting Toronto to appear in Laurence Tan’s “Butterfly Up High” concert at the Betty Oliphant Theatre (see listings section A, Concerts in the GTA, October 20) and to teach vocal masterclasses at the Musideum (see listings section D, The ETCeteras, Oct.13 and 14) I asked her if she would consider performing a cabaret together. She said, “Yes!”

Come see our collaborative tribute to heroes of the Great American Songbook at the Flying Beaver Pubaret on Friday, October 12. 

Ori Dagan is a Toronto-based jazz vocalist, voice actor and entertainment journalist. He can be contacted at jazz@thewholenote.com.

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