My column is generally intended to focus on what goes on in the clubs, but every once in a while something that I feel is worthy of attention happens outside of them. (Who am I kidding – this is the first time this has happened! Thankfully I haven’t been fired.) Following the spotlight on Avishai Cohen, this column continues on page 49, drawing directly from the club listings.

p12As part of a global tour promoting his 11th recording, Aurora, Israeli-born, New York-bred jazz phenomenon Avishai Cohen makes his Toronto debut on October 19 at the Isabel Bader Theatre. A visionary composer, Cohen is a virtuoso on the bass who first came to fame when Chick Corea took notice of his talents in the 1990s. After recording 4 albums on Corea’s Stretch label, Cohen formed his own Radraz Records in 2003, releasing albums which have garnered him countless accolades over the past seven years. He is today considered one of the jazz world’s most important contemporary figures. The latest recording features several firsts for Cohen; he has added to the mix his own singing and was signed to a major label. Cohen’s busy schedule did not permit a phone interview but we did exchange a brief Q&A via email:


Read more: The Ever-Evolving Avishai Cohen

p9ON SEPTEMBER 19 an enthusiastic crowd gathered in Walter Hall at the University of Toronto for a concert of music by John Beckwith. The setting was appropriate, since Beckwith had spent most of his long career teaching at the university’s Faculty of Music. Before the music got under way, Beckwith sat on stage with New Music Concerts artistic director Robert Aitken to talk about the programme. Aitken, a flutist and composer who had studied with Beckwith, like so many prominent figures in Canadian music, told Beckwith, “I have always looked up to you.”

Aitken recalled how Beckwith had arrived at one of the first concerts ever put on by New Music Concerts 40 years ago. A snowstorm prevented most people from coming. But Beckwith, with characteristic élan, arrived on cross-country skis.

Now 83 years old, Beckwith was being celebrated not just for his huge body of compositions, or even for the many books he had written and edited, or, for that matter, his lively journalism. It was his unconditional commitment to classical music, contemporary music, and above all, Canadian music that have put him in a class of his own. (Beckwith has a new book coming out by the end of the year honouring his own teacher, John Weinzweig.)

I spoke to Beckwith earlier in September, a few weeks before the concert, at his art-filled Victorian home in the heart of the Annex, a short walk from the university where he studied and taught for so many years, and where his partner, Kathleen McMorrow, is head librarian of the U. of T. Music Library. As I came in, I noticed the bicycle he still uses to get around the city sitting in the front hallway.

Read more: John Beckwith

atelier_page_70When I cast my mind back to the early years of Opera Atelier, my strongest recollection is the photograph of a baseball pitcher in the programme notes. The picture depicted the moment of repose before the pitcher “winds up” to deliver the ball, which is why this anonymous sports figure ended up as a front-man for the ideal baroque aesthetic. The pitcher’s stance, with its raised hip/slouch (think Michelangelo’s David and the penny will drop) was in the perfect baroque “S” shape.

I have something of a special relationship with Opera Atelier because I was the first arts journalist to write about the company. It was 1986 and they were mounting Acts 1 and 2 of Monteverdi’s Orfeo and Landi’s Il Sant’Alessio at the Art Gallery of Ontario’s Walker Court, in conjunction with the Vatican Splendours exhibit. It was their first professional gig – meaning that they got paid.

Read more: Authentic Mastery: Opera Atelier at 25

October has arrived with a burst of energy. The musical floodgates of Toronto and Southern Ontario have opened, and so there are close to 500 listings in this issue of The WholeNote. This is an annual occurrence – a predictable aspect of the seasonal nature of the music business. But it’s also a reflection of the depth of our musical life.

This depth is reflected, in varous ways, in this month’s magazine. Our two feature articles highlight what might be called the opposite ends (early and new) of the classical music spectrum: Opera Atelier, and composer John Beckwith. Yet both are uniquely products of this time and place.

Read more: October’s Energy

The Queen West spot with the hottest name, The Tequila Bookworm, will no longer be presenting live music, while a Cabbagetown hidden gem, Plum 226, has gone under, never to be unearthed. Are there any philanthropists out there who might consider opening up a jazz club in Toronto? All you’ll need is a good location, excellent music, great food, friendly service, business savvy, wisdom, luck, patience, verve and nerve. Inspired? Yes, you’ll have to be!


