Tuesday 29 September 2015

Robi Botos Plays The Registry Theatre Oct. 16

KITCHENER Ont., Sept. 29, 2015  — From a place you have never been, music you will never forget.

Robi Botos and his family know first hand about the persecution of the Romani in Hungary and elsewhere in Eastern Europe. Botos and his extended family fled the place years ago, and made new lives for themselves in and around Toronto. As soft-spoken as he is talented, Robi says it was very, very difficult to leave his home and start over again in Toronto with no English and even less money.

Robi left his native Hungary in late 1998. He came to Toronto with his wife Violet, and his two young daughters, Barbara, then 18 months old, and Dorina, who was six.

“One of the main reasons was that I wanted to live in place where we could live without being persecuted and discriminated against because my background is Hungarian Gypsy,” Robi says in an interview with New City Notes.

“And I definitely wanted to raise my kids too in a place where you can be whoever you want to be,” Robi says.  “And also musically, like every way, things were not happening for me there, not too much hope there.”

That’s why Robi quickly agreed to a very special concert scheduled for Friday. Oct. 16 at the Registry Theatre in downtown Kitchener.  The evening is a fundraiser for the Canadian Romani Alliance, a Toronto-based human rights organization.

Robi was born in 1978 in Nyiregyhaza, and grew up in Budapest. After fleeing Hungary in 1998 he quickly became a prominent member of the Toronto jazz scene.  His son Robert was born in Toronto, and Robi teaches in the jazz studies program at Humber College.

“Well you know, starting a new life without language and money and everything, it is very tough,” Robi says.  “It was very hard at the beginning, but at the same time I met very nice people who helped me a lot.”

Robi is among Canada’s very best jazz pianists.  He will be playing with his father (Lajos Botos Sr.) on drums, and his brother (Lajos Botos Jr.) on bass.  Pretty much impossible to get more authentic than that for Gypsy Jazz.

You can read more about Robi at robibotos.com.

In addition to teaching and gigging, Robi composes and records.  He is a winner of the TD Grand Jazz Award at the 2012 Montreal Jazz Festival. He also won the piano competition at the Montreal Jazz Festival in 2004. For his efforts, Robi was flown to Montreaux, Switzerland to open for his idol Oscar Peterson at Stravinsky Hall.

Robi wrote a beautiful piece in honour of his long-time idol, Oscar Peterson. It is called Emmanuel, after Oscar's middle name. Robi played it at Stravinsky Hall and the two jazz artists became friends.  When Oscar was hiring a piano teacher for his daughter, he tapped Robi for the job.

 Robi recorded Emmanuel on his CD A Place to Be.  He played with some of the best Cats in the business for his last CD, Movin’ On. His CD Christmas Eve is an inventive and straight-ahead rendition of several classics. 

Check out Robi's recordings at www.robibotos.com. 

Robi’s Family Trio will play a set of amazing music.  That will be followed by the screening of A People Uncounted.  Robi wrote the music for that 2011 documentary about the persecution of the Romani people in Hungary.

The documentary, directed by Aaron Yeger, is about the culture and history of the Romani people, commonly known as gypsies.  It was nominated for a Producer’s Guild of America award in 2012, and was featured in the New York Gypsy Festival. 

Tickets for this very special show at the Registry Theatre are $20 in advance and $22 at the door.  You can buy tickets through the Centre in the Square Box Office by calling 519-578-1570 or online at www.centreinthesquare.com. You can also buy tickets at the door. The Registry Theatre is at 122 Frederick St., in downtown Kitchener.

Thursday 30 April 2015

Fast rising Ethan Ardelli brings his quartet to The Jazz Room Saturday

TORONTO, April 30, 2015 --- A jam session many years ago and a chance meeting with a Cuban pianist changed jazz drummer Ethan Ardelli's musical life.

Ardelli was in the jazz program at the University of Toronto when he headed for Blur on Bloor for a jam session where David Virelles was playing piano. (www.canadianjazzarchive.org/en/musicians/ethan-ardelli) Virelles was a busy, inventive professional pianist cutting a wide swath through the Toronto Scene. Ardelli and Virelles clicked.

"It was fortunate at the time because he wanted to start his own project," Ardelli said in an interview with New City Notes.

"He was looking for a specific type of drummer.  He was looking for someone to play jazz, but who also had an idea of some Afro-Cuban rhythms.," Ardelli said.  "It was kind of a Latin jazz band when we first started."

While still a student at the University of Toronto, Ardelli started getting calls for gigs and recording sessions.  Virelles was a respected fixture on the Toronto Scene, and he was recommending the young drummer from Sydney, Nova Scotia.

Ardelli found himself recording with the soprano saxophonist  and flautist Jane Bunnett, who loves Afro-Cuban rhythms.  The sessions resulted in Bunnett's highly-acclaimed Radio Guantanamo: Guatanamo Blues Project, Vol. 1. It the 2006.." Juno Award for Best Contemporary Jazz Album. Also on those recording sessions was the legendary tenor saxophone player Dewey Redman.

"I think it was the beginning of my fourth year at U of T, and David called me up one day and said: 'Jane Bunnett is recoridng this record, she needs a drummer to play on a couple of tracks, Dewey Rredman is going to play on it.  Are you up for playing on it?'" Ardelli said. "I said: 'Well, I have class, but I think I can get out of class to play with Dewey Redman."

More gigs flowed through Virelles,  and Ardelli was playing with jazz vocalist Nancy Walker, bassist Mike Downs, and bassist Kieran Overs.

About two years ago Ardelli was asked to play drums for the tenor saxophonist Fraser Calhoun. The band included the legendary jazz pianist Mulgrew Miller. On bass was Neil Swainson.  The quartet played two nights at The Rex in Toronto, and then headed for The Jazz Room in Waterloo for a Saturday night gig on March 24, 2013.

It was one of Miller's last shows.  The great man was killed by a stroke two months later. Mulgrew's career included three years with the Duke Ellington Orchestra, stints with Woody Shaw, and Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers. Beginning in 2005 Miller was the head of jazz studies at William Patterson University in New Jersey. Ardelli will never forget the three nights he played with the great man.

"He was so nice, and it was pretty incredible to get a chance to play with him," Ardelli said.  "It was cool to play three nights in a row, and get a chance to hang and chat.  He was very supportive, very nice.  He was just a really cool dude."

Virelles moved to New York City in 2009, was signed to ECM and is busy gigging and recording in the World Capital of Jazz.

Ardelli is busy on the Toronto scene. He plays The Jazz Room Saturday with Luis Deniz  on alto sax,
Reg Schwager on guitar, Devon Henderson on bass. Cover: $18. Word of advice: Catch this young drummer now, before he too heads for New York City.

Monday 27 April 2015

Oliver Jones returns to Kitchener after more than 20 years

KITCHENER, Ont. April 27, 2015 — Oliver Jones, one of Canada's finest jazz pianists, takes the stage for the first time this year Saturday night at The Registry Theatre

The 80-year-old Jones had a heart attack in February, under went a triple-bypass surgery and had to cancel gigs scheduled for March and April. But as soon as he was able, the veteran jazz artist was rehearsing his trio and planning new recording sessions. 

While quietly recovering, Jones wondered if his music had suffered.

"So far the piano feels the way it did for the last 75 years," Jones said in an interview from his Montreal home. "So I am looking forward to it." 

He is bringing the regular members of his trio to Kitchener — Éric Lagacé on bass, and Chet Doxas on drums. 

"Tremendous musicians and wonderful friends," Jones said. 

The recipient of 150 awards, including the Order of Canada, Jones was born and raised in a working class neighbourhood in Montreal called St. Henri. (www.justin-time.com/artists.php?lang=en&aid=283). That neighbourhood holds a unique place in the history of jazz music in Canada. It was a crucible of black culture that produced a long list of leading jazz artists, including Oscar Peterson, Joe Sealey and his brothers Charlie Biddle, Nelson Symonds and Louis Metcalfe. 

During the 1940s and 1950s, the area had two popular jazz clubs, Café St-Michel and Rocky's Paradise. Peterson wrote a beautiful piece called "Place St. Henri" in homage to the streets where he grew up. Jones has written about 20 pieces about the people and places around that neighbourhood.

"It was wonderful because of the atmosphere around St. Henri," Jones said. 

Today, the area is rapidly gentrifying, especially among the old factories along the Lachine Canal that now house expensive condos. Jones now lives in Côte Saint-Luc, but regularly visits St. Henri

He was nine years younger than Peterson. Both attended the Royal Arthur elementary school, and the Montreal High School. Both played in the Union United Church. Jones grew up about 10 doors away from the Peterson house. He would sit on the front porch of the Peterson home and listen to Oscar play. For years, Jones took lessons from Oscar's sister, Daisy Peterson. 

