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. ( 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. ( 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. (

"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. (

"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 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,
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 ( 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.”