About a month ago, when I first perused the brochure for Toronto Summer Music, it suddenly struck me that this is quite an unusual festival. In it, I found an array of prominent pianists, string quartets, and other ensembles – all playing classical music. What's up with that? Where are the Dixieland bands, the Celtic harpers and the guitar-wielding singer-songwriters that a summer festival is "supposed" to have? (To read what artistic director Agnes Grossmann has to say about her approach to programming, see my interview with her in the July-August issue of The WholeNote.)
I'd like to say "brava" to Grossmann's programming. I’m pleased that in the year 2009 there’s at least one festival out there that isn’t ashamed to be just classical.
Melody Gardot completely captivated the audience Monday night with her one-and-a-half-hour set as part of the Jazz by the Lake series in the TD Canada Trust Toronto Jazz Festival. Every now and then a performer comes along who has a quality that goes beyond their singing and playing ability to make an extraordinary stage presence. They say Judy Garland and Edith Piaf had that kind of quality, and Gardot has joined those ranks.
Growing up, I didn't have much musical influence on my life. My father didn't listen to music when he drove. My mother did, but she almost never drove anywhere. Never was music playing in my home, either – so I was forced into finding my musical tastes through my peers.
I started with Weird Al Yankovic as many 10-year-old boys do. Then in my teens I favoured the grunge rock, and bad rap of the early 90s, which I carried with me until I found classic rock: Pink Floyd to be exact. Now, I know you are asking yourself "Pink Floyd in The WholeNote? What is going on here?" Don't worry, I do have a point to all this.
The 21st Annual Beaches International Jazz Festival held a press conference today to announce their line-up of events for July 17–26. The street festival and mainstage concerts in Kew Gardens are their usual robust selves with an eclectic roster of mostly local talent such as Rich Brown with his fusion group Rinse the Algorithm, blues belter Shakura S’aida, and the added international draw of Southern Rocker Jimmy Hall and Barbadian R&B singer Hal Linton.
t seemed as if todo o mundo was in Yorkville for the Brazilian Guitar Marathon this past Saturday. The Luminato Festival had set up a stage in the little park at Bellair and a couple of blocks of Cumberland Avenue were blocked off to cars, turning the area into a mini, urban Tanglewood-meets-Carnival-in-Rio. (Note to the Bloor-Yorkville BIA: let’s turn part of Yorkville into a pedestrian-only area every weekend in the summer.) The guitarists who had been brought in for the five-hour extravaganza are the cream of the nylon-string set in Brazil, and therefore the world. I’m not sure what it is about Brazilian musical culture that breeds such nimble-fingered musicians, but Antonio Carlos Jobim wasn’t kidding around when he said “Brazilians seem born with a guitar in their arms.”
The Sultans of String brought their “atomic world jazz flamenco” to the warm, intimate confines of Trinity St. Paul Centre Friday night and the audience couldn’t have been happier about it. The affection for this group was palpable as the band alternated between sincere tributes to whales, Sable Island horses and Mayan ruins, meditative rumba flamenco and smokin’ East Coast kitchen parties. Head Sultan Chris McKhool plays 6-string violin and is the main musical voice for the band. Other core players are Kevin Laliberté (who co-writes the songs with McKhool) and Eddie Paton on guitars, the two contrasting beautifully as Paton provided the fiery solos and Laliberté turned in precise and melodic phrases. Drew Birsten bowed, slapped and strummed his way through the bass parts. Master percussionist Chendy Leon sat amongst a small forest of drums and toys, but favoured the versatile cajon for most of the night alternating between hands, brushes and feet as the mood demanded.
I was wandering the halls of the U of T's Faculty of Music yesterday, and noticed two flyers tacked to a bulletin board. One was advertising the services of an "accompanist"; the other was for a "collaborative pianist."
In case you haven't heard, "collaborative pianist" means accompanist. The term arose in the 1990s, and has been adopted by numerous music faculties and conservatories.
In an effort find out more, I discovered that Toronto pianist Christopher Foley runs a website called The Collaborative Piano Blog (http://collaborativepiano.blogspot.com). Here, he explains that the word accompanist, "has traditionally implied inferiority, subservience, working ‘for' rather than ‘with' a recital partner. Collaborative piano, on the other hand, is a term that implies equality, association, and teamwork."
How to survive the internet – tip number one:
To avoid embarrassing the librarian, do not type the phrase “heavenly body” into Google or Yahoo if you are looking for an image of an asteroid on line.
I know this because of what happened after the announcement, on April 9, that Victoria astronomer David Balam had named “his” new-found asteroid tafelmusik in honour of Toronto’s most esteemed baroque ensemble.
Great topic for an editorial, I said, and flailed around on the internet for a bit, trying to find out what musical company tafelmusik would be keeping in its lofty new orbit. I found chopin, wagner, mozartia, liszt, thebeatles, bach, … no Beethoven, though. Probably still too modern. And then I decided to look for a photo.
.... Well, anyway, enough of that.
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