"I got so hooked on listening to and trying to play jazz as a youngster," Jones said. "I guess like everyone in the neighbourhood, I was very, very impressed the first time I heard Oscar Peterson, and there were quite a few other wonderful jazz musicians living in the same area." 

His jazz career had to wait, though. In 1964, Jones became the musical director and pianist for the Jamaican-born calypso-and-pop singer Kenny Hamilton. For 16 years Jones was based in Puerto Rico with Hamilton's band. When the band toured, Jones would spend his down time watching jazz shows in New York, Chicago and elsewhere. 

"I had a lot of years of wishing and hoping and dreaming of playing jazz," Jones said. 

The break came upon his return to Montreal in 1980. His childhood friend from St. Henri, the bass player Charlie Biddle, had opened a jazz club downtown called Biddle's Jazz and Ribs. It would become one of the most famous jazz clubs in Canada, known simply as Biddle's. He offered Jones a regular gig. 

"That's what got me started more than anything else, the gig at Biddle's with Charlie, and then a couple of years later running into Jim West," Jones said. 

West was so moved by Jones' playing he founded a label to record him. It is called Justin Time. Jones made his first recording for that label in 1984, and never stopped. He has released 23 recordings on Justin Time, and has active plans for two more. 

When Jones started playing at Biddle's, the Montreal Jazz Festival was just starting as well. Jones played it many times, and credits the festival with elevating his profile as a jazz artist. In 2012, in recognition of a great career in jazz, Canada Post issued a stamp with Jones' image. 

Jones was 60 the last time he played in Kitchener. The show Saturday is the first since his heart attack and operation. It is the beginning of the last chapter of a remarkable career. 

"I am feeling all right," Jones said. "I have to take it easy, and be patient. I walk every day, a little exercise."

Thursday 23 April 2015

The fused soul of Joni NehRita

WATERLOO, Thursday, April 23, 2015 --- When fusion vocalist Joni NehRita plays The Jazz Room Friday one of songs is slated for her new CD that will be recorded next month.

"I am really, really excited about that," NehRita said.

NehRita was just signed to a recording label called Chanter Records in Guelph, where she lives  The recording will be produced by Rick Hutt in his Cedartree Recording Studio in Kitchener. (joninehrita.com).

"I am super-stoked about it, he is obviously a big name in our region," NehRita said.

The set lists on Friday will include That's the Truth, which is planned for the new CD.

"We will be doing a pretty eclectic mix.  I like a lot of different kinds of jazz from the classic standards Sunny Side of the Street to some crazy vocaleses by Kurt Elling, he is my favourite jazz vocalist," NehRita said.

What to expect: Contemporary interpretations of jazz standards and about 10 original pieces that fuse jazz, soul and rhythm and blues.

NehRita's quintet includes Adam Bowman on drums, Thomas Hammerton on piano, Tyler Wagler on bass. For saxophone lovers, the Friday night gig has special appeal.

"It is my quintet featuring Alison Young on tenor sax," NehRita said.

Young is well known to audiences in Kitchener-Waterloo and Toronto. She is a a sensation on soprano-alto-tenor-and-baritone saxes.  Young is also found in the horn section of Alysha Brilla and the Brilltones, which played a standing-room only gig at The Jazz Room last month.

Young also plays in The Heillig Manoeuvre, Red Hot Ramble, and Big Rude Jake. She also plays with some of the leading jazz acts in Toronto, including Colin Hunter & the Joe Sealy Quartet, Boom for Rent and the award-winning jazz vocalist Mary McKay.

"We're excited because she is a beast," NehRita said.

NehRita has released two CDs,. The first was a mix of R&B, soul and jazz in 2008 called A Fine Time. The second was called The Bare Truth  and came out in 2011. She has a jazz EP on iTunes called Beginnings. She released all of that work as an independent artist.

NehRita grew up in the Etobicoke area of Toronto, and attended Humber College's jazz program, graduating in 1999.  NehRita also studied small-combo arranging privately under Shelly Berger. NehRita then spent a couple of years in Montreal, and moved to Guelph about eight years ago.

"Some friends had bought some tickets for my birthday for us to come to the Hillside Festival in Guelph," NehRita said. "We stayed for a few days, and I was like: 'Ohhhhh, I like this little town.' It kind of has this Hippy vibe, and I have always been the urban-Hippy kind-of-thing. Like: 'Oh wow, that business is solar powered or wind powered, and that place is all organic and fair trade.' I was like: 'Oooh, this is just my kind of place.'"

She teaches vocals, runs a choir and gigs when she can.

"Between those three musical things I am making a good living, which is good, and I'm grateful," NeRita said.

Growing up Diana Ross and the Supremes, Michael Jackson and lots more Mo-Town.  In her teens NehRita loved Maria Carey, Whitney Houston, Luther Vandross and musical theatre repertoire.

"And then in terms of jazz, I spent a lot of time with Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn and Nina Simone," NehRita said.

She attributes her passion for music to growing up as an only child.

"As an only child, filling a lot of that time was done by reading and singing along to records, trying to learn all the little parts. Okay, the strings go like this, the bass goes like this," NehRita said.  "Just a lot of time on my hands to foster that love and appreciation."

As a girl, the songs were always in her head.

"I was just always that kid who was singing and dancing and making up a song."

Wednesday 22 April 2015

Allison Au Quartet uses Jazz Room gig to prepare for the studio

TORONTO ---- When the Allison Au Quartet plays The Jazz Room in Waterloo it will be the last time the contemporary group records its new collection of compositions in front of an audience before heading into the studio next week to record its second CD.

"This is kind of our workshop one more time , play all of the tunes, and then we are going to go into the studio next week," Au said in an interview with New City Notes.

Au's Quartet plays Saturday night. The cover: $18. The new CD should have nine new compositions, and be released in the fall.

"I think the band has developed since our last album, we have really matured and my writing has changed," Au said.  "It has taken its own course of finding new pathways.  I would say with this album I have pushed myself to explore different templates in terms of composition, and get the ensemble to explore different sounds as well."

Their first recording, The Sky Was Pale Blue, Then Grey, was nominated for a 2015 Juno Award as best contemporary jazz CD. Au's Quartet did not win, but the nomination underscored the band's reputation as a new creative force on the modern jazz scene. (www.allisonau.com).

"That was crazy, so unexpected," Au said of the Juno nomination.  "In fact, I wasn't even going to submit my album for consideration."

Au plays the alto sax. The rest of the quartet includes Todd Pentney on piano, Jon Maharaj on  bass and Fabio Ragnelli on drums. Pentney and Ragnelli met Au at Humber. Maharaj attended the University of Toronto, and started jamming with Au after mutual friends introduced them.

"We went to the awards ceremony, so that was a really great experience to meet some musicians there," Au said.  "It was thrilling, it was really exciting."

The 29-year-old saxophonist, composer and arranger  tries to focus on melody when writing new material.

"I don't necessarily always think it's jazz because a lot of my music doesn't even have the swing component," Au said.  "A lot of my music does, but often there are quite a few songs that are just very open in how I approach. I don't consider it jazz per se.  But there are elements of improvisation in everything. So I think there is that common thread."

While contemporary classical music is a big influence on her composing and approach to harmony, the instrumentation is jazz.

"The role everyone plays in the ensemble is very much drawn from jazz," Au said. "So I guess in a nutshell, jazz with a lot of contemporary influences, as well as from Latin music."

Born and raised in Toronto, Au was raised in a home with a huge collection of records and CDs.  She would accompany her dad to regular trips to Same the Record Man on Yonge Street.  Music was always on in the house - jazz, blues, Motown, funk, rhythm & blues, opera, classical, Leonard Cohen and Ry Cooder, Jimmy Cliff, Sam Cooke, Nat King Cole. among many others.

Growing up Au perused the massive, colourful collection in the living room of her family home in Toronto, pulling out individual recordings to admire the cover designs.

"As a kid when I listened to jazz specifically I always heard an energy in it, it just sounded like so much fun.  Music, more of a broader spectrum, was always played in the house by my parents for social occasions and parties and stuff," Au said. "It was always like a fun thing."

"And jazz specifically spoke to me on a different level because it sounded like, I don't know, I just related to it," Au said.  "There seemed to be a like a freedom within it, an energy I felt like I wanted to emulate in some way.  At an early age I didn't quite know what it was, but I always wanted to copy those people.

"And I didn't know what I was copying, but something drew me to it," Au said.

Among her early influences - Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughn.

"They just had a warmth in their voice that sounded very welcoming, it was like home almost," Au said.

She studied jazz at Humber College, graduating in 2008.

"It was a really great experience, it's so varied with their musical styles.  So I have the opportunity to play a lot of different genres of music and expose me to a lot of different settings and ensemble sizes as well.  I did some big band things, and then some small jazz combo stuff, so it was a really nice mix.  I thought the variety was really cool," Au said.

The Allison Au Quartet was formed in 2009.

