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, and

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 ( 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



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

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.