Ori1The Reservoir Lounge adds Thursdays to the Après-Work Series, so now Tuesdays through Thursdays enjoy jazz from 7-9pm. Last month’s cover girl Alex Pangman’s “First Tuesday” house gig has changed to every “First Thursday” of the month. Other highlights in the series this month include talented blues singer Chloe Watkinson on the 14th and splendid saxophonist Shawn Nykwist on the 21st.


Toronto happily welcomes back jazz legend Sheila Jordan! ( Known in the jazz world for originating the “bass & voice” duet, Jordan is one of the world’s first and finest jazz educators as well as one of the hippest 81-year-olds on the planet. In early 2009 I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing this legendary vocalist for The WholeNote and she had this to say when asked about being in the prime of her career at 80:

“I’m not as successful as most people think I am…not in America anyway. But I don’t care! I never wanted to be, you know, ‘a star’. That’s not my purpose, that’s not my calling. My calling is to be a messenger of this music, and I’m very happy being that. I’m very thrilled with the awards I’ve won and the recognition that I’ve gotten.”

from 10AM - 5 PM. Participants $120 full day / $60 half day, Auditors $50 / $30. Location to be announced. Contact:

Ori2OOH, WHAT AN ELLING! Speaking of not-to-be-missed jazz vocalists, the incomparable Kurt Elling ( rides a colossal wave of professional triumphs: the 2010 Grammy Award Winner and 9-time Grammy Nominee was voted DownBeat Magazine’s ‘Male Vocalist of the Year’ for 10 consecutive years and was recently described in the New York Times as “the standout male jazz vocalist of our time.” From Elling’s deeply spiritual approach to ballad singing to a gracefully virtuosic scat style to his awe-inspiring ventures into vocalese, it is virtually impossible not to acknowledge his masterful musicianship. Mr. Elling opens the Thursday Night Jazz Club Series at The Old Mill on the evening of Thursday, September 16th. This show will definitely sell out so you want to reserve your tickets lickety-split.

RHYMES WITH PEGGY Split between the jazz and classical world, Ottawa-based double bass virtuoso John Geggie will be making a rare appearance in Toronto on Friday, September 17th at Chalkers Pub. Geggie ( is an extremely versatile musician, composer and collaborator who performs in the National Arts Centre Orchestra, and teaches double bass at Queen's University, Carleton University, the University of Ottawa and the Crane School of Music at SUNY Potsdam. Geggie is known to invite jazz artists from across Canada and the world to play with him in one-time-only groups, in which they perform material written by each of the artists, as well as jazz standards. Joining John Geggie at Chalkers Pub will pianist Nancy Walker, drummer Ethan Ardelli and special guest tenor saxophonist, Jerome Sabbagh from Paris, France!

GUITAR ACE Local guitarist Harley Card ( recently represented our country as a semi-finalist at the Montreux Jazz Festival Guitar Competition. Here in Toronto Mr. Card is an active member of several ensembles including Monk’s Music, Hobson’s Choice, God’s Gift to Yoda as well as his own group which features compositions that draw from modern jazz, improvised music, folk and rock. The Harley Card Trio plays at The Emmet Ray on College Saturday September 11th from 7-10pm. 


Fellow member of the group Hobson’s Choice, vocalist Felicity Williams leads The Al Purdy Project, for which she has composed and arranged music set to the great Canadian poet’s words. The end result is as hauntingly beautiful as it is conceptually ambitious. The cherry on the cake is that Williams’ voice is sonically stunning, reminiscent of a young Joni Mitchell. The Al Purdy Project is comprised of: Felicity Williams, leader/voice, Robin Dann, voice, Rebecca Henessy, trumpet, Michael Davidson, vibes & marimba, Harley Card, guitar, and Dan Fortin, bass. Sample the scrumptious sounds here: and then experience The Al Purdy Project live at The Tranzac on September 21st at 7:30pm.


In 2007, the Juno Award winning Canadian fusion group Manteca ( reassembled at the Toronto Jazz Festival nearly a decade after disbanding. Appearing in Toronto for two nights only this season, September 22nd and 23rd at The Glenn Gould Studio will be rare two-night appearance by the 9-piece original jazz group that has been 31 years in the making, known for breathtaking compositions and explosive playing. In its current reincarnation, the band consists of: Henry Heillig, leader/bass, Matt Zimbel, leader/percussion, Charlie Cooley, drums, John Johnson, saxophones, Kelly Jefferson, saxophones, Art Avalos, timbales, Mark Ferguson, trombone, Steve Mcdade, trumpet and Doug Wilde, keyboards.

Ori Dagan ( is a Toronto-based jazz vocalist, voice actor and entertainment journalist. He can best be contacted at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

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