Wednesday 15 April 2015

Dave Thompson Trio + Three at The Registry Theatre in Kitchener

The legendary trumpet player Herb Pomeroy died in 2007, but his innovative ways of arranging jazz music will be very much alive at The Registry Theatre when guitarist David Thompson takes the stage on Friday.

 “The Registry concert is a dream come true,” Thompson said in an interview.

Thompson studied under Pomeroy at the Berklee College of Music in Boston in the late 1980s, and learned what is called Line Writing. Pomeroy played with some of the greatest names in jazz, including Charlie Parker and Lionel Hampton, becoming famous as a swing and bebop trumpet player.

For years, Thompson created new arrangements of jazz standards, and used the principles of Line Writing in his own composition, too. The Registry Theatre gig will be the first time Thompson showcases this work, which he calls harmonically rich and very linear.

“Every player has a melody. That’s what Herbie would always say: ‘Every player has a melody to play,’” Thompson said.

In most jazz shows, the artists play a melody, and then take turns soloing.

“But this stuff is more through composed and arranged so that solos come up and they go back into the written material. There is a continuity there that has been really exciting for me,” Thompson said.

In Line Writing the arrangements, Thompson called upon the lessons of the master jazz composer, Duke Ellington — getting everyone to play the melody together, adding dissonance to make it richer and more lines to colour the sound.

Thompson still remembers some of the central tenetstenants of Pomeroy’s approach — that every melody has an internal arc, that some notes are more important than others, some notes are richer, and some notes areplaner plainer.

“So your voicings are kind of doing the same thing, so you get this three-dimensional kind of sound. That has always been fascinating to me. When he first started teaching on it, my jaw just dropped. A eureka kind of moment for me. That’s what I am attempting anyway, and I have a small band to try it,” Thompson said.

Thompson will be playing with his usual trio, whichthat has Mark McIntyre on bass and Giampaolo Scatozza on drums. He’s added a killer horn section — Dave Wiffen on sax, Rob Somerville on trombone and Steve McDade on trumpet.

The set lists includes Thompson’s new arrangements of the Ellington classics “Mood Indigo” and “Prelude to a Kiss,” Thelonious Monk’s “Straight No Chaser,” Kurt Weill’s “My Ship,” which was recorded by Gil Evans and Miles Davis. The singer Joni NehRita will join the show to sing one of Thompson’s new arrangements.

“It is ‘Everything Must Change,’ the old Quincy Jones tune,” Thompson said. “She is going to do that, kind of an R&B thing.”

The show will include some of Thompson’s original music as well.

“Actually, one of the tunes of mine called ‘Paper Boat’ originated as an assignment with Herb,” Thompson said. “You looked at a Duke arrangement, and you had to write a new song based on the Duke song and use his techniques and things, his road map, on your own tune. That tune ‘Paper Boat’ came out of that.”

Adding the horn section and Line Writing new arrangements bring new sounds to the music.
“It also allows me as a guitar player to also be a horn player, to be playing as part of that texture, so you get a four-part texture,” Thompson said.

“And sometimes it also involves the bass, so five-part texture. And then sometimes the bass player, Mark McIntyre will be playing tuba, he will be one of the horns playing the bottom end there,” Thompson said.

The Dave Thompson Trio + Three:
Friday, April 17
The Registry Theatre, 122 Frederick St., Kitchener
Tickets $25
Tickets available at Centre in the Square box office, or call 519-578-1570

Tuesday 14 April 2015

Live at the Jazz Room --- new recording label debuts with Andrew McAnsh Septet

WATERLOO --- In support of talented but largely unknown artists a new recording label called Live at the Jazz Room debuts Friday with a special gathering in the Waterloo club.

The first CD on the label, the Andrew McAnsh Sextet, will be launched at a party beginning at 7 p.m. in The Jazz Room.  McAnsh and his band will perform Friday night as well.  The 25-year-old trumpet player and composer is finishing up his Bachelor's degree in the highly-regarded jazz program at Humber College in Toronto.

"I am really honoured that they chose my music to be their first release," McAnsh said in an interview with New City Notes.  "I mean, they had some of the world's finest musicians in there, and I am kind of confused as to why I am their first release."

Stephen Preece, the founder and president of the Grand River Jazz Society, said the new label is all about early-stage artists with exceptional talent.

Live at the Jazz Room will feature musicians with few, if any recordings, Preece said, and musicians who will benefit from having a high-quality CD.

"Andrew is a first class talent, with roots in Waterloo Region," Preece said.  "He and his sextet have performed numerous times at The Jazz Room and their performance proficiency, attention to detail, and song writing craft are at a very high level."

McAnsh and artists like him are the future of jazz in Canada, and Live at the Jazz Room wants to support them.

"His songwriting is very strong, with one foot in tradition and another exploring new directions," McAnsh said.  "At a stage in his career when it can really make a difference, I am proud to promote Andrew McAnsh as our first Live at the Jazz Room artist, and hope for many more of his kind in the future."

 Tom Nagy,  produced the CD, the technical director for the jazz society, the bass player in a prog-rock tribute band and an electrical engineer, produced the CD.  He worked for more than two years to make Live at the Jazz Room a reality.

The choice of Andrew as our first release was almost a no-brainer," Nagy said.
"The recording we're releasing showcases this performance as some of the finest modern jazz being played anywhere, which is key to our establishing this label as a mark of quality.  Add to this that Andrew could really benefit from having an album to promote, and the choice for our first disc is clear," Nagy said.

The Andrew McAnsh Septet includes Jeff laRochelle on tenor and alto saxophones, PJ Anderson on trombone, Paul Morrison on piano, Soren Nissen on bass and Ian Wright on drums. The Andrew McAnsh Septet played The Jazz Room a year. The recording of that show was used to make the first release under the new label.

McAnsh lives in Toronto now, but he is from Cambridge and was first turned onto the trumpet at St. Benedict's Secondary School.  McAnsh said he selected the trumpet because he was late for music class and all the other instruments were taken.

"My high school music teacher game me a few burned CDs of some of her favourite jazz recordings, and she encouraged me to learn the trumpet solos on them," McAnsh said.

"She gave me the classic Miles Davis, Freddie Hubbard recordings and she said: 'Learn these and try to find a way to write them out, and show them to me, and I will tell you if they are right or not,'" McAnsh said.

That music teacher was Angela Lehmann.  And her husband Steve also took an early interest in McAnsh.

"Steve taught me basic jazz harmony.  The most basic of the basic, and he made it seem like the coolest thing, stayed that way ever since," McAnsh said.
The model developed by Nagy can be used by other venues, and he urges anyone interested in more details to get in touch.

"I'm hoping we can expand to online sales of CDs and downloads," Nagy said. "Order tracking, accounting, licensing and revenue sharing become much more complex as soon as you go online, and I'm looking forward to tackling those questions."

The Grand River Jazz Society has recordings of about 280 shows, including one of the last performances by the famed New York City jazz pianist Mulgrew Miller.  It also has recordings of Johnny O'Neil, Ingrid Jensen, Spike Wilner (with Paul Gill and Yotam Silberstein).

Any artist can get a copy of their recording for free. The Jazz Society usually retains the rights to the recordings, but only to ensure that any release gives properly acknowledes our engineer and the society, Nagy said.,

"We never charge artists for the recordings, and don't ask for royalties if the artist sells it.  In some cases, we've explicitly transferred ownership to another label if that's what needs to happen," Nagy said. "We don't mind if someone else mixes and releases one of the shows - frankly, it saves us the work!  Everything we do is in consultation with the artist, and with their full agreement."

The Jazz Room is the only club in Canada to have its own recording label.  The club is programmed by The Grand River Jazz Society.  In keeping with the non-profit status of the society, the recording label is not about making a profit. The band will receive half of the 500 CDs in this initial release.  The individual artists were also paid a fee for their original material on the CD.

 The live sound and recording was done by Jeremy Bernard, who works the sound board at the  back of the club for almost all of the show.  The mixing and mastering was by Earl McCluskie,  who has done the same for live jazz recordings at the Registry Theatre in Kitchener, where he is a regular on the sound board.  The covers were designed by Andrea Deering, and Gee Wong did the photography.

The Jazz Room is well equipped to capture live jazz in quality recordings.  The club is equipped with a state-of-the-art sound and  recording system, and a beautiful Yamaha C-7 piano.  For more information and the schedule of upcoming performers check out the club's website at www.kwjazzroom.com and remember, support live music.

Friday 10 April 2015

The Longest Set - Peter Leitch's Jazz Guitar Gig at Walker's

NEW YORK CITY --- It is Sunday evening and Peter Leitch carries his guitar case and amp into Walker's on North Moore Street for what is the longest-running gig in the World Capital of Jazz.

"It gives me a chance to play with some great bass players, and great saxophone players.  And it's allowed me to develop musical relationships with different people that I might not have a chance to play with on regular basis," Leitch said.

It is always Leitch accompanied by the double bass (Harvie S, Ray Drummond, Sean Smith), or the tenor saxophone (Jed Levy). Like the man himself, it is soulful, spare and straight-ahead.

This classic American bar is in Tribeca --- the New York City neighbourhood with the highest rents, the lowest crime rate, and some of the best jazz guitar around.

Leitch started playing in this historic neighbourhood tavern in 1997, and he remains a vital, creative and productive musician as he prepares to turn 70.  His memoir, Off the Books: A Jazz Life is into its second printing.  Leitch recently released his 15th CD, "Landscapes," and sells recordings at his weekly gig, and online. The CD is on The Jazz House label.

"It is my own label, which is what most musicians are doing now unless they happened to be signed to a major label, and there are not many of those," Leitch said. "So people are releasing their own music, and at least they are having some control over it.  The Internet has actually opened up, kind of levelled the playing field a little bit."

Landscapes is toned down be-bop.  Leitch leads a trio through beautiful arrangements of standards and new material. He pays tribute to the great cultures that fused into America's 20th Century music - vaudeville, the Irish American experience and African America's blues. It is the work of a mature, virtuosic and creative musician.

Leitch played as a sideman for Oscar Peterson and Woody Shaw.  He's performed with a long list of jazz greats, including Kirk Lightsey, Rusus Reid, Al Grey, Jeri Brown, Pepper Adams, Pete Yellin and Dominque Eade. Even with that musical pedigree, Leitch is easy to approach and talk to while he enjoys a smoke between sets on a Sunday night in Tribeca.

Check out his website, www.peterleitch.com.
His memoir is a terrific read, an honest, unsparing and eloquent account of his life as a jazz guitarist in three cities - Montreal, Toronto and New York. It recounts his use of heroin as a young man in Montreal, his struggles with depression and his unrelenting dedication to the art of jazz. It is a hymn for jazz musicians.  It is a paean to New York City, past and present.
"When I first moved here in the early Eighties there were different clubs. A couple of them are still here like The Vanguard, which will go on forever. There were places like Bradley's.  I played there with a great pianist named John Hicks, and a bassist named Ray Drummond.  John has since passed away, but Ray and I still  play together at Walker's sometimes," Leitch said.

Bradley's was in Greenwich Village on University Place.  Leitch loved playing there. He loved hanging there.  He writes about it in Off the Books.

"There were places you would go after your earlier gig, places like Bradley's, Sweet Basil was another one, and you would hang out and just talk to other musicians.  Bradely's was almost like an after-hours office for musicians," Leitch said.  "Gigs were passed back and forth, and rumours, if anything happens, you would hear it there first.  That's all gone."

Unbelievably expensive rents for small  businesses is a big part of the problem.  It can easily cost $8,000-a-month for 1,000-square-feet in the West Village.

"At least in New York, part of the problem is, you can take it all the way back to the fact that there are no controls on commercial real estate in New York City, which makes just paying the rent on a jazz club incredibly expensive, and musicians have to be paid a decent amount of money," Leitch said.

"So if  you are running a jazz club you end up having to charge a lot of money at the door, and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't," Leitch said.

 When Leitch first moved to New York in 1982 he lived in the East Village, on East 13th St. A one-bredroom apartment in that neighbourhood now rents for at least $2,800-a-month.

"Those apartments now are unaffordable," Leitch said. "That was a cheap place to live at the time, the East Village."

On page 96 of his memoir, Leitch describes the New York City he first moved to.

"New York in the early 1980s had no chain stores - no McDonald's, Gaps or Starbucks.  The city at this time was still recovering from its disastrous financial crisis of the 1970s.  The major approaches to the city - the Deegan Expresway, the West Side Highway, the FDR Drive - presented a surrealistic, almost post Armageddon view.  The shoulders of the roads were littered with abandoned vehicles, the burned-out shells of cars stripped for parts.  In the driving lanes one had to swerve to avoid mufflers, hubcaps, wheels and occasional trunk lid."

As he practised his guitar for hours a day beside an upper-floor window on East 13th Street, Leitch would watch a local crack dealer ply his trade.  of the three cities Leitch lived in he liked Toronto the least. Toronto was expensive and did not have enough venues for a jazz musician. A lot of musicians lived in tiny apartments.

"Perhaps this explains many of the Toronto musicians' abnormal obsession with real estate.  As I advised a young guitarist moving to Toronto: 'Be prepared to discuss real estate with enthusiasm,'" writes Leitch in Off the Books.

In addition to his music, Leitch is a photographer and specializes in capturing jazz artists on stage. He exhibited some of those photographs in a New Jersey jazz radio station in 2012. He had an earlier exhibit in his hometown of Montreal in 1999.  Last year he was back in Montreal for another visit.

"There are things that I miss about it, but I still love New York," Leitch said.   "New York is not going to change that much.  They try to change it, but these things go in cycles."
If you are in New York City on a Sunday night, head for Walker's.  Go through the front room with the bar and high ceilings, and step into the quirky back room where you will find Leitch playing his guitar, accompanied by a bass or a saxophone.  The food and drinks are decent and reasonable.  The music is amazing.

"In the future I am just going to keep on playing the guitar, trying to get better, and keep on doing it," Leitch said.

Hallelujah for that.

Wednesday 8 April 2015

Richard Whiteman: Straight-Ahead Jazz of the Highest Calibre

WATERLOO Ont., Wednesday, April 8, 2015 ---- The last time Richard Whiteman was on stage at The Jazz Room he played the double bass, which he picked up 10 years ago, but this Saturday Whiteman leads his trio from the piano bench.

Whiteman plays with Ted Warren on drums, and Kurt Neilsen on bass. After decades of gigging and recording, Whiteman has a solid reputation as a straight-ahead artist of the highest calibre (www.richardwhiteman.com). The music starts at 8:30 p.m. The cover: $16.

"Every time I play, I play stuff I feel like playing at the time, with people I want to play with," Whiteman said in an interview with New City Notes.

"There are a couple of things of mine that I will be playing," Whiteman said. " It sounds uninspired at first, but mostly it is going to be standard kind of material, standard songs, or songs from the jazz vocabulary."

Straight-ahead jazz. Plain talk. Great music.

"So you will be able to recognize what I am playing, and be able to judge me along with the greats, find out whether I am creative or any good," Whiteman said.  "I am just having fun, and trying to play music at the highest level."

Whiteman teaches piano at York University. He used to teach in the jazz programs at Humber and the University of Toronto.  He has released seven Cd's as a jazz pianist, and one CD, his last one, as a bassist.  Whiteman bought his first bass when he was 44, took a few lessons and started practising.

Eight years later he went into the recording studio with Reg Schwagger on guitar, Amanda Tosoff on piano and Morgan Childs on drums.  He released his first CD as a jazz bassist in 2012 - "On Course." At a time and age when most musicians are doubling down on their first instrument, Whiteman was learning, and practising a new instrument, becoming good enough to gig and record.

With the exception of jazz giant Don Thompson, few jazz musicians have reached that level of excellence on both the piano and bass. And he's self-deprecating about his achievements with the bass.

"I do gigs on it, most of the jobs on my bass are my own construction because if I waited for other people to hire me I might not work as much, so just to give myself ice-time," Whiteman said.

Whiteman has released Cd's of solo piano, and as leader of trios and quartets. He is viewed as one of the best jazz pianists on the Toronto scene.  The musicians who played on his eight Cd's are a who's-who of the best, including: Perry White on saxophone; David Occhipinti on guitar; Mike Downs, Neil Swainson and Brandi Disterheft on bass; Joan Obercian, Joe Sumner, Barry Elmes and Sly Juhas on drums.

Whiteman loves playing with Warren on the drums.

"Ted Warren has a great history of being a great drummer since his student days, playing with Boss Brass, Mike Murley and many other groups," Whiteman said.  "I have certainly hired him for many gigs over the years.  he's a friend and every time we play together I know it's going to be fun"

Warren is the artistic director of the Grand River Jazz Society and books almost all of the Friday and Saturday-night acts.  The other sideman on the Saturday night gig is Kurt Neilsen on the bass. After graduating from the Humber jazz program, Neilsen quickly established himself as versatile and busy gigging musician.

"There is nothing to put on the headline, it's just Richard Whiteman playing music he wants to play with people he wants to play with," Whiteman said.

And nobody needs a better reason for coming to Saturday night's show.

Inspiration from Charlie Hayden, Dave Holland, The Bad Plus

WATERLOO Ont., April 8, 2015 ---- The Kite Trio is a Montreal-based alt-jazz group that worships at the altar of The Bad Plus.

With Eric Couture on guitar, Eric Dew on drums and Paul Van Dyk on bass, the young musicians have so far released two CDs, and gig regularly in  Montreal Clubs --- Resonance, L'Escalier and Dies Onze. They are busy writing more material for a third CD.

“We are going to do a good mix I guess of a few songs from the first record, a few from the recent record, and some new stuff we have been working on. We’ve got a cover a tune from The Bad Plus that we have been playing lately. It is called Seven Minute Mind. And a few standards as well.”

The Kite Trio describes itself as alternative jazz.

“Like any kind of genre it is hard to put one word on what we do, but I guess it’s kind of like there is a bit of a texture of alternative music, which is kind of like the Nineties alternative music that all three of us grew up with," Van Dyk said.

"Sometimes when you say jazz, people think about what you hear in an elevator, or in the background in a restaurant or something like that.  And that’s definitely not what we do, so I guess you can say what we do is an alternative to that style of jazz," Van Dyk said.

After Van Dyk joined The Kite Trio, Couture and  Dew urged him to check out The Bad Plus.

"It’s just something that kind of resonates with all of us, the way they approach music," Van Dyk said of The Bad Plus.  "In the last few years it has become a huge, well almost an obsession for me, so I try to kind of listen to some other things too."

In 2013, The Kite Trio secured some funding and hired the drummer from The Bad Plus for a master class of sorts.  The session was held in Dew's basement.

"And he hung out with us for a couple of hours, and gave us a whole bunch of awesome advice.  It was really an amazing experience, super encouraging.  That was right after we had recorded our album in 2013,” Van Dyk said.

Friday night's show is a homecoming of sorts for Van Dyk, who grew up in Kitchener and attended Eastwood Collegiate.

“They had a few upright basses there so I was able to get started on that.  And they had a good jazz program.  Paddy Bender, who is the head of the department at Sir John A. MacDonald right now, she was teaching there and she kind of encouraged me to get into jazz because I wasn’t really into it when I started.”

Van Dyk's first big influence on the bass was Charlie Hayden and his Liberation Orchestra.

"I don’t know if I would be playing music if it wasn’t for that album. After him it was Dave Holland.  Do you know that album Angel Song?  That was another one of those albums that really touched me when I first started listening to jazz.”

After Eastwood Collegiate, Van Dyk was off to the jazz program at Humber in Toronto, attending the bass program that is headed by the Juno-Award winning Mike Downs.  Downs is well known to regulars at The Jazz Room.  And Van Dyk has nothing but praise for Downs and the school.

"It’s a really great thing they have going on there.  It’s just really positive.  There is none of that kind of Whiplash-competitive-drill-sergeant thing going on there.  Everyone is really into everyone else’s playing and super encouraging.  And a lot of really, really talented musicians are there, obviously as faculty but as students too.  It was really good for me.”

After Humber, Van Dyk returned to Kitchener-Waterloo for a while.  He was in a band that went on the road. After a gig in Montreal he met a woman there and moved to that city.

"Pretty soon after I moved here I met the other two guys, Eric and Eric.  And they met at Concordia University when they were studying here.  And they had been jamming a lot together as a duo, and hadn’t found a bass player, and I sort of subbed for a gig for Eric-the-guitar-player.  And they asked me to come out and jam a few times.  We started working on some original material, and that turned into our first album," Van Dyk said.

The Jazz Room is nearing the end of its fourth season, and had not opened the last time Van Dyk was living here.

“It is amazing, there was nothing like that when I was in KW.  Not a whole lot of jazz happening.  It is great to come back and see something like that happening there.  It is very cool.”

Wednesday 25 March 2015

Robi Botos Launches New CD With a Band of the Best Jazz Cats in the Business

WATERLOO, March 25, 2015 ---- The celebrated jazz pianist and composer Robi Botos will launch his latest CD - Moving Forward - with special shows at the Jazz Bistro in Toronto, Upstairs in Montreal and The Jazz Room in Waterloo.

These are the only three venues selected by Botos, and a440/Universal Canada, for the first public performances of this special music.

These shows, and the CD, feature some of the very best jazz artists in the world today - Seamus Blake on tenor sax, Robert Hurst III on bass and Jeff "Tain" Watts on drums. Blake, Hurst and Watts have 14 Grammy Awards among them.

"I grew up listening to the bass player and the drummer with different bands, including Branford and Wynton Marsalis," Botos said in an interview with New City Notes.  "They also played in the Tonight show Band with Jay Leno for a long time."

In October 2012 Bradford Marsalis, the saxophone player from the most famous jazz family in North America, was preparing for a show at Koerner Hall in Toronto.  Marsalis had played with Botos a few times before,  so Botos was tapped for the gig.  That is when he met Hurt and Watts, but he was already very familiar with their music.

"So I knew of them and heard their playing a lot," Botos said.  "And Scott Mooring, who is my Canadian manager for the label a440, he also loved these guys and knew them already.  And when we talked about making an album with U.S. players this time, to get me more international attention, their names came up, and we both agreed it would be a great thing."

When you want to record a CED with the likes of Hurst, Blake and Watts, one of the hardest parts of the project will be finding a couple of days when they are not gigging, recording or traveling to a show.  But Mooring made it happen, and over two days at The Drive Shed Recording Studio on Toryork Drive in Toronto.

Botos wrote all of the material on the CD except for two covers --- Closer to You, by the Carpenters, and the jazz standard Softly as in a Morning Sunrise.  The CD is full of the influences of jazz, pop, funk, classical and Hungarian or Eastern European Gypsy music.

"It's all of those," Botos said.  "It is very much a mixture of the stuff I would do in a live show."

Check out more at Robit's website, robibotos.com and www.kwjazzroom.com.

It has been 16 years since Botos arrived at Pearson Airport in Toronto with his wife Violet, and two daughters, Dorina and Barbara.  Botos sought refugee status.  He had fled the persecution of the Romani Gypsies in Hungary.  He spoke no English.  He had no money.  He remembers the exact date --- Dec. 6, 1998.

"I wanted to live in a place where we could live without being persecuted and discriminated against," Botos said.  And so I definitely wanted to raise my kids too in a place where you can be whoever you want to be."

Within a couple of months Botos had met the Toronto-based jazz pianist and composer David Braid.  Braid took Botos to some jam sessions at The Rex, and introduced the Botos to the scene.  He was gigging right away.

"David Braid was like an angel to me, hooking me up with all kinds of people," Botos said.  "Sometimes I couldn't even understand what they said, but David was kind of like an ambassador for me."

A couple of years after arriving in Toronto, Botos' son Robert was born.  He is now 14.  During the ensuing years Botos recorded three CDs. His fourth was released Tuesday. A big break for Botos came in 2004 when he won the Montreaux Jazz Festival piano competition.  Traditionally, the winner opens for a famous act the following year.

Botos opened for Oscar Peterson at the Stravinsky Hall for the Montreaux Jazz Festival in 2005.  Peterson's bass player, Dave Young, introduced Botos and Peterson back stage.  This was huge for Botos.  One of the main reasons he wanted to settle in Toronto was because Oscar Peterson lived nearby.

"So it was a life-changing event for me," Botos said.

 Peterson's middle name is Emmanuel.   Botos borrowed that part of the great man's name for a beautiful song he wrote in Peterson's honour.  It is on his third CD called Friday Night Jazz.

He performed the piece for solo piano before a transfixed audience at The Registry Theatre in downtown Kitchener about a year ago.  It was one of those rare moments when the player and the music are so sublime, everyone in the room is transported to an unforgettably beautiful place for a few minutes. The memory can linger forever.

"I started writing it when I was on the way to Montreaux to meet Oscar and open for him, and I basically finished the tune when he passed away," Botos said.

Shortly after everyone returned to Canada, Peterson started looking for someone to teach his daughter Celine the piano. Botos was tapped for that job, and he went to his musical hero's house once a week to teach the young woman piano.

"He was extremely nice to me, very encouraging," Botos said, "and expressed how much he liked my playing.  And he encouraged me to keep going in the direction where I am heading, and be myself and do my own thing."

The musicians on stage with Botos for the Saturday night show at The Jazz Room are among the top players in the world today.  It promises to be a once-in-a-lifetime event to hear these Cats live in a small club.

Watts is the only musician to play on every CD by Wynton Marsalis or his brother Branford Marsalis that won a Grammy Award. Tain joined the Wynton Marsalis Quartet in 1981 and left in 1988.  He then worked with George Benson, Harry Connick Jr., and McCoy Tyner before joining the Branford Marsalis Quartet in 1989. His last Grammy in 2011 was for the Mingus Big Band Live at the Jazz Standard. Watts is based in Brooklyn, New York and is among the most in-demand drummers on the New York Jazz scene.

Blake also lives in Brooklyn, and is a long-standing member of the Mingus big bands.  He plays and records with Bill Stewart, Kevin Hays, David Kikoski and Alex Sipiagin and is a member of the Victor Lewis Quintet.  He is also a member of BANN.  Blake was a member of John Scofield's Quiet Band.= Blake released Live at Smalls in 2010, to much acclaim. Smalls has near-religious status in the West Village scene, and is a favourite hang for the Cats in New York City.

Hurst is an award-winning composer-performer-and-educator on both the acoustic and electric bass.  His recordings have won seven GRAMMY Awards.  For eights seasons Hurt was the first bassist for the house band of The Tonight Show with Jay Leno for eight seasons.  His work in performing, directing, arranging and composing on the NBC program won four EMMY Awards.

Hurst has recorded with Sir Paul McCartney, Charles Lloyd, Wynton Marsalis, Branford Marsalis, Dave Brubeck, Harry Connick Jr., Terrence Blanchard, Tony Williams, Nicholas Payton, Sting, Carl Allen, Pharaoh Sanders, Barbara Streisand, Willie Nelson, Yo Yo Ma, Ravi Coltrane, Chris Botti and Diana Krall.

Friday 20 March 2015

The Amazing Trumpet Playing of Ingrid Jensen Returns to The Jazz Room

WATERLOO, March 20, 2015 --- The internationally-acclaimed trumpet sensation Ingrid Jensen returns to The Jazz Room for a show Saturday night with Gray Matter.

The Grammy-Award-winning Jensen will be soloing on the grooves of Justin Gray (bass), Derek Gray (drums) Eli Bennett (tenor sax).  She is the senior musician on this project, and brings years of experience gigging with some of the very best in New York City's clubs.

Five or six years ago Jensen was working at the Banff School, and Justin was in the ensemble she was leading and advising.

"We had a really good vibe, and he asked me if ever I wanted to do a project with down the road, and I said: ‘Absolutely.’ And he’s kind of incorporated me into the band, and he’s written some great music,” Jensen said.

It was and remains a great break for Gray Matter. Simply put, Jensen is one of the best modern jazz trumpet players in the world today.  The Berklee College of Music-graduate has played with Clark Terry, Bob Berg, Lionel Hampton, George Garzone, Geoffrey Keezer, Corrine Bailey Rae, Jeff "Tain" Watts, Gary Thomas and Terri-Lyne Carrington.

She has a growing list of critically-acclaimed CDs to her credit, and a new one called Kind of New coming out in April on the label Whaling City Sounds out of Dartmouth.  That project was co-led by Jensen and keyboardist Jason Miles. Jason knew Miles Davis back in the day, and the two collaborated for five years.

"He was very good friends with Miles Davis.  What’s funny is his last name is Miles.  We just started jamming years ago and then we started talking about doing some kind of project, and then we started writing music together, just getting together in my basement and working out riffs, it was a very organic process," Jensen said.

"Eventually the tunes we wrote he produced, he’s a great producer, so he would produce a few tracks and I would blow over them.  So after a year we had quite a few tunes, we had too many," Jensen said.

The new CD will be released on April 15.  Jensen and Miles will go on the road as part of a quintet following the release.  This CD was not recorded in the traditional way in a studio. 

"It was all done flying tracks around to people, as many records are done now days.  Because it’s not that kind of straight-ahead jazz record we didn’t all need to be in the studio together, we just added our layers.  And then we did some live stuff, using some of the tunes we had already recorded.  And they came out great, a balance of live and studio, and it’s kind of cool," Jensen said.

When she finishes the gig Saturday night at The Jazz Room she returns home just in time for a three-day run at Dizzy Gillespie's Coca-Cola Club in New York City Michele Rosewoman.

"It’s a merry-go-round of the different types of gigs there.  From a duo gig at a saxophone store to two or three nights at Dizzy’s," Jensen said. "When I am home I am usually playing, I usually have something going on.”

Her current mini-tour ends with The Jazz Room gig Saturday night.  It started in Montreal, then she travelled to London for a clinic with music students at Western.  On Thursday and Friday, Jensen and Gray Matter played The Rex in Toronto.  Their chops will be in great shape for this gig.

Jensen was born in Vancouver, but raised in Nanaimo.  The small city on the east coast of Vancouver Island has a rich-musical history.  Logging, commercial fishing and coal mining provided steady paycheques for people looking for entertainment.  They found it in live music.

“From the very beginning we had a very strong jazz community there.  I saw a lot really great musicians playing, Ray Brown was in town a lot.  Diana Krall of course was playing and studying with him.  So there was evidence everywhere of how that good, high-level music is supposed to sound.  It wasn’t just sort of oh, the average Joe just jamming on a blues.  It was people really playing the repertoire, and playing it well.”

There was a direct link between New Orleans Jazz and the early days of coal mining in the Nanaimo area.

"They would have these fests and parties, and that really, actually never really went away," Jensen said.  " It just transformed itself from sort of a Dixieland Tradition into a little more contemporary jazz standard language."

Jensen went to the same high school as Diana Krall.  The music program was something else.

"And all the teachers that were teaching could play at the time I was in school.  They weren’t just teachers, they were in the community big band.  But we all would get together on a Wednesday, and play in this big band.  My sister played in it.  Diana played in it.  I played in it.  My older sister played in it at one point.  It was really cool, it was a really strong community thing going on.”

Jensen wishes every town had a community band like that one in Nanaimo.

"And without that, the music really does die.  And unfortunately it is dying in certain communities because there is not that connection to the past," Jensen said. "You have to keep that thread going so people, the kids especially, can get a feel for what it’s like to play a dance, play some dance music and get people moving.”

Cicily Janus, a musician, writer and educator wrote a booked called The New Face of Jazz, which was published in 2010. It includes a chapter on Jensen. In it, Jensen credits the early-music education she received in Nanaimo for the amazing solos she blows today.

She said in the book: “In this respect it is imperative for anyone that wants to improvise to have some historical base to tap into while creating a story in relation to a song. In other words blowing over some changes.”

When asked about that quote today, Jensen said it applies more than ever.

"I am playing a lot more modern music, and stuff that has less chords, but more possible spaces to take it in certain ways," Jensen said.

A good example is the new CD that comes out in April --- Kind of New --- that sounds like late-career Miles Davis.

There is not a tonne of chord changes or crazy melodies, but if you don’t have the history of music under you, in our soul, it is going to sound really dumb," Jensen said.  " For me it is really fun to be able to create over that after learning all these different genres of jazz under the jazz umbrella throughout my career.

"And it just puts me in a new place to be kind of a Beat poet that gets to go off on a steam, and also be part of the composition process," Jensen said.

“It sort of never ends.  It’s a process you have to embrace from the beginning, and you just don’t ever stop looking for new possibilities, and ways to express yourself over a tune. You keep your technique up as well, but it’s all in relation to the music.  Whether I am working on a ballad or an up-tempo tune that’s sort of my daily meditation is to get to the place where I am not thinking about anything except for a song, and the feel and what can be done with it once the band plays.”

And the Beat Poet of the modern jazz trumpet will play solos that burst like fireworks over the heads of her audience and everyone will look up and say, aaaaahh.

The Murley-Braid Nordic Project

WATERLOO, March 20, 2015 ---- One of Canada's leading jazz pianists and composers, David Braid, brings a new, international project to the stage tonight at The Jazz Room.

Braid teamed up with tenor-sax master Mike Murley for trips to Denmark, Sweden and Finland in recent years to teach master classes and gig.  Braid formed strong-musical bonds with the bass player Johnny Aman of Finland, and the drummer Anders Morgensen of Denmark.  They talked about collaborating, and earlier this week Aman and Morgensen flew into Toronto.

The Murley-Braid Nordic Project was born.

"So it's exciting and rewarding, to share what we do across borders. And we all hope with them being here, and us being there, that we will become part of different scenes and meet new musicians," Braid said.

The quartet played two nights at The Rex on Queen West, and tonight they play The Jazz Room. Two of the best jazz artists in Canada playing with two of the best jazz artists from Scandinavia. This promises to be an incredible show, the roots of which go back to 2008 and Braid's first trip to Northern Europe.

"I had a concert in Sweden and following the concert someone took us to sit in at some other gig, I think it was at the Opera House in Malmo," Braid said in an interview with New City Notes.  "And there was a great bass player playing, and I sat in."

It was the kind of night a musician never forgets.

"I ended up sitting in for the rest of the night, we were getting along very well musically, and he had mentioned something about playing some more in the future, bringing me to Finland, but nothing ever materialised until this year," Braid said.

A Finnish bass player playing in the Malmo Opera House in Sweden with one of Canada's very best jazz pianists.  Hard to get more international than that. It was the beginning of Braid's deep appreciation for the jazz artists of Northern Europe and the society that supports and nurtures great improvisers and their venues.

Braid also made several trips to Odese Conservatory of Music in Copenhagen, Denmark to teach master classes.

"I think I was there in 2012, with my sextet," Braid said.  "I was there I think in 2009 with a great trumpet player from Vancouver named Brad Turner. And I met Anders on that trip, and I liked his playing very
much. I guess he and Johnny, the bassist, play together quite frequently."

The jazz-art scene is made up of small communities in a lot of cities around the world.

"And we are always looking for each other, and these two guys are examples of people in a lot of cities around the world," Braid said.

After teaching master classes in the Odese Conservatory, Braid hit the jazz clubs to listen, chat with musicians and jam.  He remains amazed at what he saw and heard.  The jazz clubs are known as Cultural Houses that receive generous operating grants from the government.  The musicians can join a collective.  In return for small, monthly dues the collective will help cover rent and other bills if the artist did not have enough gigs that month.  And post-secondary education is free up to a doctorate.

"It's amazing, it's amazing," Braid said.   "The government sort of realises that these things make a measurable contribution to the society and the culture, and they feel it's important to keep them going. If you look at them with your eyes you would say; 'Oh, it's a jazz club,' but then that's not how they are perceived by the country and it's wonderful."

So the programming in the Cultural Houses can be adventurous or conservative because of the government support.

"So scene is healthy because the venues are protected, but also the musicians are protected," Braid said.

With financial pressures eased because of this support, the jazz musicians in Scandinavia are not forced to work day jobs to make the rent.  They can spend more time on their art.  The professional scene in Denmark, Sweden and Finland is world class. It is the kind of milieu Braid thrives in - collaboration that takes the music to new levels.

"When you sort of meet people who are on the same musical wave length, we all want to expand and have as many possibilities to exchange ideas, and so we all sort of mutually felt that it would be interesting artistically to collaborate," Braid said.  "That is what brought us together.”

Murley is known across Canada as a leading tenor sax player, composer and recording artist. He's played the Waterloo Jazz Festival, the Black Hole Bistro and The Jazz Room in the past. Murley has an international reputation.  Jazz Cats in the West Village of New York City drop his name.

The next phase of the Murley-Braid Nordic Project will see the two Canadian jazz masters return to Scandinavia for a tour with Aman and Morgensen.

The show tonight will include some tunes by Kenny Wheeler.  Wheeler was a Canadian composer, trumpet player and flugelhorn player who passed last year.  He was influential, having written about 100 compositions. Wheeler was much loved by modern jazz cats as he embraced free improvisation. His last recording in In 1997 featured Bill Frisell on guitar, Dave Holland on bass and Lee Konitz on alto sax.

"Wheeler's music, who was a big influence on Mike and I for sure, and I am sure on those guys," Braid said.  "His music is very beautiful and we thought, based on the stylistic influences of Johnny and Anders this sort of music would work particularly well for the four of us.”
Braid has high hopes for this musical visit by the two Scandinavian jazz artists.  He talks about an international network of jazz art players sharing ideas and collaborating across borders.

"I am happy to introduce them to the Canadian scene, and I hope some other nice things will come out of them being here. It would be nice, in my sort of idealistic world I am hoping one day that all these small circles in all these cities around the world will start to cooperate more, and there will be more pipelines between musicians in these cities because we all want the same thing," Braid said.

"But I don't think there is enough cross pollination happening yet. So little projects like this I think are good because it sort of stimulates the type of thinking where there could be a lot more opportunities for musicians everywhere who are very serious about what they do, and want to do it as much as possible,” Braid said.

Wednesday 11 March 2015

Boundary Busting Exuberance on a Five String Fiddle

WATERLOO, March 10, 2015 --- The violinist and composer Jaron Freeman-Fox hopes the exuberance of yelling from mountain tops and along ocean beaches comes through in his music.

"I hope it maintains that same feeling of freedom," Freeman-Fox said.

The genre-defying musician leads a quintet Friday, March 13, at The Jazz Room.  Be prepared for a musical tour that includes the sounds of Klezmer, Gypsies, Indian classical, some blues and jazz. The prolific and eclectic composer's latest CD is called "The Opposite of Everything."

Freeman-Fox wrote most of the music for that CD while walking the beaches on the Discovery Islands, which are in the Discovery Passage between Vancouver Island and the Mainland.  He also wrote a lot of the pieces while hiking in the mountains of India, where he had gone to study Indian classical music.

"The vast majority of the music I wrote for "The Opposite of Everything" is music that I wrote when I had the freedom to scream at the top of my lungs when we play it," Freeman-Fox said in an interview with New City Notes.

"The common thread is walking around somewhere far enough away from other humans I had the freedom to just holler into myself at the top of my lungs," Freeman-Fox said.  "I do really hope that sense of unencumbered freedom translates into the music, even when it even when it ends up being on a song that is instrumental and has no singing and is played quite softly."

Joining Freeman-Fox on stage at The Jazz Room will be Daniel Stadnicki on drums, Alan Mackie on double-bass, Frank Evans on banjo and Edwin Sheard on saxophone  They will have a lot of material to choose from as Freeman-Fox has produced or played on more than 40 CDs. He has studied, toured and collaborated with musicians around the world.

The day after his gig at The Jazz Room, the Toronto-based violinist is off to Sweden for a collaborative project with a modern-dance company.  The piece will be premiering at a festival in Zimbabwe.

"Then I am flying straight back. I have a house-concert tour through Northern Manitoba, which should be really fun," Freeman-Fox said.  "Then I am going to be doing gig on the West Coast, a double bill with I think my favourite classical violinist in Canada."

He will perform with Marc Destrube at the Vancouver Early Music Festival.  Destrube will play Bach's Partita for solo violin.  Freeman-Fox follows him on stage and plays a modern version of Bach's music on his five-string violin. It will be a happy reunion. At 17, Freeman-Fox attended music school in Vancouver studying jazz, composition and classical performance under Destrube.

Freeman-Fox plays the instrument that belonged to his teacher and mentor, the late Oliver Schroer. Freeman-Fox is from the West Coast, but at 14 he began a close apprenticeship with the five-string-fiddle pioneer who was based in Toronto.

In 2007 he travelled to India to study Indian classical music with some that country's top violinists.

"It was great - quite a mind bender. A very humbling experience. Absolutely life changing," Freeman Fox said of his studies in India.

In 2008 Freeman-Fox learned that Schroer's illness was terminal.  Freeman-Fox was on the first plane back to Canada.  That was the day he moved to Toronto. Schroer had leukaemia and died in July 2008.

"I was his apprentice. It really felt that way. I would just go live with him for periods of time ever since I was 14, in the same way of old-school apprenticeships in all walks of life. It wasn't so much that we were just playing fiddle together all the time, just living life," Freeman-Fox said.

He only spends about six weeks a year in Toronto.  The rest of time Freeman-Fox is on the road.

"I have to really make time to just play music for fun, and just maintain that feeling of joy and not just work with it," Freeman-Fox said.  "So I have been getting together and jamming with my favourite musicians in town over the last couple of weeks I have been home, and it's been awesome."

The band that recorded the CD "The Opposite of Everything" is not the same band that plays The Jazz Room Friday night.  The banjo player Frank Evans and drummer Dan Stadnicki both played on the CD, and will be playing in the Friday gig.

"I am actually pretty obsessed with the banjo," Freeman-Fox said.  "To be honest with you when I am on the road I probably spend more time playing  banjo than fiddle now.  It's pretty awesome for me.  Frank, I really believe his is probably the best fiddle player in Canada."

Some members of the Grand River Jazz Society may have heard The Opposite of Everything at the world music festival in London --- Sunfest --- last July.   The band plays three folk festivals for every jazz/world music festival.

Tuesday 3 March 2015

Julian Fauth Mixing Blues and Jazz With a Big Band

WATERLOO, March 3, 2015 ---- When one of the country's leading blues artists teams up with six of Toronto's top jazz cats . . .  well, you don't want to miss the show.

Juno-Award winner Julian Fauth leads a seven piece band at The Jazz Room, Thursday March 12.  They will play every cut on Fauth's last CD, "Everybody Ought to Treat a Stranger Right." Then they will play some new material Fauth has yet to record.

Fauth first played The Jazz Room in June 2014 to celebrate the screening of the documentary Love Lost and Found, which is about the late, great soul-funk-jazz-blues fusion guitarist Mel Brown.  Brown was one of Fauth's  inspirations, mentors and teachers.

Mississippi-born and raised, Brown was steeped in the blues from the time he was born. Brown was based in Kitchener for the last 20 years of his life, nurturing the talents of many young musicians, and in the process bridging the traditions of Mississippi with 21st Century urban blues. Fauth was among a group of young musicians lucky enough to come of age under Brown's tutelage. It is an enduring musical legacy, a unique gift for the musician and his fans that can be heard on all of Fauth's CDs.

Joining Fauth for the gig are Jay Danley on guitar, Shawn Nykwist on sax, Tim Hamel on trumpet, James Thomson on bass, Ken Yoshioka on harmonica and Jon McCann on drums.  Danley played on Fauth's last two CDs, and wrote some of the songs.

"They are all really talented musicians, among the best in Canada I would say," Fauth said in an interview.

Fauth is all about 21st Century urban blues (www.julianfauth.com). He is also among the very best practitioners of barrel house blues and boogie-woogie piano, with helpings of gospel and jazz in the mix.

The show will be the first time Fauth features all of the music from his latest CD before his hometown fans. While on a 2012 tour in Western Canada Fauth broke his shoulder in a fall. After months of physiotherapy, Fauth was back in the recording studio to make Everybody Ought to Treat a Stranger Right for Electro-Fi Records. Shortly after it was released Fauth was out of action for about a year because of a nasty lung infection.

"So I really didn't get a chance to do much with the CD," Fauth said.

Julian and the band will be in good form for the show in The Jazz Room. They rehearsed for months. In February they performed the same music at the Jazz Bistro in Toronto.

"It was great," Fauthsaid of the Bistro gig.  "We had great attendance, the sound was good and everybody had a good time I think.  I got a lot of good feedback.  They have a nice Steinway piano there, it sounded pretty good."

After moving to Toronto 20 years ago Fauth gigged steadily. He started recording for Electro-Fi Records, releasing his first CD in 2006, which was nominated for a Juno Award.  The second one in 2008 won a Juno. He's also won a Maple Blues Award.  His latest CD was selected by CBC Radio as the Best Blues Album of 2012.  In the bars and clubs around Toronto and across Canada, Fauth has made music on pianos good, bad, out of repair and out of tune.

"I adjust to every piano, depending on the sound, the action and all those things," Fauth said.  "Some of the adjustments I have made have become a fixture of my style. For example I tend to have a lot of gigs with not-so-well-tuned pianos, so I tend to stay away from chords with a lot of notes in them because they tended to sound pretty jangly."

Fauth has fond memories of the Yamaha C-7 piano in The Jazz Room, and is looking forward to playing it again on Thursday, March 12th.

"It is a really nice piano, I am glad you've got that, it is so rare," Fauth said.  "In Toronto there are always a couple of places that have nice instruments, but not many.  Most places if they have a piano at all, which most don't, it tends to be one of those beaten-up-barrel-house pianos.  It is really nice sometimes to be able to play a great instrument like that."

The Jazz Room is on the main floor of  the Huether Hotel in Waterloo. When he was a teenager, Fauth landed his first gig playing guitar at the Huether.  He will open the show next Thursday also playing guitar on the song "Window Pane Blues." Then he will sit down in front of the big Yamaha piano, and take the room on a musical journey with stops in Harlem, the Mississippi Delta, and Southern Baptist churches.

Tickets are going fast and more than half the seats are already sold. The music starts at 7 p.m. and goes to 11:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 in advance, $20 at the door. You can guy advance tickets at Encore Records,  206-301 King St. East (519-744-1370) or on Ticketscene.ca http://www.ticketscene.ca/events/12543/



Monday 2 March 2015

New Orleans Jazz Royalty Coming to Town

NEW ORLEANS, March 2, 2015 --- Ben Jaffe grew up with the sounds of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band.

And the musical traditions of that great city punctuate his life like deep bass notes on a wild solo in a packed club.

Born and raised in the Latin Quarter, just a block from the hall that his parents Allan and Sandra founded in 1961, Jaffe is now the creative director of the band.

"If we opened our windows we could hear the music," Jaffe said in a telephone interview with New City Notes. "That was a beautiful thing."

Jaffe and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band play Centre in the Square in Kitchener, Tuesday, March 10.  Forget about sitting and listening. Jaffe wants people to move.

"Oh man, we are going to make people dance," Jaffe said.  "To me that is something we want to instill in people , this permission to dance. You don't need it in New Orleans because it is something that we all kind of internally know, but outside of New Orleans people don't necessarily experience the music that way."

Jaffe's dad Allan was the director of Preservation Hall and played tuba in the band as well. Jaffe grew up following his dad around, and listening to legendary musicians playing jazz in the hall, at his home, in funeral processions and street festivals. Jaffe's Godfather was the founder and leader of the Olympia Brass Band in New Orleans.

 After high school Jaffe studied classical music and ethnomusicology at the world renowned Oberlin Conservatory of Music in Ohio. He returned to New Orleans, becoming the director of Preservation Hall, and later, the band's creative director as well. Looking back, it was a natural progression.

"My parents didn't push me to do it," Jaffe said. "They encouraged me to pursue what I enjoyed doing, which was being around my dad, and being around these older musicians and going with him to Mardi Gras parades, and going with him to funerals, and participating in all these musical and cultural events that are so bountiful here."

Jaffe plays tuba, double bass, banjo and percussion.  He also sings back-up vocals. Check out the band's website at www.preservationhalljazzband.com.

Preservation Hall has become a popular and revered institution.  It was founded at the height of the Civil Rights Era to help bring together whites and African Americans through music. To use the city's rich legacy as the birthplace of jazz, America's Music, to bridge America's racial divide. Some of the original stars at the Hall included Sweet Emma Barrett and Kid Thomas Valentine.

"When my parents got involved in 1961 New Orleans was a messed-up place man, the South was an awful, awful place, there was a lot wrong with it," Jaffe said.

"Fortunately New Orleans had managed to hold onto certain traditions, and didn't let segregation and all this hatred pull it apart," Jaffe said.  "And music is at the centre of our life in New Orleans.  There wasn't a home for it, and that's what Preservation Hall became."

The Hall became a centre where African American jazz pioneers are celebrated.

"It became what all great museums are to Picasso," Jaffe said, "except this is a living, breathing exhibit."

Jaffe joined the band in 1993 when he was 22. By far the youngest member.  All of the musicians in the band at that time had played with his Jaffe's dad.  The oldest members of the band in 1993 were Willie Humphrey, 92 and his brother Percy, 94.

The Humphrey Brothers, and other members of the band had played with the original jazz pioneers - Buddy Bolden, Jelly Roll Morton, Louis Armstrong and Bunk Johnson. That is a unique musical lineage among jazz bands anywhere in the world.

Five years ago the Preservation Hall Jazz Band celebrated 50 years of making music. With Jaffe's creative direction the band wrote and recorded a CD of original music called "That's It!" Remarkably, it is the first and only recording of original music in the band's history. It is unmistakably New Orleans Jazz, but it is also entirely new.

With that CD The Preservation Hall Jazz Band honoured the past, and laid out a joyful-musical road into the future.

"It just seemed perfectly natural and organic for us to create the newest evolution of the band, to create original music the same way Jelly Roll Morton did, King Oliver did, Louis Armstrong and Freddie Keppard did," Jaffe said.

In true New Orleans fashion the CD is a rich mixture of musical traditions wrapped in the unmistakable sounds of that great city.  Most of the music is composed by Jaffe and band members Charlie Gabriel, Rickie Monie and Clint Maedgen. The pop songwriters Dan Wilson and Chris Stapleton wrote two titles on the CD.  The CD was co-produced by Jim James, leader  of My Morning Jacket.

James and his sound engineer Kevin Ratterman set up the recording equipment inside Preservation Hall to record the new material live.  That session produced 11 tracks on "that's It."

"That's It" is hailed as an important milestone in Jaffe's work to carry forward the Hall's original mission while making it relevant to today's audiences, wrote Tom Sancton, author of Song of My Fathers.

Joining Jaffe on stage at Centre in the Square on March 10:

* Mark Braud, trumpet and vocals. A nephew of two former Preservation Band leaders, Wendell and John Brunious Jr.

* Charlie Gabriel, clarinet and vocals.  Great-grandson of New Orleans bass player Narcesse Gabriel, grandson of New Orleans cornet player Martin Joseph, and son of New Orleans drummer and clarinetist Martin Manuel Gabriel.

* Clint Maedgen, saxopone and vocals.  Leader of the multi-media alt.cabaret group The New Orleans Bingo! Show.

* Joe Lastie Jr., drums. Born and raised in the Lower Ninth Ward.  Studied jazz under Willie Metcalfe at the Dryades Street YMCA with classmates Wynton and Branford Marsalis.

* Freddie Lonzo, Trombone and vocals. From Uptown New Orleans, grew up listening to Second Line parades.His first professional gigs came from the EG Gabon and Doc Paulin's Band.

* Rickie Monie, piano.  Also born and raised in New Orleans Ninth Ward.  In 1982 Monie was called to sub for the legendary resident pianist Sweet Emma Barret.  He's been onboard ever since.

* Ronell Johnson, tuba and vocals.  Also New Orleans born and raised. Nephew of the famous bass player Joseph "Kid Twat" Butler, who played with the Kid Thomas Valentine Band and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band.     .

Under Jaffe's creative direction the Preservation Hall Jazz Band has collaborated with artists as varied as Tom Waits and Mos Def. It plays rock and dance festivals.The joyous music makes people move. They can't help it.  And it honours the past by bringing legions of new fans into the rich fold of New Orleans Jazz.